Wednesday, June 6th, 2018
Celebrating Diversity at the Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival
Lorraine Wilde

Consistently listed as one of the top places to live and visit in America, Bellingham and Whatcom County are experiencing rapid population growth. In addition to the native Coast Salish Peoples who have inhabited the area for thousands of years and the Dutch and other Northern European settlers of the past 150 years, cultural diversity is increasing in our community. For example, the area’s Hispanic and Sikh populations have significantly increased over the past few years. This growth has not only stimulated our local economy but also resulted in a greater awareness of cultural and ethnic diversity in the northwest corner of Washington State.

Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival Bellingham Native Arts Collective

Part of the Native Arts Collective. Photo Courtesy of Allied Arts.

The Second Annual¬†Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival, June 28 and 29, 2019 in Bellingham’s Historic Fairhaven District, showcases the variety and abundance of diverse art, culture and heritage that’s located right here in beautiful Whatcom County.

Linda Hurst Bharatanatyam dancers Humanities Washington Whatcom cultural arts festival

Bharatanatyam dancers. Photo by Linda Hurst, courtesy Humanities Washington.

Celebrating and Honoring Diversity

This exciting free festival is a collaboration between the Historic Fairhaven Association, Bellingham/Whatcom Tourism Bureau, Sculptures NW, Native Arts Collective, the Whatcom Artist Guild and more. The event is also funded in part by City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Native Arts Collective, the Whatcom Artists Guild, and other local contributors.

girl with jewelry

A variety of vendors offer their art and merchandise and share demonstrations of their craft. Photo Courtesy of Allied Arts.

The festival was created by a long-standing Whatcom arts organization, Allied Arts of Whatcom County. Celebrating it’s 40th Anniversary this year, the nonprofit has been fostering and supporting the local arts scene through community events, exhibits and extensive arts education programs. I recently spoke with Allied Arts Executive Director Kelly Hart to get the inside scoop on this exciting festival.


Shodo Fumiko Kimura Humanities Washington Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival

Shodo demonstration by Fumiko Kimura. Photo courtesy Humanities Washington.

What to Expect

Conveniently scheduled to kick-off during the existing Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk, this all-ages weekend will be chock full of visual and performance artists sharing and selling their creations. Many of the activities will take place on the Fairhaven Village Green, a festive community space in the center of the village of Historic Fairhaven. In the heart of the area, the Green is surrounded by area businesses and hotels and is connected to the extensive City trails and Rails to Trails with spectacular views and sunsets of Bellingham Bay.

Native Arts Collective Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival

Part of the Native Arts Collective. Photo Courtesy of Allied Arts.

The Village Green celebration will be full of more than 20 different booths representing a wide variety of local folk and traditional arts and cultural organizations. The 2019 booths include the Northwest Hawai’I Ohana, Mei Hua Chinese School, Bellingham Metal Arts Guild, Community to Community Development and the Native Arts Collective to name just a few. This is the perfect place to introduce children to the arts, crafts and traditions of other cultures.

The festival offers a little something for everyone. You can participate in a community arts project led by Christian Smith. They will create a giant peace dragon and the public is welcome to contribute and make their mark on its beauty. Humanities Washington will be bringing some of the performers from their Heritage Arts Apprenticeship Program.

Visitors will also be dazzled by live music and dance performances by a variety of groups including:

  • Marcus Joe (aka Momentumx) is a spoken word and visual artist with socially conscious lyrics from Swinomish. Vincent Feliciano (aka Salish Son) records and
    performs uplifting hip hop music with a mind toward elevating native youth and celebrating his Lummi background,
  • Millie and the Mentshn featuring world music that ranges from Prokofiev to Gershwin to Latin to raucous Klezmer,
  • Swil Kanim, a US Army Veteran, classically trained violinist, native storyteller and actor, and member of the Lummi Nation and
  • Caixa Seattle¬†presenting the classic Afro-Brazilian samba heritage. Their show will feature sambas, bossa novas, boleros, tangos, Portuguese fados, as well as other European and middle-eastern styles of music.

More than 20¬†Fairhaven businesses will also be hosting a variety of art, specials, performances and activities of their own. ArtWood will be celebrating their 31st Anniversary. Good Earth Pottery will be featuring ceramics by Irene Lawson.¬†Stones Throw Brewery on Larrabee Avenue will have a number of music performers and food vendors just a block away from the Village Green. On June 22, the Feature Artist and Musician will be Derek Duffy, a native of Ireland. Duffy will be playing both originals and music from his homeland with guitar, bouzouki, harmonica and the bodhran. He will also have his¬†artwork on display. On Saturday, June 23 they’ll feature music from Acoustic Blokes, an all acoustic version of Bellingham favorite, the Naughty Blokes. Yummy food trucks ensure you won’t go hungry.

Swil Kanim Cultural Arts festival

Swil Kanim’s compositions incorporate classical influences as well as musical interpretations of his personal journey from depression and despair as an early foster child to spiritual and emotional freedom in later life.¬†Photo courtesy of Allied Arts.

Lovitt Restaurant on historic Harris Avenue, only a half a block from the Village Green, will host¬†Ben Starner on piano on Friday night, Saturday daytime piano tunes from Marvin J., and¬† Jan Peters’ traditional Irish Folk music¬†on Saturday evening.

village green Cultural arts festival

My family will also look forward to dancing on the Green to broad range of musicians and dance performances. I’ll be encouraging them to sample the range of ethnic foods and learn more about the techniques local artists and crafters will be demonstrating.

If you stick around to the end of the festival, you can bring your picnic blanket and stay for the kick off of the¬†Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema series on the Village Green. A live circus show with Bellingham favorite¬†Strangely w/ Bellow Wing begins at 8:15 p.m. followed by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at dusk.

Rick Bulman cultural arts festival

With this eye-opening opportunity to explore art, music, performance and foods highlighting the diverse cultural communities in Whatcom County, there will be fun for the whole family.

Experiencing the art and culture of communities outside your own fosters greater compassion, understanding, and acceptance of others. It also educates us by expanding our horizons. No matter what kind of art or music you’re into, you’ll discover something new and learn from other cultures at the Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival.


Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival
On and Around the Fairhaven Village Green
1207 10th Street
Fairhaven Neighborhood
Bellingham, WA 98225


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About the Author:

Lorraine Wilde has immersed herself in so many of Whatcom County’s vibrant communities over the past 25 years. Owner and Publicity Strategist for Wilde World Communications, Lorraine has connected with locals as a writer, actor, scientist, teacher, filmmaker, singer, and mom. Lorraine has performed improv and staged works in several of Whatcom County’s theatres and she is active in the Bellingham Film community. She is also a big supporter of the local music community. When she has a spare second, its spent with her children outside exploring a new adventure.