Consistently listed as one of the top places to live and visit in America, Bellingham, Washington and Whatcom County are experiencing rapid population growth and our cultural diversity is quickly increasing in Whatcom County. This growth has not only stimulated our local economy but also resulted in a greater awareness and appreciation of cultural and ethnic diversity in the northwest corner of Washington State.
The Third Annual Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival, will move from June to February 28 and 29, 2020 this year. Located in Bellingham’s Historic Fairhaven District and the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, the festival showcases the variety and abundance of diverse art, culture and heritage that’s located right here in beautiful Whatcom County.
Celebrating and Honoring Diversity
The free two-day festival was created by a long-standing Whatcom arts organization, Allied Arts of Whatcom County. Celebrating it’s 41st 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.
What to Expect
Conveniently scheduled to kick-off during the existing Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk on Feb. 28, this all-ages 2-day celebration will be chock full of visual and performance artists sharing and selling their creations.
During the Art Walk, more than 20 Fairhaven merchants open their doors to share the artwork of both emerging and established artists. Each venue on the walk highlights the art of a least one local artist with many of them on-site conducting demonstrations, leading creative activities and answering questions about their work.
You can make a full night of it by having dinner before or after your walk at one of Fairhaven’s sumptuous restaurants and cocktail bars.
On Saturday, Feb. 29, the Bellingham Cruise Terminal will be the central hub for booths and performances. The Terminal is a festive community space on the waterfront just a short half-mile walk or drive down Harris Avenue from Fairhaven.
The celebration will be full of more than 20 different booths representing a wide variety of local folk, traditional arts and cultural organizations. Booths will include Of Something Rad and Le Gourmet Girl. 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. As always, you can participate in a community arts project led by Christian Smith that will live on after the festival at Allied Arts.
Visitors will also be dazzled by live music and dance performances by a variety of groups including:
- Millie and the Mentshn featuring world music that ranges from Prokofiev to Gershwin to Latin to raucous Klezmer.
- Junk Chime will have you hopping with an interactive audience participation music event with percussion.
- Fourth Corner Folk Dancers are a high energy world music group that will have you dancing along. Their traditional Klezmer music combines jazz, swing, and a Latin beat.
- Bellingham Damekor & Manniskor are Nordic men’s and women’s choirs that present heritage through song.
- Clan Heather Dancers are a Scottish/Irish dance troupe of all ages studying Scottish Highland and Irish Step Dance.
- David Vergin will present a set of Japanese children’s songs considered to be 20th Century cultural treasures. Many of them have received awards and honors recognizing their artful character and cultural importance.
More than 20 Fairhaven businesses will also be hosting a variety of art, specials, performances and activities of their own.
These two-days are full of the art, music, performances and food that makes Whatcom County such a diverse community. 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.