Stroll Through the Outdoor Art of Whatcom County

Bellingham and Whatcom County honors all of its unique artists. The art collections listed below range from the tiniest works to more large scale grandeur. Part of the charm is their placement in the surrounding landscape and because they’re outside, you can see these pieces almost any time and usually without a crowd.

Western’s sculptures are acclaimed as one of the top ten university collections in the entire United States, showcasing major artists of the 20th century. 

With an environmental focus and a minimalist theme, the collection varies from autonomous objects to art that is participatory, land-based, and actual structures.

 Use your phone to dive deeper into descriptions of each piece and hear an audio interpretation. When campus is open, visitors are able to pick up a printed copy of the University Public Art Collection at any of the Visitor Information Centers.  

Tucked away above Lake Whatcom, Big Rock Garden Park shows off original sculptures nestled in a gorgeous garden stretching over 2.5 acres. With over 37 permanent works by international and local artists, there is always something new to discover. 

Bring your phone and access the City of Bellingham Public Art Collection website for descriptions of each piece

Visitor tip – there is parking at Big Rock Garden after you turn right up the small roadway.

Go on a Culture Crawl
Noisy Waters Mural Festival - Aug 16, 2024

In addition to Western’s on-campus collection, the university is also the steward of the 14.5-acre Sculpture Woods on Lummi Island. The collection was donated by artist Ann Morris and her family for the university to maintain and to use in enriching their curriculum. 

It is currently only open the first Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

There are 16 life-size bronze sculptures throughout the property that reflect the connection between nature and the human spirit.

The City of Bellingham Public Art Collection has cataloged 21 pieces in the downtown area. Take a walking tour to see if you can find them all! One very popular piece is the Sentinel by T. Ellen Sollod, which is located right outside Bayou on Bay. 

In total, the City of Bellingham has more than 80 outdoor sculptures and pieces of artwork in its collection and that will only continue to grow. In 2015, the Bellingham City Council approved an ordinance requiring the city to set aside funds to integrate artwork into new projects. The ordinance requires one percent of capital projects that cost at least $2 million to comply. That means the already stellar public art in this area will continue to grow as the city does. 

One of the most recent sculptures includes the reclaimed piece at Waypoint Park that is a glowing beacon at night. The iconic "Acid Ball" is a remnant of the downtown waterfront’s history that used to be Georgia Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill. The new park that surrounds it includes beach access, walking trails, and a fantastic waterfront view.

This totem pole commemorates a tragedy that took place in Whatcom County in 1999, when the gas pipeline under Whatcom Falls Park spilled gasoline into Hanna and Whatcom Creeks, resulting in an explosion that took the lives of three people.

The Lummi House of Tears created the healing pole in 2006 to recognize the tragedy and help the community heal. Tribal artists restored the pole in 2018-2019. Visitors can find the restored pole at the Woburn Street Trailhead located in Whatcom Falls Park.

Head to Squalicum Harbor at the Bellwether Plaza on Bellingham's waterfront to view this stunning totem pole. The pole honors the Lummi Nation and celebrates the cultural heritage of our region. 

The poles were created by Jewel James, head carver with the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers studio. The poles share a story about morality, integrity, and responsibility. QR codes installed onto plaques near the pole offer more information about the poles and their significance. 

The Ferndale Arts Commission‘s Downtown Mural Project has helped add a number of murals for visitors to appreciate. You will find art in three alleyways off of Main Street, and on nearby buildings on Second and Third Avenue. Pioneer Pavilion in Pioneer Park also features two murals designed by local artists Jason LaClair and Yolanda Felix-Wilbur. 

All murals in the project were designed by local artists and installed by the artists themselves or through a volunteer effort coordinated by the arts commission. This was organized by former Ferndale council member (and current Whatcom County Assessor) Rebecca Xczar, on behalf of the arts commission and funded through several sources: a Project Neighborly grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation, city funds, and private donations from property owners.

Bonus Spot

Spirit of Kulshan, a commissioned mural that is a sweeping contemporary landscape by Brenda Goddard-Laurence of Brenda Goddard Designs, can be found on the side of 5685 Third Ave., adjacent to the scrumptious Luxe Thai.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden offers a peaceful garden featuring artisan sculptures, water features, lanterns, wind chimes, and more. Relax on the gallery's deck among hummingbirds or enjoy an espresso or tea while browsing works by local artists. 

Want to take the artwork home with you? Art lovers can scoop up pieces of handmade jewelry, wooden crafts, cookware, games, textiles, art prints, handcrafted soaps, and lotions.

This sculpture garden is a perfect stop on the way to or from Larrabee State Park off scenic Chuckanut Drive

Local muralist Gretchen Leggitt is definitely leaving her mark on Bellingham and Washington State. View two of her murals in the alley behind Horseshoe Cafe on 113 E Holly Street. While you're downtown, check out a few of her other murals: 

  • The Kona Bike Shop: 1622 N State St., Bellingham
  • Building on 207 Unity St., Bellingham
  • Kombucha Town: 210 E Chestnut St., Bellingham

This mural, also by Gretchen Leggitt, is considered to be one of the largest, if not THE largest, in all of Washington State. The colorful mountainscape covers the entire side of the 540-foot-wide Encogen Generating Station on Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham. 

Lummi artist Jason LaClair teamed up with muralist Gretchen Leggit to transform a 720-foot concrete wall along Downtown Bellingham’s Forest Street into a work of art. Drive, walk, or bike alongside the cheerful mural, which features orcas and salmon swimming upstream.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Visitor Center Located at I-5 Exit 253 - Check Hours
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Phone: 360-671-3990
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