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 to be 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. Each piece was added to the collection over a span of many decades, so the entire campus is dominated by these diverse and amazing sculptures that are each rich with history.

Western ensures that art is incorporated into the budget of each new building, which means the collection continues to grow as the campus expands. In 1999, the collection of small sculptures in bronze, Feats of Strength by Tom Otterness, came to the square outside the then new biology building. This art was added to campus with support from Western Washington University via the Art in Public Places Program of the Washington State Arts Commission.

Literally hundreds of thousands of kids have climbed on the base of For Handel while waiting to attend a performance at WWU’s Performing Arts Center (PAC). The sculpture by Mark di Suvero was created in 1975 and is dedicated to composer George Frideric Handel. The view of Bellingham Bay and downtown from the adjacent quad is spectacular. 

You can tour through more than a dozen sculptures on the WWU campus. 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.  

In addition to Western’s on-campus collection, the university is also the new steward of the 14.5-acre Sculpture Woods on Lummi Island. The collection was donated to WWU by artist Ann Morris and her family for the university to maintain and use the property to enrich their curriculum. It is usually open one Saturday per month.

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

Tucked away above Lake Whatcom is a beautiful park that 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. This little park is a hidden secret, has cool shade on a sunny day, and is rarely crowded. 

The City of Bellingham has owned this secret garden since 1993. It is open dawn to dusk year-round. When you arrive at the front gate of the park you can review the park map to get a greater understanding of the layout. Restrooms are available and no pets are allowed in the park.

The vegetation is lush in spring with flowering azaleas and rhododendrons and in the fall, beautiful leaves of many colors on the maples fill each corner. Visitor tip – there is parking at Big Rock Garden after you turn right up the small roadway.

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 Waypoint piece that is a glowing beacon at night. It 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.


Bonus Spots

  • “The Salmon Run” 

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.

  • “Centennial Mural” 

Located at 205 Prospect Street, this piece was completed in 1990 by East Los Streetscapers’ and honors the history of Bellingham and Coast Salish peoples. Explore this location and more around Downtown Bellingham by checking out the entire Salmon Art Trail.

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 councilmember (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.

Highway 11, more commonly known as Chuckanut Drive, offers beautiful views and one of the most gorgeous galleries filled with local artists - Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden

The gallery building was constructed in the 1930s as a garage and service station for motorists. Years later it was converted into a general store and in 1986 the gallery was opened by Don and Carol Salisbury. Fast forward a few decades and the gallery changed hands for the first time to the current owners Nancy and Christopher Haley.


The gallery features over 400 artists and offers Bellingham residents and tourists a warm welcome into the art world. Whether exploring the art for sale inside or venturing into lush gardens decorated with unique sculptures made of every kind of material - you will be fascinated. 

The outdoor sculpture garden is speckled with colors on the ground, in water fountains, and hanging from tree branches. The sculpture garden is small but offers viewers of any age an experience to hunt and find its secret treasures. Everywhere you look there are intricate sculptures peeking out. Long glass flowers, metal frogs and bears, and dazzling stone figures all populate the garden serenaded by the sound of running waterfalls and songbirds.

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. You can even make your own artwork by taking pictures in the gardens overflowing with sculptures.This makes a great stop on your way to or from the brilliant Larrabee State Park, which is full of huge trees, beaches and rocky cliffs, and offers spectacular views of Bellingham Bay.

From small designs, like the Kombucha Town mural, to the largest mural in Washington State (spanning the length of two football fields!) located on Puget Sound Energy’s building, local muralist Gretchen Leggitt is definitely leaving her mark on Bellingham and Washington State.

  • The Kona Bike Shop: 1622 N State St., Bellingham
  • Puget Sound Energy: 915 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham
  • Horseshoe Cafe: 113 E Holly St., Bellingham
  • Building on 207 Unity St., Bellingham
  • Kombucha Town: 210 E Chestnut St., Bellingham
  • Forest Street Salmon: 900 Forest St., Bellingham
        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
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