Visual art in our area is so abundant. Some say it’s the light, some say the views, some say it’s the calm, easygoing lifestyle. For whatever reason, our corner of the Northwest has become a gathering place for visual artists. We celebrate the filmmakers, painters, dancers, photographers and sculptors who work so hard for so little to help us frame and understand our world through our eyes.
- Whatcom Museum and Lightcatcher
This fall, the Whatcom Museum and the Lightcatcher are putting on a retrospective. In their show Reaching Beyond: Northwest Designer Crafstmen at 60, which is juried by Ben Mitchell, the museum will display 60 years’ worth of clay, glass, wood, metal, fiber and mixed media art by 90 artists who represent the finest in handmade arts.
- Art Walk
On the first Friday of every month, people from all over the area flock to downtown Bellingham to enjoy the work of local artists, and the venues that host them. Small galleries, boutiques, restaurants and studio collectives open their doors from 6-10 p.m. There is also a special Children’s Art Walk that showcases the work of some of our most creative artists — the under 18 set. And there’s a juried show of contemporary art called Creative Spaces. Art Walk is sponsored by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership in collaboration with Allied Arts. It’s the perfect way to spend a fall evening or a cozy winter night.
- The Firehouse Performing Arts Center
The Firehouse has been a staple in our local grassroots cultural scene, with regular performances and theater productions. A beautiful, soaring and versatile space, the Firehouse is not just a great place to perform, it is also a great place to see a performance (a rare combination in our ‘burg). This fall, the Firehouse continues its excellent dance classes in the Sunday Contemporary Dance Class series, focusing on modern, ballet, contemporary and jazz dance. There’s also the Monday Night Modern Dance Class with Dance Gallery. Drop-ins are welcome. The Chuckanut Sandstone series continues this fall with open mic and collaborations between the written word and dance, and in October, Kuntz & Company will perform their work Hide and Seek under the direction of Pam Kuntz.
- Lucia Douglas
Founded in 1993, Lucia Douglas Gallery has been a home for fine artists in Bellingham who launch into bigger markets. Despite their success elsewhere, many of Lucia Douglas artists still come home to the gallery. Thomas Wood, John Cole, Ann Wood, Lisa McShane and many more are often in shows at Lucia. The receptions at Lucia Douglas are a wonderful way to connect with the artists with their work in a personal, intimate setting.
Randy R. Clark, aka Fishboy, is the patron saint of Sunnyland, a folk artist who paints on plywood with whatever paint he can scrounge or scavenge: he’s a wild child, a rock-n-roller with a childlike heart of gold. Portraying the world of nightmares and dreams, he creates, birds and people, dogs and fish, and fish and boys. With his rare brand of sophistication and whimsy, the world Fishboy creates is always worth the journey. His gallery is a cozy place, outfitted comfortably with couches and window seats. That comfort allows you to dwell with Fishboy’s creatures and creations for a fall afternoon. Open weekday afternoons or by appointment.
- Smith and Vallee
This lovely space is both a workshop for fine woodworking and a gallery. With regular exhibits of the best in local art, Smith and Vallee frequently juxtaposes works that evoke a theme, from the atmospheric paintings of Tyree Callahan, Sharon Kingston and Lisa McShane in their show Sky, to the sculptural work of David Eisenhour and Jennifer Bennett. Owned by locals Wesley Smith and Andrew Vallee, it’s the perfect destination after a fall afternoon drive.
- Studio UFO
Trish Harding creates intriguing landscapes and gorgeous portraits. She is active in organizing plein air days, in which artists set up easels and paint our lovely streetscapes and landscapes in the open air. She’s a fixture of the downtown Art Walk and her gallery is also an excellent art school. She offers courses in figure drawing, creating a watercolor palette and more. Trish is open and friendly, and always up for a painting adventure.
Though bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Nirvana put the Pacific Northwest on the map, our area is also home to world-class jazz, inspiring classical and festivals and performances that celebrate our incredible home-grown talent.
- Whatcom Symphony Orchestra
Fall isn’t complete without the opening strains of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra wafting through the Mount Baker Theatre. Under the direction of Music Director Yaniv Attar and led by Concertmaster Grant Donnellan, the WSO is heading into another fall season of beautiful music. The opening concert will be a program of piano works from the Romantic period. In November, the WSO will tackle Mozart and Mahler, building to their Holiday Extravaganza with the Mount Baker Toppers and the Bellingham Children’s Choir.
- McIntyre Hall
The organizers at McIntyre Hall have a wonderful fall planned, chock full of interesting programs and performances. The Barefoot Movement, a mix of Bluegrass and Americana, will perform in September and October. The Sno-King County Community Chorale will perform with The Brothers Four in I Hear America Singing!, a musical program of traditional folk songs. The Northwest Ballet’s production of Dracula will be on October 18th, and the Gala Concert will be on October 25th.
Though they have ample gallery space, the downtown wild child that is Make.Shift is also committed to the local music scene in a big way. They provide local bands a free van for moving equipment to and from gigs. They offer studio recording space and performance spaces for live music, and they have started a local music library. Bellingham resident Eric Hall compiled a library of more than 500 Bellingham bands, which are available to stream for free at Make.Shift. We are lucky to have such passionate and creative people keeping our cultural scene vibrant.
- Poetry Night
Every Monday at 8 p.m., the Whatcom Poetry Series hosts readings of local and regional poets of distinction and open mic poetry for anyone who wishes to sign up. The location alternates between the Bellingham Public Library and the downtown Alternative Library. The poetry series is a great way to celebrate poetry and community on a cozy fall night. Sign-up begins at 7:30, readings begin at 8.
Some art is meant to be felt, to be run over the palm or through the fingers — sculpture that warms from your body heat on a winter day, or a finely woven tapestry of silk. Art that is made to be touched grounds us in the texture and landscape of created objects, and makes our experience with the work intimate.
- La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum
The world-class La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum regularly programs fascinating fiber art shows, while maintaining an impressive permanent collection. More than just a scrap-happy hobby, quilting can be a deeply expressive, very personal form of art. This October, the Quilt Museum hosts its annual Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival, a celebration of the woven art.The festival features a juried and judged show of art quilts, wearable art and other forms of fiber art. Whenever you visit, the Quilt Museum is likely to impress.
- Lummi Weaving and Carving
Traditional weaver Bill James creates blankets, baskets and cedar hats in the Coast Salish tradition. His late mother and teacher Aunt Fran was such an institution, she won a Congressional Medal of Honor. Their works are represented in the Museum of the Native American in Washington, DC, but Bill’s heart is here at home, where he teaches Lummi youth the arts, crafts and old ways of their people. Carver Felix Solomon’s restoration work is on display in front of the Whatcom County Courthouse, and his own pole called “It’s Mine” is installed at Maritime Heritage Park. And Jewell James’ carving is practically legendary. His storypoles have commemorated the attack on 9-11, protested the coal facility proposed for Cherry Point and other areas where disaster has struck, or where there is a need for healing. One of his storypoles stands in the place of the tragic 1999 pipeline explosion.
- Alley Arts: Creating Public Art
Allied Arts of Whatcom County hosts their annual Alley Arts Mural Project October 4th from 4–7 p.m. The public is invited to participate under the guidance of local artists Kathryn Hackney and Jason Darling. They will outline the murals and then help the public create it. This year’s inspiration comes from the documentary film Trash Dance, which is showing at the Pickford on October 10th at 5:45. The mural will have 3-dimensional elements and textures.
Our sense of taste is a tapestry of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and Umami. Can art have a taste? While we don’t recommend licking a Fishboy painting, we did manage to find food that elevates itself beyond being beautiful or delicious — food that is an opening to understanding, crafted and created to challenge and excite.
- The Willows Inn on Lummi Island
A washed stone with the perfect oyster perched on top. A smoking box with a single mussel inside. Chef Blaine Wetzel marries the art of presentation with the mastery of combining ingredients to create incredible flavors.
- Chocolate Necessities
Chocolate Necessities is celebrating 25 years of fine chocolate-making with artisan techniques and painstakingly sourced ingredients. Using Callebaut chocolate, they create works of art, from small, artful truffles and filled chocolates to these exquisite masks.
- Pure Bliss Desserts
Can a cake be art? We think so. Look at the paintings of Wayne Thiebaud. The perfect balance of ingredients, of icing, with the delicate perfection of the decoration elevates these sweet treats into little edible works of art.
- Fraser Valley Food Show
As with an art show, this food show has juried selections, competitions, displays and more. Events include cheese and wine seminars, Bite of the Valley with participating restaurants, sausage-making competitions and celebrity chef cooking demonstrations. A great place to savor the art of great food, the event takes place October 3–5 in Abbotsford.