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Physical Story Dome opens in Lightcatcher building

Nestled in a corner of the Lightcatcher lobby sits a large geodesic dome. Inside, a plush rug, table, microphone, and two chairs invite visitors to step inside. This new addition to the Museum is the physical representation of our Story Dome project, which has been operating virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally intended as an […]

Building a Museum Collection

In the 10 years since the Whatcom Museum opened the Lightcatcher building, we’ve welcomed hundreds of works into the permanent collection. Now, we’re excited to share a selection of these stunning works with the public in our upcoming exhibition Anatomy of a Collection: Recent Acquisitions & Promised Gifts.

This exhibition showcases nearly 70 works, many of which are on view for the first time at the Museum. In addition to acknowledging long-standing relationships with area artists and patrons, it also shows how the collection has expanded and changed over the years.

So, what goes into building a museum collection? Here, we’ll touch on the ways these works enter the collection and highlight eight pieces on view in Anatomy of a Collection. We hope you’ll come see them after we reopen Sept. 19.

The Whatcom Museum Collection

As the Whatcom Museum approaches its 80th year as a museum, its capacities have been expanded in many ways, including increasing collection storage. Works generally enter the collection through private donors, organizations, or the artists themselves.

Many recent acquisitions and promised gifts expand existing holdings of significant works by artists of the Pacific Northwest. Other acquisitions are tied to important solo exhibitions hosted by the Museum that delve into an artist’s career, such as those about the art of Ed Bereal and Lesley Dill. 

Read on to learn about some of these exciting artworks and artists.

Building relationships: Works tied to past exhibitions

Shimmer, 2005-2006, by Lesley Dill

Wire, metal foil; Gift of the artist

In 2011, the Museum organized the touring exhibition Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions. The exhibition featured large-scale installations of metallic, silhouetted figures intermingled with expressive phrases of poetry.

Dill is among the most prominent contemporary artists working at the intersection of art and language. She experiments in a wide range of tactile materials to create mixed-media works that fuse poetry and image. After her exhibition finished touring, the artist gifted the large installation Shimmer to the Whatcom Museum in 2015. Its re-installation in Anatomy of a Collection is the first showing since its acquisition into the collection.

With this work, Dill wishes to capture the play of silvery light reflecting off the ocean. To accomplish this, she spent more than 300 eight-hour days with the help of assistants, winding 2 million feet of fine wire to form the 60-foot-long silvery curtain. It cascades down the wall resembling tendrils of hair or, in the artist’s words, “a kind of electrical waterfall.”

Shimmer by Lesley Dill


Untitled, 1961, by Ed Bereal

Mixed media, paper, and pigment; Collection of Chuck and Dee Robinson

In 2019, the Whatcom Museum mounted the exhibition Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace, a retrospective of the work of nationally known, Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal. The exhibition featured works across six decades of the artist’s career, including drawings, paintings, assemblage, and large-scale installations.

This drawing is from Bereal’s early career when he was an up-and-coming artist in Los Angeles. Exhibited last year in the retrospective, it helps chart his explorations from drawing to collage and eventually to assemblage.

Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art at the Museum, worked closely with Bereal in developing his retrospective.

Wanted was incredibly well-received by our audiences,” Chaloupka says. “Many in the community expressed the impact Bereal’s work had on them and mentioned the importance of  his work being represented in the collection, so we are thrilled that two of the artist’s works have been promised to the Museum.”

Recently, Bereal’s career and work was featured in an article by Hyperallergic.

Untitled by Ed Bereal


Recent Acquisitions from the Washington Art Consortium

Several works in Anatomy of a Collection bear the following credit line on their label: “Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group.” The Whatcom Museum was a member of the Washington Art Consortium, which was founded in 1975. The cooperative of seven museums shared a goal of making world-class art accessible to regional audiences.

The Consortium promoted a spirit of collaboration through the shared responsibility of the collection by member institutions. In addition to the Whatcom Museum, its members included the Tacoma Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Western Gallery, Museum of Art at Washington State University, and the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington.

In 2009, the Consortium facilitated the distribution of more than 800 works from the Safeco Art Collection, one of the most renowned corporate collections of Northwest art. When the Consortium disbanded in 2017, the works were distributed among the partner institutions, including the Whatcom Museum.

Untitled (Eastern Washington Landscape), 1936-40, by Z. Vanessa Helder

Watercolor on paper; Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group

Born in Lynden, Zama Vanessa Helder went on to study at the Art Students League in New York.

In 1937, Helder was employed by Washington’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) art program. Through this, she depicted urban and rural scenes from across the region. She worked in a realist style and used hard lines, stark shadows, and precise depictions of architecture and landscape to create moody scenes not typically expressed through the medium of watercolor.

One of her greatest achievements is a series of 22 watercolors from 1939-1941 detailing the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. Helder is one of Washington State’s most distinguished artists from the early 20th century.

Landscape art


Whispers, 1989, by José Luis Rodríguez Guerra

Lithograph; Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group

José Luis Rodríguez Guerra was born in Sabinas, Coahuila, México, and had a talent for drawing and painting from childhood.

In 1969, his family immigrated to the United States to live in Oregon. There, Rodríguez Guerra became a farm worker, studying English and drawing in his spare time. In 1978, Rodríguez Guerra chose to focus more fully on his art and moved his family to Mexico City. While there, he found what he described as a rich fountain of inspiration in the Mexican muralists, the emerging avant-garde, as well as the cultural traditions of his ancestral homeland.

Returning to the states a year later, the artist began developing a body of work exploring human behavior through expressive paintings and prints that translated his visual observations, dreams, and the subconscious. He currently lives in Seattle.


Interior, 1941, by Gwendolyn Knight

Gouache; Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group

Gwendolyn Knight was born in Barbados and moved to the United States at the age of 7. In the 1920s and 30s, Knight lived in Harlem at the height of its cultural renaissance and met icons like Langston Hughes. While in Harlem, Knight was mentored by Augusta Savage, and through the Works Progress Administration she worked with muralist Charles Alston. It was at Alston’s workshop where she would meet her future husband, artist Jacob Lawrence.

Knight painted Interior in 1941, the year she met and married Lawrence. The painting shows a quiet and comfortable domestic scene. While Knight focused mainly on portraiture and the figure in her work, this scene implies its inhabitants through the warmth of a stove and clothes causally draped over a chair and nearby hook. The scene is an unpretentious view of a home’s interior.

In 1970, Lawrence accepted a position at the University of Washington’s School of Art, and the couple settled in the Seattle area. While Lawrence found recognition early in his career, Knight gained attention much later in life. Her first museum retrospective was at the age of 89 at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Chair


Gifts from Private Donors

Many works enter the Museum collection through gifts by private donors. With funds for acquisitions limited, the Museum is grateful for the generosity of those who support its collection and exhibitions through donations and promised gifts.

Night Sky, 1991, by Philip McCracken

Maple and mixed media; Collection of Tim and Gail Bruce

Born in Bellingham in 1928, Philip McCracken attended the University of Washington and later studied sculpture with the British artist Henry Moore. His diverse works embrace both abstraction and realism and span traditional materials like bronze as well as new media like epoxy and resin.

Nature is the central inspiration for the artist as he explores witty visions of the animal world, such as his bronze Heron (1977) which sits behind the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall. Works like Night Sky express the wonders of the cosmos as interpreted through carved and painted wood.

Chaloupka says the Museum’s sustained relationships with donors and supporters such as Tim and Gail Bruce are essential.

“Collectors like the Bruces have a passion for art and often provide unique insights from their years of living with an artwork,” she says. “Often, they have personal connections with the artists whose work they collect.”

For example, Tim and Gail Bruce have close ties with McCracken and his wife Anne and have a deep knowledge about his work through their years of acquaintance.


Weyerhaeuser Mill at Everett, Washington, no date, by Victoria Savage

Gouache and mixed media; Gift of Charles and Nancy Bagley

While little has been written about Victoria Savage or her artwork, this donation to the Museum is a significant one. The painting allows us to dig deeper into the artwork and life of an artist who made significant contributions to a Northwest regionalist style of painting in the early- to mid-20th century.  

Born and raised in Spokane, Savage graduated from Washington State University with a degree in fine arts. She moved to Seattle in the late 1950s, embedding herself in the arts community.

Savage was a longtime member of the Northwest Watercolor Society and an active member of the Women Painters of Washington. Her first major solo exhibition that brought her regional attention was at the Frye Art Museum in 1964.

This painting gives a glimpse of mid-century industry in the region, depicting one of the active Weyerhaeuser mills in Everett. Savage incorporates aspects of cubism in her interpretation of the buildings, water towers, and smokestacks. Lyrical, dynamic brush strokes infuse the structures with the energy reflective of the activity of production.

Painting of a mill


Diving Loon, 1994, by Tony Angell

Belgian marble; Gift of Charles and Nancy Bagley

Tony Angell is a naturalist who has studied birds his entire life. Despite never formally studying art, Angell was a constant drawer and observer from a young age. He trained and rehabilitated falcons and hawks and closely studied their physical features. He has written and illustrated more than a dozen books about nature.

In the late 1960s, Angell discovered sculpture as a medium. Many are familiar with Angell’s sculpture of two ravens that greet visitors at the entrance to Mount Baker Ski Area.

Diving Loon describes the movement and form the loon takes as it dives for fish. Charles Bagley commissioned the piece as a gift for his wife in the mid-1990s. Now, the collectors wish for the piece to be appreciated by a wider audience.

Chaloupka says the Museum is “grateful to have these inspiring gifts of art presented in the exhibition and looks forward to building programming around the many ideas these works generate.”

To experience these works and more, visit Anatomy of a Collection when we reopen. We can’t wait to welcome you back on Sept. 19, 2020. Learn about what to expect during your visit on our COVID-19 response page.

Loon sculpture

Spotlight on art conservation with Lisa Duncan

When the Whatcom Museum curatorial team recently wanted to have several artworks cleaned and assessed for stability to exhibit and possibly go on tour, they turned to art conservator Lisa Duncan. Thoroughly assessing an artwork’s general condition is an essential part of preparing for any exhibition. It is especially important for a touring exhibition that […]

Museum Store aims to serve during closure

Learn how the Whatcom Museum Store is adapting during our closure in this guest post by Purchasing Specialist Stephanie Douglas. Reimagining the Museum Store For the last month, like most of us, I’ve had to completely rethink how to do my job. Four days a week I come into the Museum Store, working alone, and dig […]

From the Archives: Sports photos through the years

With sporting events canceled due to COVID-19, we’re taking this opportunity to bring sports (photos) to you! Below, you’ll find a selection of sports photos from the Whatcom Museum Photo Archives. The photos cover a wide variety of athletic pursuits, from bowling to lacrosse and basketball. While many are posed team shots, some capture the athletes in action!

Sports photos through the years

Photos progress by year, starting in 1891 and ending at 1983. Have a favorite sports photo or recognize a face? Let us know in the comments. Now, let the games begin!

The 1890s

Wheelmen Ride Bicycles, June 22, 1891

The 1880s saw invention of the “Safety,” a bicycle that featured front and rear wheels of moderate and relatively equal size. Safety models were enthusiastically adopted in Bellingham Bay towns where penny-farthings, with a huge front wheel and tiny back wheel, were anything but safe on mud-rutted streets.

The “wheelmen” pictured here were part of a parade welcoming the first Canadian Pacific train’s arrival in New Whatcom. They took his portrait at the Dobbs & Fleming studio on Holly Street to commemorate the event.

The New Whatcom Wheelmen, a cycling organization “open to ladies and gentlemen,” formed in the 1890s to lobby for good roads and raise funds for a bike trail out to Lake Whatcom.

📷: Dobbs & Fleming | Gift of Gordon Tweit

Sports photo from 1891


Early 1900s

Diamond Cutters, 1903

When Whatcom High School opened on Halleck Street in 1903, it celebrated its inaugural year by fielding these dug-out dandies. 

In the front row (left to right) are Earnest Tafel, first base; Roy Brown, catcher; Page Fowle, manager; Homer Dean, team captain; and Charles Peters, short stop. Back row (l to r): Errol McLeod, pitcher and third base; Will Butler; George Simmons, right field; Arthur McCoubrey, left field; Hugh Rickerson; and Glen Barlow, second base. 

Homer Dean, Whatcom’s star pitcher, must have forgotten his uniform on picture day as the school initials appear tacked to his shirt in this sports photo.

📷: J.W. Sandison | Whatcom Museum Archives

1903 baseball photo

Lacrosse Clubbers, August 26, 1906

The Bellingham Lacrosse Club pioneered the sport locally when it formed in 1905.

Dan Murray played for and managed the team, which mostly found competition across the border against British Columbian squads. Home games were a streetcar ride away on the Silver Beach baseball grounds at Lake Whatcom.

In the front row (left to right): W. Knight, O. Pearson, Ed Decker, J. Chisholm, Frank Robbins, captain; Dan Murray, manager; and C. Rickerson. Standing (l to r) are Jim Craske, J. Lewis, the “substitute”; C. Walling, Bob Tate, goalie J. Larson, E. Brown, and H. Carswell, club secretary.

The Bellingham club, which disbanded in 1908, saw its greatest triumph on May 24, 1907, when they defeated Chilliwack in an away game.

📷: Gift of Minnie Johnson via Darla Castagno | Whatcom Museum Archives

Lacrosse sports photo


The 1930s

Triumphant Sticklers, 1930

This Whatcom High field hockey team celebrated their third straight championship in 1930. They captured the top title as surprising sophomores, repeat juniors and undefeated seniors. The squad saw only one goal scored against them during their last season.

In the front row (left to right) are Ethel Jacobsen, captain Pearl McFarland, and Violet McDonald. In the second row (l to r) are Esther Hovde, Irene Sulton, Lois Magnuson, and Eloise Rankin. Back row, (l to r) standing are Elizabeth Korthauer, Helen Howell, Iola Grue, Doris Benedict, and Ernestine Dix.

Field hockey, exclusively a girls’ game, was introduced at Whatcom High in 1925. The sport’s last year at the school came in 1932 before being slashed from the district’s Depression-era budget.

📷: J.W. Sandison | Whatcom Museum Archives

Field hockey team


The 1940s

Gritty Gridiron Action, October 22, 1948

The Whatcom Junior High Warriors struck early when Bill Tarr went on a 34-yard gallop at Battersby Field against South Everett. Coached by Frank Geri, Whatcom went on to win 32-0. 

Battersby Field at Girard and F streets was a muddy mess during football season, serving as home turf to Whatcom Junior High, Bellingham High and Western Washington College of Education. The dirt doubled as a baseball infield in another season, leaving it especially sloppy. This led players and fans to nickname the field “Battersby Bog.”

 📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Football players

Close Play at First, May 8, 1949

Bellingham Bells’ player Tom Jones stretches for the bag in a home game against the Seattle Elks at Battersby Field. 

Seattle’s shortstop had bobbled Jones’ grounder and Jones was safe despite Elks first baseman Warren Parkhurst’s reach for the late throw. Bellingham went on to win 3-2. 

The semi-professional Bells first took to the diamond in 1940 but didn’t hit their stride until after the boys returned from World War II. Under manager Joe Martin, the team won 20 State Championships between 1946 and 1973.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Sports photo Baseball players


The 1950s

Abrupt Change in Strategy, April 5, 1957

Sedro-Woolley High School’s Gary Moon soars over the final barrier in the 120-yard high hurdles just as his teammate Jeff Heverling stumbles and relinquishes the lead. 

Moon won the race with Bellingham High’s Larry Clevenger (left) coming in second. Heverling wasn’t hurt and returned to win the 200-yard low hurdles later in the day. 

Despite losing a few races, Bellingham won the season’s opening track meet hosted by Sedro-Woolley.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Man jumping a hurdle

Battle Under the Basket, January 14, 1955

The Viking men’s basketball team dominated the backboards against rival Eastern Washington during a Friday night game on Western’s home court in this January 1955 sports photo.

In this tangled tussle, Western center Bob Forbes (at left) wasn’t about to relinquish the ball as he was swarmed by (left to right) Ken Hill, Bob Underwood and Will McGillivray. Western won the contest 73 to 54.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Basketball players


The 1960s

Timber Tumblers Get Trophies, 1960

Whatcom Junior High’s girls’ bowling team pose with their trophies at 20th Century Lanes on State Street.  

Pictured (left to right) are Carla Anderson, Linda Thomas, Linda Allen, coach Agnes Tweit, Kim McCullough, and Sharon Chandler. 

Whatcom first offered bowling as an off-campus sport in 1958. The boys met once a week to play at Park Lanes and the girls at 20th Century. 

Agnes Tweit, math teacher by day, was one of Bellingham’s best bowlers and could provide the girls’ team of 35 “timber tumblers” with plenty of pointers. In 1945, Tweit rolled a three-game series score of 648. In 1947, she won the Class “A” Women’s Singles Championship of the Northwest International Bowling Congress.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Bowlers


The 1970s 

Unforeseen Champions, 1970

In August 1970, Bellingham roller hockey team the Bruins returned from Lincoln, Nebraska, having won the national championship. Without fanfare, the team had traveled without coach or manager, battled in a tournament of 17 teams and come away victorious. 

Pictured on their home rink in the Armory on State Street are (front row, left to right) Mickey Strickler, goalie Ron Perry, and Mark Friedl. 

Standing (l to r) are Jim Stevenson, Craig Angell, Rich Tawes, Ray Moore, and Bruce Ingells. Moore scored 14 goals during the competition and Stevenson had scored 10, including the game winner in the sudden-death final.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Roller hockey team sports photo


The 1980s

Duck and Cover, June 4, 1983

A base runner for Joe’s Drive-In ducks to avoid possibly getting hit with a ball during a softball game at Geri Fields.

📷: Tore Ofteness | Whatcom Museum Archives

Softpall sports photo


We hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup of sports photos from our archives. You can see more photos and items from our collection by viewing our Virtual Exhibits web page.

Five Women Artists – Bonnie MacLean

During the month of March, the Whatcom Museum will highlight five women artists whose work is featured in our collection. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Read this final piece in the series to learn about artist Bonnie MacLean. Bonnie MacLean – early […]

Five Women Artists – Marita Dingus

During the month of March, the Whatcom Museum will highlight five women artists whose work is featured in our collection. The project is part of the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Read on to learn about artist Marita Dingus. Marita Dingus – Education and background Marita Dingus was […]

Five Women Artists – Susan Bennerstrom

During the month of March, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five women artists whose work is featured in our collection. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Read on to learn more about artist Susan Bennerstrom. Susan Bennerstrom – the early years Bellingham-based artist […]

Five Women Artists – Victoria Adams

During the month of March, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five women artists whose work is featured in our collection. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Read on to learn more about artist Victoria Adams. Victoria Adams’ early years Born in Columbus, Ohio, […]

Five Women Artists – Yvonne Twining Humber

During the month of March, the Whatcom Museum will highlight five women artists whose work is featured in our collection. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Read on to learn about artist Yvonne Twining Humber. Life of Yvonne Twining Humber Yvonne Twining Humber […]

Inside “The Global Language of Headwear”

A Kayapo/Mekranoti headdress from Brazil made of feathers, cotton, and reed. A Shinto Priest’s Hat from Japan made of silk, wood, and metal. A Woman’s Skullcap from Afghanistan is made of cotton, metal, and coins. These are just a few of the stunning headdresses on display in The Global Language of Headwear, on view in the Lightcatcher building Feb. 1 – April 26, 2020.

This exhibition features 87 headdresses curated from Stacey W. Miller’s private collection of more than 1,300 extraordinary pieces of international headwear. The pieces hail from 42 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and South America.

As an independent curator of ethnographic headwear, Miller has spent decades collecting and researching headwear. For her, headwear offers a window through which to learn more about other cultures. Beyond being wearable works of art, each piece has profound significance, often reinforcing spiritual and social values.

The Global Language of Headwear

The Global Language of Headwear is on tour in collaboration with International Arts and Artists, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally.

Visitors to the Whatcom Museum will notice the exhibition is organized into five themes: cultural identity; power, prestige, and status; ceremonies and celebrations; spiritual beliefs; and protection. While the pieces on display are visually and culturally diverse, most are from the mid-to-late 20th century.

In touring these diverse headdresses, Miller and International Arts and Artists are hoping to encourage “an awareness of cultural differences and an appreciation of basic human commonalities.”

Headwear with colorful pompoms
Quechuan Wool Hat, Peru, wool, glass beads.

Headdress with colored feathers
Cameroon Bamileke JuJu Headdress (Tyn) late 20th century, fiber, feathers, string.

How it started

Miller started collecting global headwear somewhat unintentionally. In 1979, while living in Spain after college, Miller joined a group of strangers on an overland trip to India. It was on that journey that her collection began.

“I bought my first hat in Istanbul, an inexpensive souvenir that disappeared into my backpack but evokes memories of Turkey,” she recalls.

She purchased more hats during that trip, and her collection grew as she became fascinated by the variety of designs and materials.

“Through research, I was increasingly aware that each country has traditional headwear that is unique and meaningful to its cultures and its people.”

As an avid traveler, Miller picks up many of the headdresses herself. She estimates that about one-third are directly from her trips.

Other pieces come to the collection from friends and family who seek out hats during their travels. “They often report back that the search was one of the highlights of their trip.”

Miller also uses the internet and social media to track down hats, often connecting with strangers across the globe. “The internet has been a godsend for both finding hats and conducting research.”

Contributions from the Whatcom Museum

In addition to the headwear from Miller, the Whatcom Museum is contributing at least seven pieces from its permanent collection, including Northwest Coast cedar bark hats.

Victoria Blackwell, director of exhibitions and programming, says the headwear exhibit is the perfect time to showcase some of the Museum’s lesser-known pieces. That includes two Victorian hats — a wedding cap and mourning cap — as well as a tatami kabuto helmet from Japan.

Blackwell says the kabuto helmet pre-dates the samurai class in Japan and have been dated back to the fifth century. The samurai later took up wearing these types of helmets. The one on display from the Museum’s collection would have been worn by lower-ranking foot soldiers.

The helmet was gifted to the Museum in 1971. “We’d never get to exhibit this otherwise,” she says. “This is our chance.” 

Blackwell says she sought to link the Museum’s pieces to some of the themes in the exhibit. The Victorian hats relate to ceremonies and celebrations, while the tatami kabuto is for protection.

“There aren’t that many opportunities to reflect cultures on a global level,” Blackwell says. “While many of these hats aren’t specific to the Pacific Northwest, the themes they represent are universal.”

Beyond the hats, there will be multiple interactive opportunities. A 6-foot-long magnetic map will encourage visitors to match hat silhouettes to their country of origin. The exhibition also features several touch stations. The stations will allow visitors to feel materials used in some of the hats, from karakul wool to cowrie shells.

The Museum will host two related events: a felted hat workshop with Flora Carlile-Kovacs and a lecture with millinery designer Wayne Wichern.

Kabuto helmet
Tatami kabuto helmet from the Museum's collection.

Mourning headdresses
Victorian headdresses from the Museum's collection.

The future

At home in Rochester, New York, Miller has about 150 hats on display throughout her house. Moving forward, her goal is to write a book about her collection. She wants to continue to share her stories of headwear, people, and places with a wider audience.

“It’s really easy to look at some of these and think ‘I can’t believe people wear these,’” she says. “I think they are a temptation to judge people just because they’re unfamiliar. But what may look odd to one person isn’t odd to everyone. They really represent something that everyone has in common.”

A guide to Deck the Old City Hall 2019

The holiday season is in full swing at the Whatcom Museum! Now in its seventh year, our annual Deck the Old City Hall celebration offers fun for all ages. Here’s everything you need to know about this special time of year.

Deck the Old City Hall

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 29, (Wednesdays-Sundays) our historic building is decked out with holiday trees, garlands, and more. In addition to the dazzling décor, we offer a variety of events. From our annual holiday cocktail party to visits with Santa and weekly crafts, you won’t want to miss Deck the Old City Hall.

The trees

This year, we have 16 themed holiday trees on display. Trees are decorated by individuals and community organizations in a style of their choosing.

Interested in a nautical theme? Check out the trees by Schooner Zodiac or the Community Boating Center. If you’re a fan of “Alice in Wonderland,” you’ll be enchanted by the Mad Hatter’s Holiday Tree by Karen Sage-Stockwell. Like elves? The Assistance League of Bellingham’s “helping the community” tree embraces elves as a symbol of helpfulness.

Museum Advocate co-chair Cherie Walker says some organizations and individuals have been participating for multiple years. Walker herself has been involved with Deck the Old City Hall since the beginning, when she helped to create it.

While trees come and go, the Museum Advocate tree is a constant presence. Decked out in more traditional decor, it towers above the other trees and serves as a backdrop for photos with Santa.

The Advocates tree at Deck the Old City Hall

A nautical-themed tree at Deck the Old City Hall 2019
A nautical-themed tree at Deck the Old City Hall.

Trees at Deck the Old City Hall 2019
A Mad Hatter tree (right) is seen at Deck the Old City Hall.

 

Visits with Santa

Grab your camera and wish list! Santa’s making a stop at Old City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 30 & Sunday, Dec. 1, from 12:30 to 2:30pm. The jolly old elf has an uncanny resemblance to our very own preparator Paul Brower. Photos are self-serve in the Rotunda Room.

Holiday cocktail party

Kick off the holiday season in style at our cocktail party on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5:30 to 8pm. Break out your holiday attire and enjoy appetizers and drinks, dancing, and more. This year we’re happy to announce we’ll have live music by the Thomas Harris Sextet.

Tickets are $35 and are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/4426670. Must be 21+ to attend. Sponsored by Lori & Scott Clough.

Weekly crafts

New for 2019 is weekly holiday crafts! Each Saturday afternoon in December we’re holding craft workshops where visitors can create unique projects to take home. All activities are drop-in from noon to 4pm. and are suitable for all ages. We’ll provide the supplies. Here’s the lineup:

Dec. 7: Paper ornaments

Dec. 14: Sock snowmen

Dec. 21: German paper Scherenschnitte

Dec. 28: New Year’s noise makers

Admission to Deck the Old City Hall

Admission to Deck the Old City Hall is by donation (regular admission applies to the Lightcatcher building). The Museum offers admission by donation as a seasonal gift to the community.

Walker says Deck the Old City Hall helps build community, highlights the Museum’s diverse offerings, and provides fun for all ages. Proceeds from donations benefit the Museum’s programming and exhibitions.

Come see the magic for yourself.

Haunted Old City Hall: Tales from the Jail

Is Old City Hall haunted? Some have asked this question, and with good reason. The building, which is now part of the Whatcom Museum, once housed criminals and the accused in its basement jail cells. If you venture into the rooms today, you’ll find prisoners’ names etched into the walls. So, who spent time in the basement jail? Read on to find out.

Haunted Old City Hall

Many suspects went in and out of the jail cells in the basement of Old City Hall. The following brief stories are summarized from the Murder in the Fourth Corner book series by local author and Whatcom Museum Visitor Services Attendant Todd Warger. Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of Warger’s books in the Museum Store.

Ben Worstell

Ben Worstell was a sometime barber living in Bellingham in the 1920s and 1930s. He lived with his domineering mother, and he may have suffered some developmental disabilities. He was committed for a time to a mental hospital, but by 1933 he was back living with his mother.

One morning that year, his mother threatened to have him recommitted because he wasn’t living up to her moral standards. In a fit of madness (or rage), he strangled her. He was quickly apprehended and placed in the padded jail cell. While there, the jailers report he was joyful to be out from under his mother’s thumb.

Eventually he was tried for murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to Walla Walla and moved to the Eastern State Hospital a year later. He died at that institution in 1945.

August Friedberg

In 1907, Russian sailor August Friedberg found himself on shore leave in bustling Bellingham. Looking to have some fun, he and a friend sought entertainment in the Red Light District. By the early afternoon they were drunk and observing the dancing of Odia Briscoe, also known as Snowball Wallace, an African-American performer.

After an hour of dancing, Ms. Briscoe was worn out and decided to take a break. In a drunken rage, Friedberg demanded she continue dancing. When she refused, he took out a gun and told her he would show her how to dance. Friedberg then fired twice, hitting Ms. Briscoe in the abdomen. The men were quickly taken into custody, and Ms. Briscoe passed away a few hours later.

Friedberg’s defense was that he had drank so much he had no idea what he was doing. The jury convicted him of manslaughter rather than murder. Within a few years, Friedberg was out on parole.

Guisseppe Stumpo

In 1914, the Bellingham & Northern Railway crew noticed one of their number, Guisseppe Stumpo, was acting a bit odd, eventually walking off the job. The foreman, knowing Stumpo had frequent bouts of conflict with his wife, decided to check at their home.

As he approached the Stumpo homestead, he heard the wailing of children. His knock at the door went unanswered. As he walked around the perimeter, he spied through the kitchen window Dominica Stumpo lying in a pool of her own blood. All three Stumpo children were in the room, the two youngest crying uncontrollably and the oldest staring silently.

Mrs. Stumpo had been slain with a firewood ax. Stumpo was quickly found and admitted to the crime. He later changed his tune and attempted to fight the charges to no avail. He was sentenced to life for first-degree murder. After 15 years, Stumpo began suffering from delusional paranoia. He eventually passed away in state custody at the Eastern State Hospital in 1943.

Hugh Finnian

In 1909, four lumbermen were playing cards late into the night. Words were exchanged and tempers flared. Hugh Finnian, a 56-year-old wiry mill hand, felt wronged by George Shoemaker.

Thrown out by the barkeep, Finnian and Shoemaker took their exchange outside. Here accounts differ, but the results are agreed upon: George Shoemaker was stabbed to death with a rusty pocketknife. Finnian was arrested.

At his trial, Finnian said he was acting in self-defense because Shoemaker was following him and harassing him. The jury agreed with his account, and Finnian was found not guilty. A few years later he committed suicide.

Newell Barr

In 1893 John Erickson, a Swedish laborer new to the area, was looking for a place to rest after work. Lacking funds, he saw a cabin that appeared abandoned. He pried off the boards over the door and started to make his way in when BANG. He was shot dead.

The cabin’s owner, Newell Barr, had set a trap to deter vandalism while he was away on a week-long hunting trip. Barr boarded the place up and set up a gun to fire when the door opened. Barr was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to Walla Walla. He was pardoned by the governor one year later.

Old City Hall jail cell
A prisoner's name on the wall of a jail cell in the basement of Old City Hall.

Inside of the padded jail cell
The inside of the padded jail cell.

The making of “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace”

Bold. Relentless. Provocative. These are some of the words that describe the exhibition Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace.

The exhibition opened in September 2019 and is the first museum retrospective for 82-year-old Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal. The show spans six decades of art, from assemblage to radical street theater and oil paintings. Bereal’s more recent works examine racial inequity, gun violence, corporate greed, and political power.

RELATED: Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace

Although the idea for the exhibition had been floating around for a couple of years, it wasn’t until 2019 that it took shape. When Amy Chaloupka joined the Whatcom Museum as Curator of Art in January, she dove into planning the exhibition. She says it helped that she has known Bereal for two decades, ever since she took several of his art classes at Western Washington University.

So, how does a show like this come together? The carefully curated gallery in the Lightcatcher building is the product of months of effort. Here’s a peek at how it happened.

The process

Chaloupka says one of the first steps is having a conversation with the artist to identify key works. Fortunately, many of the pieces were in Bereal’s archives, but some proved difficult — or impossible — to track down.

She and others spent months going through art at Bereal’s Whatcom County farm. “We kept finding new work he didn’t realize he had,” Chaloupka says. To borrow other pieces, the Museum reaches out to potential lenders, including institutions and private collectors.

The next step is creating loan agreements for pieces that will be exhibited. Chaloupka says the Museum must adhere to certain standards for handling, lighting, and conservation in order to display the art. For works on paper, lighting must be below certain lumen and heat levels. “That’s why when you walk into the gallery it may seem like the lighting is a bit dim,” she explains.

Chaloupka then mocks up a map that shows where each piece will be displayed. She says the layout plays an important role in a visitor’s experience. “It’s about the way you want to tell a story and direct the flow of traffic through the gallery. All of that has to be considered.”

Ed Bereal exhibition challenges

Tracking down several key works from Bereal’s early years proved to be difficult. “Some works were lost or stolen, or sold to private collectors who we couldn’t locate,” Chaloupka recalls. “It was a bit of a scavenger hunt.”

They spent a lot of time reaching out to private lenders to convey the importance of the exhibition. One piece they were never able to acquire was Junker Ju, which was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2014. Despite their efforts, they were unable to connect with the buyer. The piece was last on public display in 2012. Now, its whereabouts are unknown.

Another challenge was digitizing some of Bereal’s work. Photographers/videographers David Scherrer and Steve Johnson were instrumental in compiling clips and creating a video of Bereal’s street performances.

“A football team of volunteers made this exhibition possible,” Chaloupka says. “It was amazing how many people rallied to get this show installed.”

Bereal agrees. Many people had a hand in the process, from preparators to volunteers who assembled the art, painted words on the walls, contributed catalogue content, and more.

Part of Ed Bereal's Exxon: Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse"
A letter from Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Working on Ed Bereal exhibiiton
Preparator Paul Brower (left) helps install a piece of art.

 

“Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

On display for the first time, Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 40-foot-long installation that combines assemblage and projection. Five figures spell out the word “Exxon,” and each represents a horseman of the apocalypse.

Bereal has been working on the piece on and off for about eight years. Much of the work took place in his two-story barn in Whatcom County. “The reason it took so long was because I gradually let it come together; I didn’t force it. It was a true evolution.”

He says the narrative behind the piece changed over the years. He originally wanted to spell out “Texaco,” but that was slightly too long. “I thought about the statement I wanted to make and that’s where the idea of the four horsemen of the apocalypse came in.”

With four horsemen and five letters, he had to get creative. That’s when predatory capitalism became the fifth horseman.

To create the piece, Bereal found objects and scraps of metal. “The nice thing about assemblage is the world is your resource,” he says with a laugh. He scoured the county to find the perfect scythe for the “death” horseman, finally locating it in a rummage store in Ferndale.

When it came to installing the horsemen, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The gallery’s high ceilings meant the team had to be strategic with lighting and hanging projectors above each horseman to illuminate holographic imagery.

Museum preparators Paul Brower and David Miller spent long hours assisting with the installation of the piece, as well as with the rest of the exhibition.

“We build so much of the work on site,” Brower says. “This work (The Five Horsemen) didn’t really exist in its entirety in his studio. We did a lot of adjustments.”

Looking back and looking forward

Ed Bereal admits his feelings about the exhibition are complicated. “It’s a bit overwhelming. I’m dealing with my history. I have an emotional reaction to each piece because I go back to what was going on when it was created. Some of those were not comfortable periods in my life. There’s no direction I can look to rest emotionally.”

Despite this, he says it turned out well, and he’s pleasantly surprised by the positive reception.

Chaloupka says Bereal’s work is especially important today. The exhibition provides an opportunity for people to directly engage with art and its messages. “Politics and social justice issues are front of mind for many these days. Ed’s compelling work provides a forum for provoking conversation.”

Bereal hopes visitors leave with the desire to think critically.

“You can’t accept anything on face value, and certainly not my work,” he says. “People are always trying to sell ideas, and people need to deconstruct what they’re being asked to buy. We live in a world where you’ve got to think critically.”

Painting words
Lesley Broadgate paints Ed Bereal's handwriting on the wall in the gallery.

Ed Bereal in the gallery
Artist Ed Bereal works to install Miss America: Manufacturing Consent: Upside
Down and Backwards.

Featured image (top of page): Ed Bereal in his studio. Photo by David Scherrer.

Ask an expert: Collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest

Those looking to try their hand at collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest will find a wealth of opportunities. From the North Cascades to the Columbia Basin, collectors can find everything from amethyst to agates.

Toby Seim, president of the Friends of Minerology – Pacific Northwest Chapter, has been an avid mineral collector for the past five years. Here, he shares photos, personal stories, and tips for those just starting out.

Toby collecting minerals in the pacific northwest
Friends of Mineralogy - Pacific Northwest Chapter President Toby Seim holds a smoky quartz specimen in Idaho.

Left to right: Collectors Brandon Boyd, Nick Valdez, Toby Seim, and Cory Torpin in Idaho.

How he got started

Seim’s path to collecting minerals arose out of a desire to get into the outdoors. “I was spending too much time on social media, watching too much TV,” he says.

He started hiking, but it wasn’t exactly the right fit. “I’d get to a destination and look at the view, but it didn’t capture me,” he recalls. So, he turned to a childhood hobby: collecting rocks.

After some research, he bought tools and set out on his own. While he originally did most of his collecting solo, he found like-minded friends through the Facebook group NW Rockhounds and later became involved with Friends of Mineralogy. Now, he often collects with four friends.

Seim says the goal of Friends of Mineralogy is to spread interest in minerals and related activities.

RELATED: What Lies Beneath: Minerals of the Pacific Northwest

Collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest

Those looking to start collecting minerals will need to gear up, research locations, and learn how to properly pack and clean what they find. Here are some tips.

Tools of the trade

First, you’ll need the tools of the trade. While some locations are fine for surface collecting, or simply picking through loose dirt and rock debris by hand, others will require some elbow grease.

Basic tools for collecting minerals include a hammer, chisel, shovel, gloves, and protective glasses. A sifter or pry bar can also come in handy at some locations.

Locations in Washington

Collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest can seem overwhelming. Where should you begin? In Washington, Seim recommends two locations for those starting out: Walker Valley in Skagit County and Hansen Creek near Snoqualmie Pass.

Hansen Creek is an easy hike on a well-maintained trail. It’s great for those who want to surface collect and find quartz, including amethyst.

Quartz is also found in Walker Valley, along with agates and calcite. Seim says this location may require hammers and chisels. “If you want the really, really good stuff, you’ll have to move rocks,” he says.

When looking for minerals, Seim says to look for signs such as iron staining (orange) on rocks or rock folds that could indicate mineral deposits.

“Often, you’ll leave empty-handed,” Seim says. “But you’ll still get something out of it because you now know where not to go.”

Some lands are off limits. Collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils is generally prohibited in national parks.

Collecting minerals in the pacific northwest
Quartz from the Snoqualmie area in Washington.

Man with pacific northwest mineral
Brandon Boyd holds a specimen collected from the Snoqualmie area.

Packing and cleaning minerals

After finding a specimen, it’s time to transport it. To protect it, Seim suggests wrapping it in bubble wrap, newspaper, clothing or even clean diapers.

Also, resist the urge to clean all the dirt off the specimen right then and there. A bit of dusting is fine, but you should wait to clean it thoroughly. The dirt acts as a protective buffer that can prevent damage during transport.

When you’re ready to clean it, you can soak it in muriatic acid, a strongly acidic chemical compound. Iron Out is good for removing stains.

Muriatic acid is best used for minerals other than calcite or to remove calcite from a specimen. It can be found at Home Depot.

“I’ve soaked something in the wrong acid before and it just dissolved the crystal,” Seim recalls.

Storing specimens

Seim says some minerals may need to be protected from light or they will lose their color or luster. An example is realgar, a red mineral that can be found in King County. Realgar also contains arsenic and is somewhat toxic. Seim says those who handle this specimen should thoroughly wash their hands afterward.

Collectors should also catalogue their specimens. A list will help prevent information from being lost.

Smoky amethyst
Toby Seim's favorite specimen he collected isn't from the Pacific Northwest. This large smoky amethyst is from Petersen Mountain near Reno, Nevada.

mineral in hand
Cory Torpin holds a Japan Law Twin quartz specimen from Washington.

Stories from the field

While Seim’s favorite specimen he collected from the field is a football-sized smoky amethyst from Petersen Mountain near Reno, Nevada, he spends much of his time exploring Washington.

Many collectors go to great lengths (and heights) to collect minerals, and Seim and his friends are no exception. On a trip to Mason County, he and his fellow collectors noticed a pocket of natrolite — a mineral that forms in clusters and resembles white, puffy balls — high up in a rock face.

“We could see this big, open hole, and we knew there was something in there,” he recalls. “We didn’t have a rope or ladder, so we improvised. My collecting partner stood on my shoulders.”

Their effort was a success, but not all outings go as planned.

Seim said rock collectors are no strangers to injury. On a trip to Devil’s Canyon in King County, his friend was injured by a flying shard of quartz that was dislodged during the collection process. The shard hit his friend in the eye, resulting in a trip to the hospital.

Moral of the story? Always wear proper safety gear.

Moving forward, Seim said his goal is to one day find his own locality in Washington. “I just want to find a really nice, undiscovered area,” he says.

A selection of specimens, including some collected by Seim, can be seen in the exhibit “What Lies Beneath: Minerals of the Pacific Northwest.” The exhibit runs through Feb. 2, 2020, in Old City Hall.

RELATED: Video of Cory Torpin extracting a specimen.

Man repelling down cliff
Lukas Ris rappels down a cliff in Chelan County.

Specimens on bubble wrap
Specimens ready to be packed.

Man standing on another man's shoulders to collect minerals
Cory Torpin stands on Toby Seim's shoulders to reach a pocket in Mason County.

Two men collect minerals
Cory Torpin (top) and Toby Seim collect quartz in the Middle Fork area of Washington.

Spotlight on Lummi glass artist Raya Friday

“People of the Fire” by Lummi Nation glass artist Raya Friday glows as if it has a life of its own.

The glass sculpture was recently installed in the lobby of the Lightcatcher building at the Whatcom Museum, and it commands attention as soon as you enter the room. With a series of flames standing between 3 to 6 feet tall, you’re first confronted with its size. Next, you notice the faces.

Raya used sand casting to create each flame, then hand-carved faces into the surface. She says the piece represents the spirituality of the elements. “The thing I really wanted to explore in my own culture was this idea that everything in the natural world has its own energy, its own spirit,” she says.

She decided to explore that idea through the elements, starting with a smaller sculpture called “People of the Water” to see if her idea would work visually and functionally. Once she committed to creating a large-scale work of glass, she went all in.  

“I mustered my courage, took out all the loans that I could and just set out to do this thing,” she recalls. “It felt very much like swimming out into the ocean and seeing how far you could get without knowing if you could get back to shore.”

She credits Italian glass artist Narcissus Quagliata, whom she met at Pilchuck Glass School, with inspiring her to take on her project. His determination to see a multi-year project through prompted her to think of doing something bigger.

SEE ALSO: “People of the Sea and Cedar”

Raya Friday cleaning sculpture
Raya Friday cleans her sculpture after installing it in the Lightcatcher building.

Raya Friday cleaning glass sculpture
Raya Friday puts the finishing touches on her piece "People of the Fire."

The process

It took Raya about eight months to create the 2,700-pound sculpture of glass and bronze set into a pedestal of stone. She completed the piece in 2007. Raya says the piece took a small village to create. “There were a lot of meals for friends, six-packs of beer,” she recalls.

Raya was involved with each element, from mixing the bronze to cutting the stone to pouring the molten glass. “The glass is like cold honey,” she says of how it slowly spreads into the casts. The flames get their color from frit, or concentrated crushed glass. This gives the unpolished sides a slightly rough appearance.

Her biggest challenge, she says, was cold working, or polishing, the surface of the glass. The size of the piece and high cost of equipment meant she couldn’t have it professionally polished until years later.

Now, she tries to tweak the piece a bit each time she installs it. “It’s such a beast, so changes are small,” she says. “I can’t make huge drastic changes.”

Her background

With nearly 25 years of glass experience under her belt, it’s no surprise Raya was interested in art at a young age. But her first love wasn’t glass. It was ceramics. She loved working with glaze — the more the better to achieve that glossy look. Then, at 11, she discovered glass.

“You take glass for granted, you don’t think about it,” she says. “You drink out of it every day and just live with it all the time. Then you actually see people manipulating it. I just had no idea.”

At 17 she started taking weekly classes but soon realized they weren’t enough. Before long she was moving on to production glass work in Seattle. Seven years later, she left for New York to continue her education at Alfred University. It was in New York that “People of the Fire” was born.

Recently, Raya was involved in the Tacoma Museum of Glass exhibition “Translations: An Exploration of Glass by Northwest Native Carvers and Weavers.”

Now, she’s turning her attention to pursuing studies in art conservation for indigenous art. “It’s important that we be stewards of our culture,” she says.

“People of the Fire” by Raya Friday will be on display in the Lightcatcher lobby through early October. The work is the first in our “In the Spirit of the People: Native Contemporary Artists” series.

Raya Friday with her sculpture
The artist stands with her piece "People of the Fire."

Orrery on Display for Moon Landing Anniversary

An orrery from the Museum’s collection will be on display July 20, 2019 at the “Firsts in Flight: A Hidden History” exhibit at Old City Hall, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The mechanical model of the solar system shows the relationships between celestial bodies and works by simulating the orbits […]