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 […]
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About Marianne Graff
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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 […]
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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.”
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.
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.”
We’ve added some new faces to the team in the second half of 2019. As the year comes to a close, here’s a brief introduction to the newest Whatcom Museum staff members. Be sure to say hello if you see them on campus! New staff members at the Whatcom Museum Susan Buck, Family Interactive Gallery […]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Featured image (top of page): Ed Bereal in his studio. Photo by David Scherrer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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 […]
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