Museum and Library Bring Art to the Heart of Science, Tech, Engineering & Math

Looking for a way to beat the summer heat? The Bellingham Public Library and the Whatcom Museum have partnered to offer free activities throughout the summer for children ages four and older that are aimed at making learning fun.

Held in the Lecture Room of the Central Library, four activities will be offered by staff from the Museum’s Family Interactive Gallery. The free events will focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) concepts using hands-on activities. All events are on Wednesdays from noon to 1pm.

Photo courtesy of Bellingham Public Library.

We want to inspire the imaginations of all ages and facilitate learning,” Susanna Brooks, the Museum’s Director of Learning Innovation, said. “One way we do this is by placing Art at the heart of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Our partnership with the library furthers our commitment to reach a wide variety of learners.”

On June 20, attendees can learn more about Pablo Picasso’s Cubism style of painting. Participants will create a self-portrait by studying their face in a mirror and then using geometric shapes to draw a portrait.

On June 27, participants can test their vision accuracy by playing a “Penny Cup Game,” in which they will attempt to toss coins into a cup with their eyes open and closed.

Kids can test their secret agent skills on July 18 by learning Morse code, which uses dots and dashes, as well as learning how to do “Mirror Writing.”

Photo courtesy of Bellingham Public Library.

Finally, on August 1, attendees will be able to test their math skills with fun money games such as “Dollar Dash” and “Coin War.”

“The library is thrilled the FIG can showcase their innovation at the library and provide families with fresh STEAM ideas and activities,” said Bethany Hoglund, Bellingham Library’s Head of Youth Services.

For more information about programs offered at the Museum’s Family Interactive Gallery, visit For a schedule of summer programs and story times at the Bellingham Public Library, visit

Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant




Dow Walling and the Comic World Of Skeets

The Whatcom Museum recently uploaded new virtual galleries, which can be viewed HERE. Visit the virtual galleries to learn more about an exhibit featuring the comics of local talent Dow Walling.     

Dow Walling and the Comic World Of Skeets

Dow Walling (1902-1987) was a self-taught comic creator and illustrator. His full-page color strip “Skeets” ran on Sundays in the New York Herald Tribune and in national syndication from 1932-1951. Walling was born and raised on a farm outside of Bellingham. In a 1934 interview with the Literary Digest, he describes his comic’s spunky young protagonist as “growing up in Bellingham — my home town … an average-size town in America [that] typifies the home town of the average boy.”

In the comic strip, Skeets rambles through fields with his pals while avoiding his nemesis Cue-ball Benson. Walling drew from events and places of his childhood and features locales such as Whatcom Creek swimming holes in his illustrations.

Early Years

Walling was the youngest of four siblings. He describes his youth as always including a desire to draw. With the financial help of his sister, he completed the London School of Cartooning correspondence course at age 13. His first professional experience in illustration came when he was brought on as cub reporter by the Bellingham Herald. While there, he also created and submitted cartoons and illustrations for the paper.

In 1919, Walling enrolled at the University of Washington and quickly became an accomplished student and athlete while also working as staff artist for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Working on a degree in economics, Walling created comic strips for the UW comics magazine, the Sun Dodger, and acted as their art editor. His work was well-received, and he was invited to become a member of national comic publication fraternity Hammer and Coffin.

Growth of a career

After college, Walling moved to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cartoonist in the footsteps of his childhood idols George Herriman (“Krazy Kats”), Bud Fisher (“Mutt and Jeff”) and Billy DeBeck (“Barney Google”).

Walling’s first break was when he landed a position with Johnson Features, a comics syndication company. There, he created “Campus Cowboys,” an original series. For this strip, Walling borrowed heavily from his experiences as a college graduate and athlete. The strip was lauded for its youthful perspective. It was at this time that Walling acted as assistant to both Milt (“Gross Exaggerations”) Gross and H.T. (“The Timid Soul”) Webster.

After Johnson Features was sold, Walling moved to Hollywood in 1928 to try his hand at script writing. One year later he was back in New York starting to sell cartoons to Life, Judge and College Humor. In 1931, Walling signed up with King Features Syndicate to work on a variety of existing strips including “Nutty News” and “Room and Board.” Within the year, he was approached by the New York Herald Tribune about creating a new strip and “Skeets” was born.

Skeets comic strip

In 1937, Walling married Helen Pickrell, a teacher at Bellingham High School, and she joined him in New York. Though the couple never had children, Walling often referred to Skeets with paternalistic affection.

“Skeets” enjoyed a 20-year run, becoming one of the most beloved comic strips of the 1930s and 40s.

In 1946, Walling received the Freedom Foundation Prize for the “Jimmy’s Jobs” strip. He created the strip to help ease tensions in labor relations. That same year, Walling was offered his own variety television show on CBS called Here’s Dow. The run was short lived.

After retiring, Walling created drawings for businesses including the Union Carbide Corporation and the International Business Machines Corporation. Walling passed away in Pelham, New York, in 1987.

Walling’s work is now in numerous archives and museums including the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, Northwestern University Library Special Collections and the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. The Museum holds the original artwork for about 60 complete “Skeets” and “Room and Board” strips, as well as some of Walling’s personal items.

Sources (then select Dow Walling from directory)

The Pelham Sun, Thursday, May 6, 1948, “Comic Strip Character Growing Up….”

Drawing Practice: Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition and Awards

Kelly Bjork; Tiger Overhead, 2016; Gouache and pencil on paper, 19 x 15 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Bellingham National article reposted from June 20, 2017, Seattle Art Museum Blog

Bellingham National

Catharina Manchanda, the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, juried this year’s Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition and Awards, on view in the Lightcatcher building. Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum, describes the biennial art exhibition and award as relatively new. “The Whatcom Museum’s first biennial was inaugurated in 2015.

Patricia Leach, the Museum’s director, envisioned Bellingham National as a way to bring the rich variety of art created around the country to our region. Although the Museum is committed to supporting Pacific Northwest art, it has increasingly embraced a wider, cultural scope,” says Matilsky. “Bellingham National has attracted the attention of Washington artists, which means that their work is well represented here.

Community reaction has been as varied as the works of art on display. One thing that I have noticed: The exhibition challenges people to think about art in new ways, which is ultimately a good thing. It also offers the invited curator a unique opportunity to explore ideas related to a particular theme or medium of her/his choice.”

A focus on drawing

This year’s call for submissions focused on drawing, an activity and mode of expression that seems overdue in light of our ever-increasing attachment to electronic devices. Catharina Manchanda’s interest in exploring how contemporary artists are approaching the medium is at once a reaction to new media art forms and an acceptance of drawing that utilizes new media.

“As we are clicking and tapping away, drawing and writing are becoming increasingly rare. Drawing has an immediacy and material quality that registers differently under these digital conditions. Its very ‘slowness’ becomes significant at a time when a flood of imagery and information keeps shortening our attention spans. From a more linguistic and conceptual vantage point, drawing connections, drawing on memory and history, and drawing understood as notation and trace, opens distinct possibilities for artists,” Manchanda states. “Not surprisingly, artists submitted work in a variety of mediums—from pencil drawings to annotated collages, videos, and sound recordings.”

Matilsky embraced what visitors may find a somewhat unorthodox perspective on drawing. “I share Catharina’s expansive view of drawing and was delighted that she was able to identify artworks that further pushed the boundaries of the medium. The sound and video pieces that she selected surprised me and added to the complexity of the exhibition.”

Featuring more than 60 works from 29 artists around the country, below Catharina Manchanda offers a glimpse into a selection of the works on view. Get yourself to the Museum and see this spectrum of artistic positions with, and about, drawing.

Margie Livingston, Seattle, WA; Dragged Blue Drawing, 2016; Watercolor and mixed media on paper, string. Courtesy of the artist.

Margie Livingston, Seattle, WA

The artist arrives at these lyrical compositions with controlled chance operations. Heavy sheets of paper are tinged with color and then dragged on the studio floor or the street where the movement creates a chance image. Embedded in the surfaces are dust and dirt, portions are rubbed and worn and yet the overall drawings have a quiet lyricism.


Kelly Bjork, Seattle, WA; Splayed Produce, 2016; Gouache and pencil. Courtesy of the artist.

Kelly Bjork, Seattle, WA

Kelly Bjork’s quiet interiors are beautifully rendered with an eye for crisp color and form. Embedded in her compositions and titles is a sparkling sense of humor—Tiger Overhead and Splayed Produce project an element of danger and adventure that’s there for you to discover.


Lou Watson, Portland, OR

The artist takes the most ordinary traffic patterns and movements as occasion for artistic intervention. For Bellingham National, she chose a spot along I-5 and ascribed a musical note to each of the lanes. Every time a car went past a traffic sign, it triggered a tone—a little car a short note, a long truck a longer one. With this, she composed a minimalist score from the monotonous back and forth of highway traffic. The movement of the cars along the road is linear like a drawing and her paper prints give insights into her process.


Masha Sha, Boulder, CO; New Now, 2017; Colored pencil on tracing paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Masha Sha, Boulder, CO

Sha’s vivid, large-scale pencil or crayon drawings spell out phrases that invite free association. Whether you see her bright red  “New Now” today, tomorrow, or in ten years, it will always be the now of the moment. Drawn with intensity, we may interpret that now in personal, communal, social, or political terms and it will mean different things to each of us.


Kirk Yamahira, Seattle, WA; Untitled (stretched); 2017. Acrylic, pencil, unweaved, deconstructed on canvas, 67 x 67 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Kirk Yamahira, Seattle, WA

Kirk Yamahira deconstructs the fabric of a canvas—he carefully lifts individual threads—to arrive at abstract lines and patterns that read like three-dimensional drawings. In some instances an additional tilt of the stretcher results in objects that are utterly transformed.

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: 2. Vanessa Helder

The Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists from our collection throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month). Next up is Z. Vanessa Helder. Follow us on social media and tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968) Eastern Washington Landscape, 1936-40; Watercolor on paper, 19 x 23 in. Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group.

Z. Vanessa Helder

The Whatcom Museum recently acquired a watercolor by Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968). This enigmatic work, featuring abandoned buildings with no signs of life, suggests the economic hardships of depression-era America.

Helder was born in Lyndon to one of the earliest pioneer families in Whatcom County and attended Bellingham High School.

Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968), ca. 1940. Courtesy Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane, WA.

Nationally recognized in the 1930s and 1940s for her magic realist drawings, she was selected to participate in the Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, American Realists and Magic Realists (1943), alongside luminaries such as Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. However, once Abstract Expressionism seized the limelight, her work was largely forgotten. In 2013, the Tacoma Art Museum organized an exhibition of Helder’s work, reintroducing it to the public.

Helder is best known for a series of watercolors (at Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, Spokane) that interpret the building of the Grand Coulee Dam. She also painted several murals for public buildings that have not survived.

The Whatcom Museum owns one of her watercolors, which are quite rare. Unfortunately, the art in her estate was privately sold. There is no trace of the buyers’ identities.

To date, the majority of her works have not been found. The Museum’s drawing is especially significant to its collection because Helder probably studied with Bellingham-based artist Elizabeth Colborne (1885-1948).

Affirming Culture and Resisting Oppression: Selected Works of Chicana/o Art

The exhibition Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots has its foundation in the Chicano Art Movement known as “El Movimiento.”  From the 1960s on, the Chicana/o Movement of both political and cultural development galvanized a generation of Mexican-American youth committed to civil rights. The Chicana/o Movement was at its deepest level a movement of social justice and cultural identity, where the right to land, language, education, and working wages was marked by an overriding theme of cultural reclamation.  Many of these issues surrounding immigration, border politics, and cultural citizenship have arisen again today in a new era of immigrant concern.

Diego Rivera; Two Workers, 1938; Ink on paper, Collection of the Whatcom Museum, gift of the estate of William J. Eisner, 1975.110.39.

Within the context of the Chicana/o Movement for social justice, artists took their places in creating images and forms of art that would help enlist others in this movement for human rights. The work of individual artists and collectives was often anchored in community-based organizations such as the Galeria de la Raza, The Mexican Museum of San Francisco, Self-Help Graphics, the Social and Public Art Center, Plaza de la Raza in Los Angeles, and Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego. Across the country, the Guadalupe Center in San Antonio, the Mi Raza Center in Illinois, and later the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Chicago, as well as El Centro de la Raza in Seattle, provided a base for individual artists and collectives. The seminal exhibition, Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation of the early 1990s, brought many of the artworks, centros, and collectives to a broader national awareness. Read more