Studio Tour art

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour 2019 Showcase

August 3 - October 13, 2019; Old City Hall

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour. Each year the two-weekend event offers visitors insight into the creative process, work-life, and work-environment of nearly 40 artists. For the third year, the Museum will provide a showcase of select artworks from several participating Studio Tour artists. Artists include: Don Anderson, Suzanne […]

Raya Friday glass flame sculpture

In the Spirit of the People: Native Contemporary Artists

August 2019 - February 2020; Lightcatcher building

In the Spirit of the People: Native Contemporary Artists features works by Native American artists in the Museum’s gallery and public spaces on a rotating basis. The series is meant to highlight outstanding contemporary Native artwork and allow the Museum to work more closely with members of area tribes. Works in the series may also […]

Modern quilt by Sherri Lynn Wood

Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century

June 1 – August 25, 2019; Lightcatcher building

Modern Quilts logo

June 1 – August 25, 2019; Lightcatcher building

Curated by Riane Menardi Morrison, Alissa Haight Carlton, and Heather Grant of the Modern Quilt Guild

Modern quilts are utilitarian art. They tell stories. They are graphic, improvisational, or minimalist. They break the rules. They make a statement. Modern quilts are creative expressions made with needle and thread, fabric, and time, expressing today’s aesthetic through a generations-old traditional craft. Modern quilters respect the rich tradition of quilts throughout history, recognizing that they are makers in a lineage that stretches back centuries.

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docent tours

Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays beginning June 1, 1:30-2:30 PM.

Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher, last one hour, and are included with admission/free to members.


Black and white photo of Pacific House

1889: Blazes, Rails, and the Year of Statehood

April 20 - July 21, 2019; Old City Hall

A year of big dreams, big burns, and big politics, 1889 captured a place in our history as a time of great prosperity and adversity. The face of Washington changed. Pioneers arrived, and townsfolk rebuilt from the rubble. Finally, on November 11, 1889, Washington rose as the 42nd state in the union. This exhibit from […]

1929 photo of a girl in a plane

Firsts in Flight: A Hidden History

April 13 – August 4, 2019; Old City Hall

Take a “timeline tour” outlining the significant contributions made by women and African Americans – particularly by African American women – to our country’s history of aviation and space flight. Meet pioneer aviator Bessie Coleman, who in 1921, became the first African American woman to earn her pilot’s license. And before her, in 1911 Harriet […]

Black and white negative of a girl and two rabbits

All Is Not Lost: Images Salvaged from Damaged Glass Negatives

April 3 - September 1, 2019; Lightcatcher 2nd Floor Hallway

Hundreds of glass negatives have been donated to the Whatcom Museum over the years, many arriving in damaged condition after decades of poor storage and rough handling. The pictures in this exhibition are derived from time-ravaged Silver Gelatin Dry Plate Negatives and will feature their accumulated scratches, cracks, lost corners, mold stains and water damage. […]

Oil on panel by Meg Aubrey

Bellingham National 2019—Water’s Edge: Landscapes for Today

February 2 – May 19, 2019; Lightcatcher building

Juried by Bruce Guenther, Adjunct Curator for Special Exhibitions at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

The Whatcom Museum is hosting the third biennial Bellingham National 2019 Juried Art Exhibition and Awards. Juried by Bruce Guenther, Adjunct Curator for Special Exhibitions at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, the theme of the exhibition is Water’s Edge: Landscapes for Today. Guenther selected artwork submitted by artists from across the United States that represents an investigation of contemporary art practices, and addresses our understandings of the Earth, climate change, and the evolving relationships of humanity to Nature. Works range from traditional interpretations of the observed landscape to the metaphoric and spiritual manifestations of the landscape through image, color, language, and mapping of our felt responses to Nature and the world. The top three artists, chosen by the juror, received cash awards at the opening reception, and the exhibition includes a “People’s Choice” award, based on the public’s vote for their favorite piece.

Juror’s Choice Award Winners:
1st place: Philip Govedare; Artifact; Oil on canvas
2nd place: Natalie Niblack; Watershed; Oil on canvas
3rd place: Patti Bowman; Wave 1; Encaustic on panel


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docent tours

Take a docent-led tour Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 1:30pm to learn more about the artists and artwork chosen for Bellingham National 2019 Juried Art Exhibition & Awards. Our trained docents will provide insight into the theme of the exhibition, as well as the background behind some of guest juror Bruce Guenther’s selections for the exhibition. Tours start in the lobby of the Lightcatcher building, last one hour, and are included with admission.

Panels on wall of WWII exhibit

Washington Remembers WWII: Their Sacrifice. Our Freedom.

January 19 – April 14, 2019; Old City Hall

Before they liberated concentration camps or freed countries from tyranny, men and women in uniform fought enemy forces everywhere — in factories on the Washington home front and on beaches abroad. They braved the unknown, lived through the unthinkable, and changed who we are. “I’ve had a wonderful life. … I would go through it […]

The Elephant in the Room: The Allure of Ivory and Its Tragic Legacy

September 8, 2018 – March 31, 2019; Old City Hall In conjunction with our Lightcatcher exhibition, Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity, the Museum will explore the story of ivory from pre-history to modern times, featuring a selection of ivory from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition will cover areas of research in […]


Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity

Endangered Species presents the work of sixty artists from around the world who convey both the wonder and fragility of life on Earth through the exploration of five separate themes.

Nick Brandt; Line of Rangers Holding the Tusks of Elephants Killed at the Hands of Man, Amboseli, from the book Across the Ravaged Land, 2011; Archival pigment print, 44 x 78 in. Courtesy of the artist.

September 8, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Curated by Barbara Matilsky, Whatcom Museum Curator of Art

Endangered Species presents the work of sixty artists from around the world who convey both the wonder and fragility of life on Earth through five interconnected themes. Spanning two hundred years, the exhibition reflects the vital relationship between art and natural science. It also highlights art’s pivotal contribution to the legacy of nature conservation, which is now threatened. The artist’s message is more important than ever.

A calendar of tours, lectures, films, and other related programming is available here

For more information, see the bibliographytimeline, and list of artists in this exhibition. A complete illustrated exhibition catalogue is available for purchase at the Museum Store.

Martin Johnson Heade; Cattleya Orchid, Two Hummingbirds and a Beetle, c.1875–1890; Oil on canvas, 24 x 31.5 x 4 in. framed. Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2010.67.

first theme

Celebrating Biodiversity’s beauty and Complexity:

from landscapes to microscopic imagery

We focus on artists who illuminate biodiversity’s stunning variety on its most grand and intimate scales. By examining the shared practices that inspire artists and natural scientists, such as exploration, observation, and documentation, visitors can learn about biodiversity and its importance.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.


On the Origin of Species, 1859

Charles Knight; Wooly Mammoth and Hunter, 1909; Oil on canvas, 27.5 x 39.5 in. Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History, New York.

second theme


interpreting natural extinction

We introduce the concept of extinction—the complete loss of an animal or plant species. When natural scientists first discovered fossils of early life, nineteenth-century artists presented convincing visions of animals roaming primeval habitats in best-selling natural history books and panoramic murals commissioned by museums. The exhibition showcases examples of these illustrated books and paintings. The work of scientists and artists who interpret naturally occurring extinction helps us contemplate the consequences of the current unraveling of biodiversity.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

Why has not anyone seen that fossils alone gave birth to a theory about the formation of the earth, that without them, no one would have ever dreamed that
there were successive epochs in the formation of the globe.


Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals on the Surface of the Earth, 1825

Harri Kallio; Les Gris Gris #3, Mauritius, from The Dodo and Mauritius Island, Imaginary Encounters, 2004; Archival inkjet print, 29.5 x 36 in. Courtesy of the artist.

third theme


extinction by human actions

We explore how artists transform scientific documentation about early human-induced extinctions of species such as the dodo, the great auk, and the passenger pigeon, among others, into stirring portraits and still life paintings. Their artworks reflect meticulous research and observational analysis of specimens from natural history museum collections. By reviving past life in sometimes startling ways, artists imprint their memory on our consciousness and spark awareness about the contemporary extinction crisis.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

How can you expect the birds to sing when the groves are cut down?


Life in the Woods, 1854

George Catlin; Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie, 1832–1833; Oil on canvas, 24 x 29 in. Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

fourth theme


plants and animals on the edge of survival

We examine threatened ecosystems and the global decline of biodiversity. The artworks call attention to just a few of the 10,000 endangered and critically endangered species classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Artists heighten public awareness about the current condition of life and environmental distress through their artworks, and they offer a unique form of communication that taps into the core of human culture—beauty and emotion.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

Every seed is awakened and so has all animal life.
It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being, And we therefore yield to our neighbors, Even our animal neighbors, The same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.

Attributed to SITTING BULL (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake), Hunkpapa Lakota

Underwater sculptures covered in coral
Jason deCaires Taylor; Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA), 2011; Video (photographic detail). Courtesy of the artist.

fifth theme


destruction or preservation of biodiversity

Contemporary artists not only portray animal and plant species at risk, they also interpret the human actions that lead to their precarious status: habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, population growth, and over-hunting and fishing. Artists are at the forefront of working with scientists, museums, policy makers, and citizens to envision new and creative strategies for enhancing life and restoring the essential bond between people and the natural world.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress at great speed, but at its end lies disaster.

The other fork of the road, the one “less traveled by” offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth. The choice, after all, is ours to make.


Silent Spring, 1962

Major funding for the exhibition and catalogue has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Norcliffe Foundation with additional support from the City of Bellingham,  Whatcom Museum Foundation and Advocates, Alexandre Gallery, and Heritage Bank. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit