Beginning January 2024, on each first Friday of the month, the Whatcom Museum will have free admission, extended hours until 9 p.m. and special, free programming! Each month, we’ll bring a different mix of artists, performers, and experts to lead workshops and activities for all ages.  

View our local history, fine art, and Indigenous cultures exhibitions in the Lightcatcher and Old City Hall (don’t forget the birds!), visit the Family Interactive Gallery for special crafts and programs and for children, and check out the calendar below to see the incredible events we’re lining up. 

Whether you’re a longtime member of the Whatcom Museum or just visiting Bellingham for the weekend, we’ll have something for everyone on Free First Fridays, which are generously supported by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program.

WHEN: First Friday of every month from 12 – 9 p.m. (FIG hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.),
beginning in January 2024; see calendar below for more details.
 

WHERE: Both Whatcom Museum exhibition spaces
Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St.
Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St.
 

COST: FREE! 

We can’t wait to see you at the museum!

Stay up-to-date about Free First Fridays and other museum events and exhibitions.

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Click on each month below for details about that month’s Free First Friday events!

Join us in January for programming centered around healing and repair, the theme of our juried art exhibition Bellingham National. Olympia-based artist Aisha Harrison will lead an all-ages community art project in the Lightcatcher, and Bellingham yoga instructor Ruby Koa will offer two sound bath sessions with gongs and singing bowls in Old City Hall. Plus, B’ham School of Music and Bliss Is Ordinary! Check out the line-up below.


B’Ham School of Music Baby & Toddler Classes at the FIG
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. |
11 – 11:30 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. – noon

B’ham School of Music is bringing their parent-child classes to the Whatcom Museum each Free First Friday! Classes focus on developing language, motor skills, and socialization through singing, dancing, and playing with instruments. The curriculum is based on the latest research in early childhood education and is designed to help your child reach important developmental milestones.
 

Artist-in-Residence: Aisha Harrison
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. | 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. & 3 – 5 p.m.

Aisha’s sculpture Boat of Hands was selected from among nearly 1,000 works of art from around the country to be included in this year’s Bellingham National exhibition. In her work, she looks for balance between the individual and the collective and focuses on the connections we share. Aisha will work one-on-one with visitors to create a new community hallway installation, which will be on view in the Lightcatcher throughout the month of January, inspired by the New Year and reflecting on ideas of Dreaming and Tending. Pop by the museum anytime between 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3 – 5 p.m. so you can visit with the artist and add your own hand of dreams to the Lighthall. Appropriate for all ages; drop-ins welcome. 

 

Gathering at the Well: The Power of Community Singing
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 1 – 2:30 p.m.

On Friday afternoon, hear local musical duo Bliss Is Ordinary fill Old City Hall with song. You’ll be welcome to listen or join in and add your voice to theirs. Community singing can be a meaningful experience because it provides a container for people to reclaim their voices and embrace the folk tradition of many voices becoming one. Singers Jessi and Yam will teach simple, original songs specifically created to fortify the mind and vitalize the heart. Whether you love to sing or find it terrifying, we got you. You won’t be singing alone, and you don’t have to be “good enough.” This is a judgment-free space, and you may find yourself amazed. Singing together in community is magic.

 

Sound Bath Sessions with Ruby Koa
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 6 – 6:45 p.m. & 8 – 8:45 p.m.

Bellingham yoga instructor and sound healing practitioner Ruby Koa of Inspire Studio will lead two 45-minute healing sound baths in the Old City Hall Rotunda, beginning at 6 and 8 p.m. For those new to the experience, prepare to be washed in relaxing tones.

After a short introduction, you’ll be guided to find a comfortable position as the sounds of many different healing instruments allow you to relax and let go. Ruby will begin by playing Tibetan and crystal singing bowls, including a 22″ bowl to open the heart chakra. She’ll also play a grounding Zildjian symphonic gong and Planetary Moon Gong. Ruby uses different types of mallets to bring out the full spectrum of each instrument’s vibrations and frequencies. Just as a body massage helps us relax tight and tense muscles, the “sonic massage” of a gong meditation invites us to release emotional and mental tension. The listener has only to let go and let the sound do its work. Ruby will close with the clearing sound of ocean drum, rain sticks, and chimes, and she will be available between sessions to answer questions. She will also be accompanied by Valerie Lonneman of At Depth Healing, who will support the energy of the group during the sound bath with Reiki and other energetic techniques to enhance the healing potential of the experience.
Please bring a mat and/or blanket if possible. 

 

Exhibitions and galleries are open until 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, and the Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) is open until 7 p.m.
Headphones and other sensory tools are available at the front desks for guests who require accommodations during their visit.

A Lummi Indigenous woman of Washington State is in ceremonial dress.

In February, we’re celebrating the reopening of the People of the Sea and Cedar exhibition in the Lightcatcher building, which honors the culture and enduring contributions of Coast Salish Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia. This Free First Friday, explore the newly reinterpreted and expanded gallery and join us in welcoming local Lummi violinist and storyteller Swil Kanim and the Blackhawk Singers to the museum.

B’Ham School of Music Baby & Toddler Classes at the FIG
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. |
11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
B’ham School of Music is bringing their parent-child classes to the Whatcom Museum each Free First Friday! Classes focus on developing language, motor skills, and socialization through singing, dancing, and playing with instruments. The curriculum is based on the latest research in early childhood education and is designed to help your child reach important developmental milestones.

Lummi Nation Blackhawk Singers
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. |
11 – 11:30 a.m.
The Blackhawk Singers, led by Denise and Lawrence Solomon, will be with us Friday morning for a powerful performance of Indigenous song and dance. Afterward, be sure to head upstairs and tour the expanded and reinterpreted People of the Sea and Cedar exhibition, made possible by guidance from the museum’s Indigenous Advisory Council and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. All ages welcome.

Curator Tour of Bellingham National
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. | 1 – 2 p.m. & 3 – 4 p.m.
Join Whatcom Museum Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka for a special, conversational tour of Bellingham National, our biennial juried art exhibition that features original work from artists around the country. The theme for this year’s exhibition is ‘healing and repair.’

Artist Talk and Carving Demonstration with Nooksack Artist Dionisio RomeroOld City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 1 – 3  p.m.Join us in the afternoon as Nooksack artist Dionisio Romero shares his artistic practice with an artist talk and live carving demonstration. Roy Nicol and Elli Smith will begin the program with an introduction to Children of the Setting Sun Productions, sharing their current projects and upcoming programs. Then Dionisio will demonstrate his carving techniques while answering questions along the way. This is a unique opportunity to learn directly from the artists themselves! All ages welcome.

YAC (Youth Advisory Council) tours of Bellingham National
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. | 5:30 – 6:15 p.m.
Join a member of the Whatcom Museum’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for a teen tour of Bellingham National, our biennial juried art exhibition featuring original works from artists across the country exploring the theme of healing and repair. Get up close and personal with art as our guide shares their favorite pieces in the exhibition and leads the group in interactive discussions. Walk away with new perspectives after this unique and engaging tour.

Swil Kanim, violinist and storyteller
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 6 – 7 p.m.
We are honored to welcome Swil Kanim back to the Whatcom Museum. He is a US Army Veteran, classically trained violinist, native storyteller and actor, and is a member of the Lummi Nation. His compositions incorporate classical influences as well as musical interpretations of his journey from depression and despair to spiritual and emotional freedom. The music and stories that emerge from his experiences have been transforming people’s lives for decades. All ages welcome.

Exhibitions and galleries are open until 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, and the Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) is open until 7 p.m.
Headphones and other sensory tools are available at the front desks for guests who require accommodations during their visit.

Jail door opening slowly with a manikin peering out.

And who knows, Chrissy may make an appearance during your visit.

In March, we’re taking a step back in time and exploring Bellingham’s history. (Wait, wait! This will be fun, we promise!) Did you know that the basement of Old City Hall used to be the local jail? (And did you know you can still read names and words carved into the cell walls?) Well, now’s your chance to see for yourself. Join us for tours, talks, an archival photo booth, and our special guests, the Goodtime Girls — who will take us through Bellingham’s unique animal past — and Paws with Cause, who will lead two art workshops.

And speaking of animals, be sure to tour The Pet Show photography exhibit of Whatcom County pets through the years before it closes next month. Don’t forget to upload a photo of your favorite pet for our community gallery, too!


B’Ham School of Music Baby & Toddler Classes at the FIG
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. | 11 – 11:30 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

B’ham School of Music is bringing their parent-child classes to the Whatcom Museum each Free First Friday! Classes focus on developing language, motor skills, and socialization through singing, dancing, and playing with instruments. The curriculum is based on the latest research in early childhood education and is designed to help your child reach important developmental milestones.


Picture Yourself When…
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 12 – 9 p.m.

Step back in time in our historic Old City Hall building. Don a parasol or a top hat and snap some dapper photos in our historic photobooth. Picture yourself in historic scenes around town as you cosplay as a Bellinghamster of yore, then take your photos with you! All ages welcome!


Pet Painting with Paws with Cause
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. | 12 – 5 p.m.

From 12 – 3 p.m., join the non-profit Paws with Cause for a pet painting extravaganza in the Lightcathcer art studio. Get messy with paint and markers as you work with new friends to create a collaborative mural featuring shelter pets from around Washington. Grounded in love and concern, Paws with Cause generates public awareness of animal rescues and shelters through art engagement. All ages welcome!

From 3:30 – 5 p.m., visitors 13+ are invited to a pet painting party with Paws with Cause. Each participant will be given a personal paint-by-numbers canvas featuring a local shelter pet. Spend time crafting your perfect pet portrait. Participation is capped at 20 artists.


Docent Tours of Old City Hall
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 5 – 6 p.m. & 7 – 8 p.m.

Join our trained docents for a descent into Old City Hall’s jail. Every 20 minutes, docents will lead guided mini tours of the jail, sharing fascinating stories from Bellingham’s history along the way. Stop on by for a unique opportunity to see the women’s quarters, padded cell, and more! 


Bellinghamsters and Other Tails – Animal Stories with the Good Time Girls
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 6 – 7 p.m. 

Bears, Coyotes, and Anteaters, oh my! Sit back, relax, and listen to a series of historic animal tales told by Kolby LaBree of the Good Time Girls. Kolby’s amazing animal stories include the blurry line between wild animals and pets in days of yore, fire department mascots, and Mildred –  Bellingham’s oldest parrot. After the talk, see the animals for yourself in The Pet Show, located in Old City Hall. All ages welcome!


Picturing Justice Opening Reception 
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. | 6 – 9 p.m. 

Celebrate the artistic achievement of Squalicum High School AP English Language Arts students during the opening of Picturing Justice. In its second year, Picturing Justice invites students to share their beliefs and hopes for the future through the lens of photography. Going out into their communities, students captured images highlighting causes they are passionate about, including climate change, racial justice, and belonging. Visit the display in the second-floor hallway of the Lightcatcher building.


Old City Hall Scavenger Hunt
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 12 – 9 p.m. 

Throughout the museum many magnificent objects lie. Pick up a scavenger hunt to see what you can spy! Explore Old City Hall throughout the day using our self-guided rhyming scavenger hunt. Each riddle will point you to a new object throughout the building. Solve all the riddles for a chance to win a yearlong family membership to the Whatcom Museum. This is a great way to explore little-known objects and make new discoveries along the way.  

Two men stand next to each other on the LEGO(R) Masters TV show.

Meet Bellingham’s own LEGO(R) Master Builder contestants, Mike and Brad!

In April, we’re talking and learning about community building. We’ll be adding events to this page, so be sure to check back often. But up first: a live LEGO® building demonstration by Bellingham “LEGO Master” contestants Brad Bergman and Mike Tarrant along with a competition for all ages and skill levels. See below to enter!


B’Ham School of Music Baby & Toddler Classes at the FIG
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. |
11 – 11:30 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. – noon

B’ham School of Music is bringing their parent-child classes to the Whatcom Museum each Free First Friday! Classes focus on developing language, motor skills, and socialization through singing, dancing, and playing with instruments. The curriculum is based on the latest research in early childhood education and is designed to help your child reach important developmental milestones.


LEGO®-Building Competition
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a future LEGO® Master Builder? We’d love to see it! From February 7 – March 22, we will be accepting entries for our community LEGO® competition. All ages are welcome, but here’s the catch: to be eligible for one of our top three prizes, your creation must be original and reflect our First Friday theme of “Community Building.” What does that look like to you? Show us in bricks!

Entries will be on view at the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall Building during our First Free Friday event on April 5th. Want to have even more LEGO® fun? Local LEGO® creators Brad Bergman & Mike Tarrant (from FOX’s LEGO® Masters Season 4, available on Hulu) will be present during the day’s activities and will be our guest judges for the competition.

Click here to find out more about the contest and register!

Assortment of historic National Park posters

In May, we’re celebrating all things National Parks! Events for this month are still coming together, but we’re already very excited to welcome Ranger Doug Leen to Old City Hall for a talk and book signing.  



B’Ham School of Music Baby & Toddler Classes at the FIG
Lightcatcher building | 250 Flora St. |
11 – 11:30 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. – noon

B’ham School of Music is bringing their parent-child classes to the Whatcom Museum each Free First Friday! Classes focus on developing language, motor skills, and socialization through singing, dancing, and playing with instruments. The curriculum is based on the latest research in early childhood education and is designed to help your child reach important developmental milestones.



Guest speaker: Ranger Doug Leen
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St. | 1 – 3 p.m. 

Ranger Doug found his first silk-screen print of an original WPA Grand Teton National Park poster in the early ’70s, and he’s been collecting, studying, and reproducing them ever since. The WPA’s Federal Art Project printed more than two million posters between 1935 and 1943, but only 2,000 are known to have survived. Come learn more from Ranger Doug and, if you like, purchase a copy of his book for him to sign. Each book includes copies of 14 historic prints as well as a miniature silk-screen print of the Grand Teton poster he found so long ago. 

 

From The Seattle Times
“In 1971, when Doug Leen was a Grand Teton National Park ranger in his early 20s, his boss assigned him to clean out a barn, its contents destined for the dump. A silk-screen print on stiff cardboard caught his eye. Above the peaks of the Grand Tetons, ‘MEET THE RANGER NATURALIST AT JENNY LAKE MUSEUM’ was printed on the poster in bold, green and purple type. 

Despite stains marring the poster, Leen could see its artistry. He took it back to his cabin. 

A half-century later, that encounter has become the life’s work of this former Seattle dentist turned Alaskan frontiersman. His goal: uncover the forgotten history of national park poster art created by designers and printers working for the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.” 


The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.

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