For media inquiries, to arrange interviews, or to obtain images, please contact:
Christina Claassen, Marketing & Public Relations Manager, 360-778-8936.

New Exhibits at the Whatcom Museum Highlight Indigenous Communities, Local Music History

Three red dresses hang from a wooden dowel with trees in the backgroundFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 29, 2022; Bellingham, WA—Four new exhibits are opening this month at the Whatcom Museum. At the Lightcatcher building, the Museum will bring awareness to Native issues. The REDress Project will honor Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and People through an installation in the Courtyard, on display May 5 – 15. Additionally, a photo installation by Duwamish artist Jac Trautman, Doorways, will be on display in the Lightcatcher entryway beginning May 7.

At Old City Hall, two music exhibitions will showcase the art of music, as well as Bellingham’s local music history. Not One of the Boys: The Psychedelic Posters of Bonnie MacLean, opens May 14, and The Scene: A Journey Through Bellingham’s Musical Past opens May 21, with both on exhibit through November 20.

Honoring Indigenous People
The REDress Project, co-presented with Whatcom Community College Native staff and sponsored by Jair Furnas, will feature red dresses on display in the Lightcatcher Courtyard, representing the thousands of Native women, men, children and non-binary people who go missing or are murdered each year. The original REDress Project by artist and Métis Nation member Jaime Black began in Winnipeg in 2011 to draw attention to crime against Aboriginal women in Canada. The project has since spread to the U.S. and calls attention to the lack of reporting, data and justice for Native American women.

According to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute, Washington State has the second highest number of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and a study by We R Native shows that Native women face murder rates 10 times above the national average. The Museum hopes to bring attention to this issue and is offering free visitation into the lobby and Courtyard to see the installation and watch videos related to the topic.

The Museum also brings back the unique artistic work of Duwamish photographer Jac Trautman with a new display called Doorways. In 2021, Trautman presented a series of seven photographs taken as a single exposure with multiple projected images contained within. The works drew attention to the concepts of splitting and projection and their role in the history of interactions with the colonizer and the colonized. This spring Trautman will exhibit four new large-scale photographs in the Museum’s Lightcatcher entry hall.

Music History at the Museum
From string bands on steamboats in the 1890s to alternative/indie rock bands today, for more than 100 years Bellingham’s music scene has embraced genres ranging from folk to classical to rock and roll and beyond. The Museum’s upcoming exhibition, The Scene: A Journey Through Bellingham’s Musical Past, will present a timeline of the styles, musicians and venues that helped put Bellingham on the “music map” between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Photos, instruments, concert posters and other items from the Museum’s collection will be displayed at Old City Hall.

While keeping in tune to the music theme, the Museum will also feature a selection of colorful, historic concert posters from the collection in Not One of the Boys: The Psychedelic Posters of Bonnie MacLean. MacLean created psychedelic art posters in San Francisco during the mid-1960s, borrowing from Art Nouveau styles, but also creating her own designs with elaborate plumes, curving letters and stoic faces. While she wasn’t recognized among male poster artists during her time, she stood out as one of the only women in the field.

Visiting the Exhibitions
The REDress Project will be on display May 5 – 15, 2022 in the Lightcatcher Courtyard during the Museum’s open hours and will be free to view. Doorways: Photographs by Jac Trautman will be on display in the Museum’s Lightcatcher entry hall May 5 – August 21, 2022.

The Scene: A Journey Through Bellingham’s Musical Past will be on exhibit May 21 – November 20, 2022 and Not One of the Boys: The Psychedelic Posters of Bonnie MacLean will be on exhibit May 14 – November 20, 2022, both at Old City Hall.



Nationally Touring Exhibition “Many Wests” Re-Examines the American West Through Modern and Contemporary Art

Indigenous woman sits in the grass with a red and yellow dress and beaded accessories with a mountain and lake scene behind and cutouts of deer and a wolf around her

Wendy Red Star; Spring from Four Seasons series: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, 2006; Archival pigment print, edition 27; 23 x 26 in. Boise Art Museum Permanent Collection, Collectors Forum Purchase, 2019.

Opening at the Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher building March 19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, February 14, 2022—The exhibition Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea examines the perspectives of 48 modern and contemporary artists who offer a broader and more inclusive view of the West beyond how it is often narrowly represented in popular culture and through dominant historical narratives. The traveling exhibition, organized jointly by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and four nationally accredited art museums located in the West, opens March 19 at the Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher building.

This exhibition presents opportunities to examine previous misconceptions, question racist clichés and draw attention to the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region of the United States. Working in various media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the artists featured bring a nuanced and multifaceted history into view. Many Wests highlights many voices, including artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+, who stake a claim in the American West.

The exhibition is presented in both English and Spanish, and organized around three central themes, Caretakers, Memory Makers and Boundary Breakers. “Caretakers” examines how artists can redefine what it means to take care of themselves, their communities and their futures. Featured artists include Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath Modoc), Awa Tsireh/Alfonso Roybal (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Patrick Nagatani and Marie Watt (Seneca).

“Memory Makers” explores how artists act as transmitters of cultural memory as they bring forth neglected histories of the West through their work, and includes artists Jacob Lawrence, Roger Shimomura, Christina Fernandez and others.

“Boundary Breakers” includes artists whose representations break away from myths of the West and assert their continued presence despite centuries of omission and erasure by mainstream culture. Featured artists include Angela Ellsworth, Raphael Montañez Ortiz (Apsáalooke/Crow) and Angel Rodríguez-Díaz.

Through the artists’ varied inquiries into cultural experiences as well as material expressions, we see that there are wide-ranging visions of this region. The late artist Hung Liu spoke to this plurality when she said that by including the voices of those so often excluded from dominant histories, “The American Wests are much richer in the telling.”

Related programming enhances exhibition themes

A variety of programs and activities aim to engage people from different age groups and cultural backgrounds. On opening day, a drop-in print-making activity inspired by the work of Seattle artist Barbara Earl Thomas will be offered. Curator of Art, Amy Chaloupka, will lead monthly gallery tours. Guided docent tours will be led in English and Spanish. Additionally, the Museum will launch a youth docent program involving high-school students who will participate in training to build skills and confidence in discussing art, culture and current events.

Auburn-based artist Marita Dingus will initiate a new art piece related to the exhibition for a community art experience called, “Rip, Write, Reflect.” Using found and repurposed materials, Dingus will construct a mixed-media wall tapestry. Visitors will be invited to add their thoughts through words or drawings on torn map pieces, responding to a prompt about the West.

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea is organized and drawn from the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Whatcom Museum. This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

Many Wests will be on exhibit March 19 – Aug. 21, 2022 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building. The exhibition tour began at the Boise Art Museum (July 31 to Feb. 13, 2022), and after the Whatcom Museum will travel to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Sept. 26 to Dec. 31, 2022), the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Feb. 4 to June 11, 2023) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2023, to Jan. 14, 2024.

Generous support for the youth docent program and Marita Dingus’ art piece and community installation is provided by Art Bridges.

The Whatcom Museum presentation of “Many Wests” is sponsored by Peoples Bank and Rafeeka and Neal Kloke and supported in part by a Pandemic Relief Grant from ArtsWA (sub-granted from the National Endowment for the Arts).



Decorated Trees and Holiday Art Activities Return for Deck the Old City Hall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, November 1, 2021—After missing out on last year’s holiday festivities due to the pandemic, the Whatcom Museum is thrilled to offer its beloved Deck the Old City Hall to the community. This holiday celebration features more than a dozen themed, holiday trees decorated by community volunteers in the Rotunda Room and throughout Old City Hall. The building will be decked with garlands, wreath, and other festive décor. Visitors can see the trees Thursdays through Sundays from Nov. 26 to Jan. 2, 2022, noon-5:00 p.m.

“We at the Whatcom Museum are especially excited this year to be able to bring back our Deck the Old City Hall holiday decorations and free admission for all in our beloved 1892 Old City Hall building,” said executive director Patricia Leach. “We will continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols as we once again welcome you back to this program!”

Trees at Deck the Old City Hall 2019

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

Visitors are also invited to visit on Saturdays in December for “Handmade Holidays,” which are a series of drop-in holiday activities for all ages. Led by a museum educator, supplies will be provided, and participation is by donation. Visitors can take a family portrait with props and make a card on Dec. 4, create origami trees on Dec. 11, or make a paper wreath on Dec. 18. All activities are drop-in from noon-4:00 p.m. and suitable for all ages. Check out the events calendar for more details about the Handmade Holiday activities HERE.

“After missing the festivities last year, being able to welcome our community back for Deck Old City Hall fills me with holiday cheer,” said education manager Drew Whatley. “It’s twice as exciting that we can continue our free Saturday drop-in programs to help spread that cheer to anyone who comes by.”

Admission to Deck the Old City Hall is by donation, including holiday craft activities. Proceeds help support the Museum’s exhibitions and programs throughout the year.

Deck the Old City Hall
Thursdays–Sundays, Noon–4pm; Admission by donation
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St.
(Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)

Handmade Holidays at Deck the Old City Hall
Saturdays, Dec. 4, 11, & 18, Noon–4pm; Admission by donation
Old City Hall | 121 Prospect St.

Join us to celebrate the holidays in style at Old City Hall. In addition to the beautiful trees and décor adorning the building, each Saturday in December we’ll be making a different holiday craft, providing fun for the whole family. On Dec. 4, visit our “polar post office.” We’ll have card making supplies along with a special post box for sending mail to Santa. We’ll also have props and framing pieces to take the perfect holiday photo to send to loved ones near and far. Join us Dec. 11 and learn how to make origami trees either to take home or to add to our growing forest. On Dec. 18, make a handmade paper wreath to add more festive cheer to your home. Activities are suitable for all ages and all supplies are provided.



“Up Close & Personal” Exhibition Portrays the Body in Contemporary Art

Two black and gray torsos drawn with graphite and acrylic on canvas

Jane Dixon; Untitled (Dummies II), 1998; Graphite and acrylic on canvas. From the collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky. Copyright and photo courtesy of the artist.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, September 7, 2021—The exhibition Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art examines the human body through the expressive lens of nearly 60 artists. Curated by the Museum’s Curator of Art, Amy Chaloupka, and generously lent from the collection of Boise-based art collectors Driek and Michael Zirinsky, the exhibition opens Oct. 30, 2021 at the Lightcatcher building.

This exhibition is timely in its portrayal of the body and its vulnerabilities, especially after the extended isolation of the pandemic and its effects on the collective consciousness. As people learn to navigate and to celebrate life “in person,” this is also a cultural moment of self-reflection. Up Close & Personal offers viewers the opportunity to consider how they wish to move forward, within their own bodies, as well as in caring for and considering the bodies of others.

The artists featured in Up Close & Personal explore the many ways we communicate through facial expression, body language, self-presentation or performance. Some of the artists boldly envision narratives and representations of the self, using their own bodies in their work. Others are acutely aware that all bodies reside at the dynamic intersection of gender, class, race, sexuality, age and ability.

Chaloupka states, “In researching the artworks in this incredible collection, I am struck by the depth of empathy conjured by these artists, which is a unique tie that binds the work in this show. Centering the theme on and about the body naturally makes for deeply personal conversations, and I am excited to see how people connect with each work as they consider bodies outside their own.”

Having collaborated in 2009 with the Zirinskys on the Lightcatcher building’s inaugural exhibition Out of Bounds, the Whatcom Museum joins forces once again with these intrepid collectors to share wide-ranging works from regional, national and international artists. Lifelong educators and students of history, literature and culture, their interests are reflected in their collection. Their intent to share their artworks with public institutions has enriched communities across the country and globe for decades.

“Amy Chaloupka has chosen a provocative slice of art from our collection, works related by imagery of the body,” Driek Zirinsky said. “These works have never before been shown as a group, and we can’t wait to see them together at the Lightcatcher.  It is a joy and an honor to have our art shown in this wonderful institution again.”

Up Close & Personal includes the work of nearly 60 artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, David Airhart, Paolo Arao, Natalie Ball, Algis Balsys, Joe F. Brubaker, Lordan Bunch, Mark Calderon, Phillip John Charette, Long-Bin Chen, Drew Daly, Noah Davis, Lesley Dill, Jane Dixon, Olafur Eliasson, Vernon Fisher, Till Freiwald, John Grade, Lee M. Hale, Jane Hammond, Markus Hansen, Judy Hill, Susan Hiller, Hosup Hwang, Titus Kaphar, William Kentridge, Käthe Kollwitz, Marianne Kolb, Cynthia Lahti, Isaac Layman, Dinh Q. Lê, Susie J. Lee, Kalup Linzy, Hung Liu, Beth Lo, Robert Longo, Benoît Lorent, Marilyn Lysohir, Robert Ernst Marx, Steven Miller, Brian Murphy, Scott Myles, Ronna Neuenschwander, Bertjan Pot, Julia Randall, Wendy Red Star, Jena Scott, Paul Shambroom, Roger Shimomura, Lucy Skaer, Kiki Smith, Akio Takamori, Josephine Taylor, Storm Tharp, Terry Turrell, Friese Undine, Samantha Wall, Kumi Yamashita and Wanxin Zhang.

To complement the exhibition, the Museum will host a companion exhibit at Old City Hall, drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection. Artists x Artists explores intimate portraits of artists created by artists. Some artists turn the camera on themselves or depict dear friends, lovers and colleagues in their work. Many are situated within their creative spaces or appear with the familiar tools of their craft. The exhibition presents a variety of expressive gazes, each one giving hints toward the ways artists convey and construct the creative persona of “the artist.”

Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art will be on exhibit Oct. 30, 2021 – Feb. 27, 2022 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building. Artists x Artists will be on exhibit Nov. 20, 2021 – April 10, 2022 at Old City Hall.



In-Person Docent-Led Tours Return to the Museum

Woman in a museum gallery looking at glass artTours offered for “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” as well as English and Spanish language tours of “El Zodíaco Familiar.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, July 7, 2021—After a year and a half of closures or limited in-person capacity due to COVID-19, the Whatcom Museum is excited to bring back in-person docent-led tours of the exhibitions in the Lightcatcher building. Beginning July 11, visitors can participate in an English or Spanish language tour of the exhibition, El Zodíaco Familiar or a tour of Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest.

The Museum’s docents are a group of trained volunteers who work with the curator of art to gain insight into the themes, works and artists in an exhibition. They contribute many hours of their time to research and plan the focus and content of their individual tours.

Although the Museum is open at full capacity, safety measures are in place to limit group size and create an enjoyable but safe tour environment. Each tour can accommodate up to six people and pre-registration is strongly recommended. Walk-in visitors will be accommodated as space allows. The tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher building, last 45 minutes to an hour and are free to members or included with admission for non-members.

Summer tours of El Zodíaco Familiar, an exhibition by George Rodriguez, take place Sundays, July 11, Aug. 15, Sept. 5 and Oct. 24, and Fridays, July 16, Aug. 27, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8 with English language tours at 1 p.m. and Spanish language tours at 2 p.m. Registration for El Zodíaco Familiar is online at https://v2.waitwhile.com/welcome/elzodiacofamiliardoc. Tours of Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest take place Thursdays, July 29, and Aug. 5, 12 and 19 at 1 p.m.  Registration for Fluid Formations is online at https://v2.waitwhile.com/welcome/fluidformationsdocen.

About Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest

Celebrating a rich legacy unique to our region, Fluid Formations features the art of 57 contemporary artists working in glass. Drawing from the Museum’s permanent collection, loans from artists, and working in close partnership with Museum of Glass (Tacoma, Wash.), the exhibition celebrates the innovation and striking range of processes and ideas that come from decades of generous exchange and shared passion for the material of glass. In addition to docent-led tours of this exhibition, Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka will lead curator tours in the gallery July 22, Aug. 26, Sept. 16 and Oct. 7, 12:15 p.m. and 2 p.m. Registration is online at https://v2.waitwhile.com/welcome/fluidformationscurat.

Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest will be on exhibit through Oct. 10, 2021 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St. This exhibition is organized in partnership with Museum of Glass and supported in part by Peoples Bank, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the City of Bellingham and the National Endowment for the Arts with media support from Cascade Public Media KCTS9. Learn more.

About El Zodíaco Familiar

Championed by Seattle-based ceramic artist George Rodriguez, the exhibition features new works by Rodriguez and 13 Mexican and ChicanX/Chicane collaborating artists. Rodriguez embarked on a collaborative iteration of the Chinese Zodiac, reimagining the classic zodiac animals as analogous creatures of Mexican origin, bridging cultures and creating new narratives. Each artist has imbued their collaboratively-imagined sculpture—corresponding to the zodiac animal of their birth year—with personal perspective, folk tradition and an intimate feeling of celebration. While each sculpture is as distinct as its maker, taken together, the twelve pieces vibrate with deep resonances of the familiar.

El Zodíaco Familiar will be on exhibit through Oct. 24, 2021 at the Lightcatcher building. This exhibition is supported in part by the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the City of Bellingham and the National Endowment for the Arts with media support from Cascade Public Media KCTS9. Learn more.



New Exhibition Combines Traditional Folk and Contemporary Art in Reimagined “Mexican” Zodiac

Ceramic sculpture of a monkey head with multi-colorf folkloric Mexican painted designs and wearing bauble earrings in red

George Rodriguez and Gabriela Ramírez Michel; La Peyotera (Mono), 2021; Ceramic, wax, fiber.

“El Zodíaco Familiar” features sculptural works by George Rodriguez in collaboration with thirteen Mexican and ChicanX/Chicane artists.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, June 15, 2021—The Whatcom Museum presents the opening of the exhibition El Zodíaco Familiar. Championed by Seattle-based ceramic artist George Rodriguez, the exhibition features new works by Rodriguez and thirteen collaborating artists and opens June 19 at the Museum’s Lightcatcher building. It will be on view through October 24, 2021.

Rodriguez’s large scale ceramic sculptures are a blend of traditional folk art and contemporary fine art and craft. Hand built and often at human scale, he enhances his figures with various surface patterns, colors and glazes.

For this exhibition, Rodriguez embarks on a collaborative iteration of the Chinese Zodiac. In an homage to its origins in Chinese folklore, Rodriguez has reimagined the classic zodiac animals as analogous creatures of Mexican origin, bridging cultures and creating new narratives. El Zodíaco Familiar—the fifth iteration of Rodriguez’s Mexican Zodiac series—invites 13 Mexican and ChicanX/Chicane artists of various artistic disciplines to respond to his animal sculptures with the forms, tools and aesthetics of their own artistic practices. Each artist has imbued their collaboratively-imagined sculpture—corresponding to the zodiac animal of their birth year—with personal perspective, folk tradition and an intimate feeling of celebration. While each sculpture is as distinct as its maker, taken together, the twelve pieces vibrate with deep resonances of the familiar.

“The Whatcom Museum is thrilled to have the opportunity to share this new body of work for the first time with our visitors,” says Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art. “All twelve of the zodiac sculptures are joyful personal expressions and I’m sure people will have fun discovering the materials and thoughts behind each piece, as well as identifying the zodiac creature of their birth year.”

Over the last year, Rodriguez sent his ceramic base forms to artists in Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Washington State and Jalisco, Mexico. The artistic disciplines of each artist vary as widely as their geographic locations and include animation, ceramics, illustration, jewelry-making, photography, poetry, printmaking and weaving.

Gabriela Ramírez Michel, a jeweler-sculptor from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, utilizes different kinds of modelling wax in her hand-crafted stone and metal jewelry. For her contributions to the piece La Peyotera (Mono), she has embellished Rodriguez’s ceramic monkey form with wax-coated string in a detailed and brightly colored pattern. Ramirez Michel adapts a traditional technique of the Indigenous Wixarika people called “tablas de estambre,” which was used for many hundreds of years in sacred ritual offerings.

Ceramic iguana head painted with variuos shades of green and gold designs

George Rodriguez and Eric J. Garcia; Iguana, 2021; Ceramic, acrylic paint.

Minneapolis-based artist Eric J. Garcia blends history, contemporary themes and a graphic style in his work to create politically charged art that reaches beyond aesthetics. For his Iguana zodiac, Garcia worked closely with Rodriguez on defining the shape and texture of the clay animal head to maximize the “canvas” to illustrate on. The artists also purposefully carved the waddle on the Iguana’s neck to the outline of the U.S./Mexico border to depict the geographic location where Garcia is from.

Of working closely with each artist on this project Rodriguez states, “Community is a strong force that influences my artwork and life. I value the communities that I have formed and am continuing to expand on. My artwork aims to bring people closer and act as markers for people to congregate around.” He adds, “The goal of this project and collaboration is to showcase the breadth of artistic expressions within the Mexican and ChicanX/Chicane community, to give these artists a platform to express their voice and vision, and to use a familiar tale to comment on the need for human connection and community.”

Artists who worked in collaboration with Rodriguez on “El Zodíaco Familiar” include Javier Barboza, Alejandra Carrillo-Estrada, Eric J. Garcia, Jon Gómez, Carolina Jiménez, Gabriel Marquez, Gustavo Martinez, Marilyn Montufar, Gabriela Ramírez Michel, Yosimar Reyes, Moises Salazar, Samirah Steinmeyer and Christie Tirado.

El Zodíaco Familiar will be on exhibit June 19 – October 24, 2021 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St. This exhibition is supported in part by the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the City of Bellingham and the National Endowment for the Arts. Media sponsorship provided by Cascade Public Media KCTS9. Learn more at www.whatcommuseum.org/exhibition/el-zodiaco-familiar/.



Smithsonian American Art Museum Announces a Nationally Touring Exhibition Re-Examining the American West Through Modern and Contemporary Art

“Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea” Showing at the Whatcom Museum in 2022

Ideas about the American West, both in popular culture and in commonly accepted historical narratives, are often based on a past that never was, and fail to take into account important events that actually occurred. The exhibition Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea, examines the perspectives of 48 modern and contemporary artists who offer a broader and more inclusive view of this region. This exhibition presents an opportunity to examine previous misconceptions, question racist clichés and highlight the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region of the United States. Working in various media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the artists featured in the exhibition bring a nuanced and multifaceted history into view. Among the many voices and communities highlighted in this exhibition, Many Wests showcases artworks by artists who are Black, white, women, men, LGBTQ+, Native American, Asian American and Latinx.

The exhibition is organized jointly by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and four nationally accredited art museums located in some of the fastest growing cities and states in the western region of the United States. It is the culmination of a five-year exhibition partnership made possible by the Art Bridges Foundation. The partner museums are the Boise Art Museum in Idaho; the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon; the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City; and the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. E. Carmen Ramos, acting chief curator and curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum has led the collaborative curatorial effort.

Many Wests features artwork drawn from the permanent collections of all five collaborating museums and the exhibition will be presented at all five venues. The multi-city national tour begins at the Boise Art Museum (July 31 to Feb. 13, 2022). The exhibition then travels to the Whatcom Museum (March 19, 2022, to Aug. 21, 2022), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Sept. 26, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022) and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Feb. 4, 2023, to June 11, 2023). The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., will be the final stop on the tour, where the exhibition will be on view from July 28, 2023, to Jan. 14, 2024.

“This nationally touring exhibition, organized through a deeply collaborative process with our colleagues, presents the opportunity to see the West anew through the eyes of diverse modern and contemporary artists,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Thanks to the generous support and encouragement from Art Bridges to think differently about how art is seen in communities across the United States, we see this as a model for both collection sharing and better understanding the rich and varied, and sometimes contradictory, stories of the American people and their histories.”

The team that organized the exhibition includes Amy Chaloupka, curator of art at the Whatcom Museum; Melanie Fales, executive director/CEO of the Boise Art Museum; Danielle Knapp, the McCosh Curator at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art; Whitney Tassie, senior curator and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts; and Ramos, with Anne Hyland, the Art Bridges Initiative curatorial coordinator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“Through strategies grounded in documentation, historical inquiry, cultural tradition and aesthetic and material experimentation, the artists featured in this exhibition catalyze new understandings of a region and history that is so often submerged in stereotype and distortion,” Ramos said. “Their works address the past and present, revealing that ‘the West’ has always been a place of multiple stories, experiences and cultures. Organizing this exhibition with museum partners who are based in the American West itself allows us to feature many artists with deep ties to this region. This fact makes this exhibition especially meaningful.”

The exhibition is bilingual with English and Spanish labels, and organized into three sections: “Caretakers,” “Memory Makers” and “Boundary Breakers.” These overarching themes illuminate the different ways artists create countervailing views of life in and the history of the American West.

“Caretakers” examines how artists can redefine what it means to take care of themselves, their communities and their futures. Featured artists include Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath Modoc), Awa Tsireh/Alfonso Roybal (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Patrick Nagatani and Marie Watt (Seneca). Through their work, these artists demonstrate a commitment to the stewardship of land, history, language and culture. They draw upon personal narratives, communal ties and collective experience in the American West to honor the past and shape legacies for generations to come.

“Memory Makers” explores how artists act as transmitters of cultural memory as they bring forth neglected histories of the West through their work. Featured artists include Jacob Lawrence, Roger Shimomura, Christina Fernandez and others who go beyond the familiar accounts of European settlers and bring to light lived histories and identities that are essential to a truthful history.

“Boundary Breakers” highlights artists that unsettle common beliefs that inform the popular understanding of the American West. Their representations break away from myths and assert their continued presence despite centuries of omission and erasure by mainstream culture. They question simplified notions of identity, affirm their lived experiences and refute romanticized imagery. Featured artists include Angela Ellsworth, Raphael Montañez Ortiz (Apsáalooke/Crow) and Angel Rodríguez-Díaz.

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea is organized jointly by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Whatcom Museum. This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station, and is open 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday Admission is free. Timed-entry passes are required to visit both locations. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.



Two Historical Garment Exhibits Open at Old City Hall

Dinner dress, emerald green twill weave.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, May 28, 2021—The Whatcom Museum is excited to open two new exhibits at Old City Hall highlighting a selection of historical garments from the Museum’s collection spanning the 1800s through the mid-twentieth century. All Dressed Up… and Silk for Suffragettes and Schoolchildren: The Impact on Kimono on European and American Design Practices, c. 1890-1980 open this Saturday, May 29.

“When one thinks about the Whatcom Museum collections, many things may come to mind: The John M. Edson Hall of Birds, the contemporary masterpieces in the art collection, the Photo Archives or the treasures in the history collection. Perhaps lesser known is the incredible clothing collection that includes hundreds of examples of historic garments,” said Maria Coltharp, Collections Curator at the Museum.

All Dressed Up… highlights some of the colorful artistry of fashion, including items that would have been worn “out on the town,” such as silk and chiffon gowns, vintage designer evening shoes and antique, tailored headwear. The display includes a dramatic 1928 lavender full-length chiffon gown worn by the artist Helen Loggie.

Blue kimono

Kimono, circa 1900; Japanese silk. Gift of Peter Redpath. Whatcom Museum collection, 1977.0018.000005.

In the exhibit, Silk for Suffragettes and Schoolchildren: The Impact on Kimono on European and American Design Practices, c. 1890-1980, a display of kimono-inspired garments will be featured, revealing American designers’ ingenuity in adapting aspects of the kimono for Western use, as well as the savvy of Japanese designers in anticipating Western demand. Curated by Julia Sapin, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, Western Washington University, the exhibit focuses on items that have come into the Museum’s collection during the past fifty years, primarily from Bellingham community members.

All Dressed Up… will be on exhibit May 29 – October 31, 2021 and Silk for Suffragettes and Schoolchildren will be on exhibit May 29 – August 29, 2021 at the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., Thurs. – Sun., Noon – 5 p.m. For more information visit www.whatcommuseum.org.



Museum Offers In-Person Programs this Summer

Wall of glass windows with drawings made by markers

The Whatcom Squared community art project invites people of all ages to design squares to fill the Lightcatcher lightwall.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2021—The Whatcom Museum is excited to offer a variety of in-person summer programs and activities for people of all ages. From the return of a community art project in June called Whatcom Squared to summer camps for kids to History Sunset Cruises, the Museum hopes to offer history and art experiences in a fun, safe way.

Community members will turn the Lightcatcher building’s glass Lightwall into a massive “stained glass” patchwork by creating artworks on large transparent squares as part of the second offering of Whatcom Squared. During the month of June, the Museum will have 3-foot-square plastic sheets available for free for community members to pick up and take home to draw on. The Museum hopes people will show what a Whatcom summer looks like. Squares can be picked up at the Museum’s Lightcatcher building and need to be returned by June 27.

“We’re so excited to be able to welcome people back to the Museum, and there’s nothing I like more than seeing all the kooky and creative ways our community expresses itself,” said Drew Whatley, lead educator at the Museum. “…I would love to see a whole rainbow of colors from dozens of different squares totally transform the Lightcatcher building, but the coolest part will be how the community places its own stamp on the building.”

The Museum will hang the transparencies on the window squares inside the building to create a huge mosaic of stained glass. By playing with and changing one of the central elements of the building, namely the light that floods in the Lightwall during summertime, the community can make the Museum their own. In addition to offering transparencies for people to take home, the Museum will host two work parties on June 5 or June 26 to help people find inspiration, and with markers and supplies available for use. More information is available at https://www.whatcommuseum.org/whatcom-squared/.

The Museum is offering “superhero” summer camps this year at the Lightcatcher building for children ages 4 – 10. Half-day science- and art-themed camps will be led by Museum educators for children 4 – 6 years old. Kids will grow crystals, build marble mazes and create other STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities at the science camp, or learn about different artists and their techniques, while creating their own paintings at the art camp. Full day camps for children 7 – 10 years old will focus on roleplaying games and how to create them, or photography and filmmaking.

Camp sessions are a week-long and begin July 12, with one offering of each camp type. More information about session details, what parents can expect and fees can be found at https://www.whatcommuseum.org/learn/camps/. The Museum will follow health and safety protocols for summer camps, including wearing face coverings, regular hand and surface sanitizing and more.

For those who missed last summer’s annual History Sunset Cruises, the Museum is excited to resume these beloved waterside history lessons aboard San Juan Cruises’ Victoria Star boat. History Cruises will sail Tuesdays, July 13 – August 31, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Participants get great close-up views of parks, businesses, industry and neighborhoods from Bellingham Bay, with Bellingham historians Brian Griffin or Doug Starcher serving as tour guides. They tie their knowledge of local history with up-to-date facts about bayside activities. Their narrative of history, trivia and current events makes cruise guests feel they are becoming experts on their community and gives new understanding of the area to both locals and visitors.

Tickets are $35 for Museum members and $40 for non-members. No group rates will be offered this year due to capacity limitations. Children ages 5 and younger are free but must be pre-registered. Purchase tickets through Eventbrite.com or in-person at the Museum Store inside the Lightcatcher, 250 Flora St. More information about History Sunset Cruises can be found at https://www.whatcommuseum.org/explore/history-sunset-cruise/.



History Sunset Cruises Return this Summer

Narrator on the History Sunset CruiseFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, May 12, 2021—The Whatcom Museum is excited to bring back the annual History Sunset Cruises this summer after last year’s season was canceled due to Covid-19. Partnering again with San Juan Cruises for tour operation, the weekly cruises will take place Tuesdays, July 13 – August 31, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. The sailings will be offered at a reduced capacity with new protocols in place to ensure visitor safety, while still offering an enjoyable experience on Bellingham Bay.

The Museum’s popular summer cruises take locals and visitors aboard the 100-foot Victoria Star tour boat. Participants get great close-up views of parks, businesses, industry and neighborhoods from Bellingham Bay, with Bellingham historians Brian Griffin or Doug Starcher serving as tour guides. They tie their knowledge of local history with up-to-date facts about bayside activities. Their narrative of history, trivia and current events makes cruise guests feel they are becoming experts on their community and gives new understanding of the area to both locals and visitors.

“We are so excited to get back out on the water this year and can feel the enthusiasm and optimism from our patrons,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “People are looking forward to outdoor activities once again in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!”

The Victoria Star leaves from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven, boarding at 6:15 p.m., with a prompt 6:30 p.m. sailing, and an 8:30 p.m. return. The boat has indoor and outdoor seating on two levels, an on-board snack bar, and a full bar with a selection of Northwest beers, wines and cocktails for purchase. Restrooms are available on board. San Juan Cruises is following Covid-safety guidelines including requiring masks indoors (except when eating or drinking), masks outdoors when six-foot distancing is not possible, contact-less check-in, increased sanitation, and more. Visit https://whales.com/covid-19-safety/ for a full list of safety measures. Guests are welcome to bring dinner, snacks and beverages (non-alcoholic) onboard.

Tickets are $35 for Museum members and $40 for non-members. No group rates will be offered this year due to capacity limitations. Children ages 5 and younger are free but must be pre-registered. Purchase tickets through Eventbrite.com or in-person at the Museum Store, located at 250 Flora St., Bellingham, WA 98225. Ticket sales end one week prior to the day of sailing and a cruise may be canceled if we do not meet minimum capacity. Tickets are non-refundable and not transferable between dates. Proceeds from the History Sunset Cruises benefit Whatcom Museum exhibitions and educational programs. For more information about the history cruises visit www.whatcommuseum.org/history-sunset-cruise.

San Juan Cruises is located at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Avenue, Suite 104, Bellingham, WA 98225. The Port of Bellingham charges $0.50/hour for parking, in the large lot with numbered spaces about 30 yards in front of the terminal building. Overnight parking is $6/day. There is free parking for up to 2 hours in front of the terminal. To learn more about San Juan Cruises visit https://Whales.com.