Making Faces: Masks and Masquerading Around the World

By Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Author Marty Rubin once said that, “behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.” These stories allow us to see the world in a better light. The Whatcom Museum invites you to join us as we explore masks and the stories behind them.

Masks carved by Native American artists from the Northwest will also be on display, presenting a

Tsonokwa Mask, carved by Scott Jensen

modern take on traditional masks from tribes around the region. At the event, you can learn how Pacific Northwest tribes used masks in their celebratory and religious ceremonies. Guests will also be able to try on several hands-on masks made in traditional Northwest Coast Native styles and make their own three-dimensional masks.

“Masks have played an important role in many tribal traditions throughout the world. They’re used for so many things, from ceremonies to ensure a good harvest or successful hunts and fishing,  to scaring away demons and curing illness. For some northernmost Native American tribes, masks hold sacred meaning and are used to convey ancient stories.” said Susanna Brooks, the Director of Learning Innovation at Whatcom Museum.

There will also be mask-making activities demonstrating traditional Japanese Noh Theater Masks. Japanese Noh Theater has been performed since the 14th century and Noh Theater Masks are an important part of this type of theater—using masks to enhance the emotions that a character is supposed to be feeling. At this activity visitors will learn more about this history and make your own masks displaying their own emotions.

For children, there will be “Masking your Feelings: Metaphorical Masks.” This activity will address mask-wearing as a viable coping mechanism for children experiencing anxiety in social situations. Children are encouraged to explore and express a wide range of feelings in this mask-making activity. There will also be face-painting at the FIG Studio, showcasing the style of Venetian masks.

Guests will have the chance to learn how museums acquire their collections, what kinds of objects are accepted (accessioned) into the collection, how a museum collection is exhibited, and more. If you’ve ever had any questions about how a museum operates, this is the presentation for you.
With Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect time to stop by and learn all about the history and art form behind masks. It’s an event that’s sure to entertain and teach people of all ages.


Program descriptions and schedule of events:


Noon-1pm: Children’s face painting inside the FIG Studio.

2-4pm: Masking your Feelings with Metaphorical Masks

LCB Art Studio

Noon-4pm: Ongoing mask demonstrations and workshops in the Lightcatcher Art Studio.

  • Noh Theater Masks of Japan
  • Transformation Masks: Tsonokwa and other Pacific Northwest Coast Native Masks

LCB Lobby

1:30-2pm: Interactive Theater for all ages

Noon-1pm and 2:30-3:30pm: Museum collections and exhibits 101—Get all these answers and more!  Experience handling a work of art, while you learn how a museum collection inspires its exhibitions. Tour a collection of various Museum quality masks.

Lightcatcher Galleries

1:30-2:30pm Docent-led gallery tour of Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum

2:30-3:30pm Docent-led gallery tour of People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the Northwest Coast


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