The Bellingham Art Walk brings out all kinds of individuals and all kinds of art from differing minds and differing souls.
The art walk happens on the first Friday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. and is put on by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, a nonprofit that aims to promote commerce and culture within the city. It allows artists in the area to showcase their work to larger crowds of people than would normally congregate at 34 different locations including restaurants, bars, studios and galleries.
This July, many of the destinations on the walk were also Pride Festival stops, as both occurred during the same weekend.
A participant that has consistently been involved with the walk is Make.Shift Art Space. Make.Shift aims to involve community members of every age in a space for art and music.
Make.Shift Gallery Director, local artist and Western alumna Jessyca Murphy said the art walk is one of the more successful community events Bellingham has and is more successful than walks she has been involved with in different places. Murphy said the walk brings people together who wouldn’t normally be out at the same time, doing the same thing.
“You have lots of different people coming out for the walk; that’s what’s most successful,” Murphy said. “It’s really intergenerational.”
Make.Shift based its gallery for the July art walk around Bellingham Pride. The art space held an all-ages dance party in its concert area in conjunction to its art walk gallery. The age demographic during the dance party ranged from young children to older adults.
“Every art walk seems like downtown is very alive; that is what’s really fun about it,” Murphy said.
Murphy said a lot of the artists that have showcased at Make.Shift are Western students or alumni.
Hannah Rivers, a 2015 Western studio-art graduate and local artist in Bellingham has shown at Make.Shift, Dakota Gallery and other Bellingham galleries. She’s been involved with the Bellingham Art Walk since her sophomore year at Western.
She said the art walk is a good event for graduates and students to get their name out and their work shown. Rivers often shows with other Western graduates from the art department but also has her own studio space downtown. She shows her work during art walk as well as at other times during the year.
“You have lots of different people coming out for the walk; that’s what’s most successful. It’s really intergenerational.”
Jessica Murphy, Make.Shift Art Space Director
Candace Buethorn, a watercolor artist, said the art walk has not always retained its popularity.
“There was actually a period when there were a lot more galleries involved, and then it shrunk down to quite a bit smaller. And then it got big again,” Buethorn said. “Personally, I think part of it had to do with when people stopped serving wine; that’s always one way to get people downtown.”
However, Buethorn added, even when the wine slowed down, people still came back to art walk.
She said the walk gives many artists a venue to display themselves and their work to a larger crowd of people in a short amount of time.
She said the artists that show their art during the walk find it fun.
“This town takes the art walk pretty seriously — I love it,” Buethorn said.
She explained that during the art walk, she meets new people each time and new people are introduced to the art.
Buethorn also spoke about the business side of being an artist. She had a free calendar with her work in it available during the walk. The catch was that people who took a calendar were supposed to like her studio Facebook page.
Buethorn said she’s no business woman, and that’s why she hires good help. Right now she’s trying to become more active on social media to help her business and art.
Other artists participating in the walk also talked about the difficulties of the business side of being an artist.
Pat McDonnell, a photographer, videographer and filmmaker, moved to Bellingham in February. He’s participated in the art walk a few times and said that it has been a nice way to meet people.
“I think when you go in with your art, you kind of shotgun it against the wall and get people’s reactions. Some things work and some things don’t,” McDonnell said.
He said things like art walk are great feedback as an artist. He is able to be experimental and test his marketing.
McDonnell explained that because he is new he doesn’t have a niche in the community yet. He said art walk is a good way for him to accomplish getting a niche.
He said during art walk you can show off your talents, test your marketing, connect with people and their interests, or sometimes not.
The art walk will continue throughout the year, with the next one taking place on Aug. 4. Different artists show each month and different restaurants do as well. Hannah Rivers will be showing with another Western alum in the coming months.