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Thursday, July 9, 2020

What’s Good? – Whatcom Museum

By Grace McCarthy

Just ten dollars – $8 with the student discount – opens doors to one of Whatcom Museum’s latest exhibit: Rooted, Revived and Reinvented: Basketry in America.

The exhibit is in the Lightcatcher Museum, one of three buildings the Whatcom Museum occupies in Bellingham’s city center.

One step into the Lightcatcher Museum and a sense of calm will encompass any museum-goer.

The museum’s tranquil environment is bolstered by its clean architecture and its guests’ quiet nature. Heading toward the basketry exhibit, guests walk through the museum’s main hallway, showing architect Jim Olson’s unintentional art piece: a wall entirely made of windows that bathes the interior in light, even on Bellingham’s most dreary days.


Inside the basketry exhibit, high, vaulted ceilings and sleek gray floors surround brightly colored partitions and basket displays. Using baskets, the exhibit weaves history, culture, and artists’ expressions throughout the room.

Some baskets hold cultural traditions while others comment on society. The basket shapes vary from traditional to eclectic.

Shades of chestnut and ebony are intertwined together to create more traditional, circular baskets. The roots of the traditional baskets differ, teardrop shaped and closed off, except for a small hole used by members of the Paiute tribe to carry water, and others left uncovered with a handle for apple picking by German settlers.

On the more eclectic side, baskets also take shape as a colorful long rope, dress and even a person on a chicken.

At the end of the basketry exhibit is a small area dedicated to Jeweled Objects of Desire, an exhibit of valued jewels in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Here, visitors view valuable items ranging from classic stones to quirky items, such as a 14-karat gold Nokia phone and gold trash can.

The Whatcom Museum’s latest exhibit proves that Bellingham residents don’t need to travel to Vancouver, B.C. or Seattle for a worldly art experience.

Some of the most thought-provoking art is nearby on Flora Street. Visiting the basketry exhibit is perfect for people looking to escape rainy days or simply looking to dabble more into Bellingham’s art scene.

One museum ticket guarantees entry at all three Whatcom Museum buildings for the day. Rooted, Revived and Reinvented: Basketry in America is on display Feb. 3 to May 6.


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