Walking into the Cooper Lanza Gallery on a Friday evening, you are greeted at the door by two small dogs at your feet.
The walls are covered in bright oil paintings of flowers and birds, abstract pieces, nude portraits from various artists and in the corner stands a ceramic sculpture of a woman with hollowed pupils. The chatter from the people walking around is indistinguishable from the music playing in the background.
The gallery owner, Cooper Lanza, mingles and dances around while welcoming everyone who wanders into her gallery.
“Art bridges the gap and connects people in the community with artists who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to connect,” Lanza said.
The Historic Fairhaven Association worked alongside local businesses and Bellingham’s Allied Arts to host its first annual, three-day Summer Solstice Art Festival, June 22-24. Local artists were able to showcase their art of all mediums in many of Fairhaven’s galleries, shops and restaurants. Participants mingled with artists and vendors while enjoying snacks and drinks from local eateries.
Scott Ward, executive director for the Historic Fairhaven Association, said one focus of the event was to highlight the cultural diversity among Whatcom County and bring communities together. The gathering of art from many different artists, like the Native Arts Collective, displayed diversity in the event.
“This is the first time we have done this,” Ward said. “It is a fun and important way to bring many Whatcom County groups, people and organizations to celebrate our creativity and art.”
Lanza said artists are soloists. They’re usually in their own world as they work, and aren’t able to connect to the community without events like these that bring those who wouldn’t otherwise get to see the art they create.
Cooper Lanza and her daughter, Morgan Lanza, opened their gallery back in April 2016 and have been participating in the Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk since its beginning. Cooper Lanza additionally offers her space to other artists to showcase their work, and holds art classes for those looking to learn and express themselves.
Local artist and Western graduate Cecilia Karoly-Lister attended the Cooper Lanza Gallery where one of her paintings is displayed.
“Bellingham has an alive art scene,” she said.
The art in Bellingham can get stale, so an art market like the one that’s going on this weekend is important because it brings out more artists, Karoly-Lister said.
“There needs to be more questioning about what is good art, especially good art,” she said.
As the weekend continued, the festival came alive.The sidewalks were filled with families walking with children holding ice cream cones, dogs barking, music playing softly in the background and drivers trying to pass through the busy intersections while attempting to find any open parking spot.
A new event like this one has a lot of planning that goes into it. Ward said the festival was a collaborative project by the Historic Fairhaven Association, many local art businesses and was funded by a few tourism groups in Whatcom County.
“As they say, it takes a village,” Ward said.
It does take a village, while simultaneously bringing it together. Right behind Village Books, vendors set up tables to showcase their pieces.
“There is a lot of really cool art,” sales associate at Village Books Jenny McDowell said. “[The festival] is definitely bigger than the art walk that happens on Fridays,” she said.
The Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk started last year, separate from the downtown Bellingham Art Walk, but with similar intentions.
As the Saturday comes to an end, the Fairhaven Village Green, located behind Village Books, turns into a mini concert as families set out their blankets to watch Aaron J. Shay from Seattle sing and play his banjo before a movie showing of The Goonies hosted by the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema begins.
“It’s always nice to get lots of people together, and it’s a good way to see other businesses you probably wouldn’t know about,” event participant Teddy Taulbee said.