Hosting an open art space for people of all ages, local nonprofit Make.Shift continues to encourage children to tap into their inner artist as the company celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Located on Flora Street in downtown Bellingham, Make.Shift is a creative space where artists can rent rooms to practice music or work on their art. Started in 2008, the nonprofit currently has 21 rooms where artists from all walks of life can create music or art.
In addition to renting out spaces to local artists, Make.Shift also regularly hosts music and art events for guests of all ages, with a strict no drugs or alcohol rule.
Executive Director Katie Gray reflected on how valuable the need for an all-ages art space is.
“There have been more studies happening to show the positive effects of art and music spaces and freedom of expression on youths’ mental health,” Gray said. “Our mission has shaped up to be more proactive about engaging with that population.”
Gray stressed how vital music and art can be in people’s lives.
“It sounds dramatic, but it is not,” Gray said. “I have talked to tons of musicians and artists, young and old, who have talked about how music has saved my life or art saved my life, and I do not think society takes that seriously enough.”
Autumn Marceau, head of booking for Make.Shift, said she looks at her upbringing in Ferndale for why Make.Shift has captured the audience it has. She said that growing up, she wished she had a venue like Make.Shift in her community.
“I like having a place where kids can go see shows instead of going off to parties, because in my town, the only recreational activities were sports and drugs,” Marceau said.
Additionally, Marceau said she believes that creating an environment where young people can see performers their own age can help give them courage to perform as well.
“Having a place where people can see themselves in that position, it keeps the artistic spirit alive,” Marceau said.
Make.Shift Board Member and Associate Professor at Western Mark Miyake said he agrees with Gray and Marceau about the importance of a creative space like Make.Shift for youth.
“It is important not just in a commercial sense, but in a community sense,” Miyake said. “If you are a high school student or a college student and you have something you want to express, whether it is visual art or music, a community really needs a place where you can do that.”
Miyake said his favorite part about Make.Shift is the all-ages feature, which allows his three children to attend events there.
“[I like] knowing that there is a space in Bellingham where whatever their interest may be, there is always gonna be a space where they feel comfortable and call home,” Miyake said.
According to Miyake, having a permanent spot for people of all ages to showcase art and music has transformed from a simple idea to the center focus of Make.Shift and its future.
“We have been establishing Make.Shift as a long-term, sustainable, significant piece of the nonprofit arts sector of Bellingham,” Miyake said.
For him, this means branching out and providing workshop events for the community. Using money from grants, Make.Shift currently hosts a weekly event called Workshop Wednesdays.
“Where we invite anybody in the community who has a skill they like to share to come in and bring an activity and tell people about their skill,” Gray said.
Some of the most recent workshops featured an attendee who taught a class on making board games, as well as a lesson on natural medicine. The events are free and open to all ages.
Most recently, on Saturday Sept. 29, Make.Shift hosted an all-ages party at its downtown Bellingham location. Partygoers were able to view art, sing karaoke and watch local bands perform. Bands included synth band Glitchette, punk duo Porch Cat and the punk band WIGS.
As for the future of Make.Shift, according to Gray the goal is to continue to grow and become a staple in the Bellingham community.
“I [want] to continue to be able to serve Bellingham in the capacities that we want to in a stable and fundable way, so that we are still here in 10 years,” Miyake said.
Up next for Make.Shift is an ages 21+ auction on Oct. 6 at the Lightcatcher Museum in downtown Bellingham. Live music will include the Ferndale-based band the J.P. Falcon Band along with a painting demonstration by local artist James Mey.
For information about volunteer opportunities, Make.Shift can be reached through their website, www.makeshiftproject.com, or at 306 Flora St., where new volunteer orientation sessions are hosted two times a month.
“Everything from helping with one show to joining the booking team bring in bands, to helping curate art in the gallery,” Gray said. “There are lots of different opportunities.”