Art meets community

By Anelyse Morris

On a sunny afternoon, Terry Brooks sat on a street in downtown Bellingham, observing the world around him. As he started to paint, he paid special attention to the people buzzing around him and the glimmer that the bright sun made on the sidewalk.

After finishing his painting, he returned to his studio nestled in a residential neighborhood just a few minutes away, and hung his work on the wall knowing that soon, everyone would have a chance to see it.

Brooks posing with his work at the Whatcom Museum. // Photo courtesy of Terry Brooks

Brooks, a local artist, said while he believes art is a private process, every year during the first two weekends of October, he gets to share it with the public.

On Oct. 13, the Whatcom Museum kicks off its 24th annual Whatcom Artist Studio Tour. The event gives artists from Whatcom County an opportunity to showcase their work while onlookers can step into the private world of artistic inspiration.

This year, participating artists vary from first-timers to those who have been involved since the very beginning.

Co-founder of the tour Chris Moench said as a struggling young artist he wanted to find a way to break into the local art scene.

“I was trying to make a living as an artist and I thought ‘why don’t I pool my resources?’” Moench said. “It’s been great for meeting other artists in the community.”

This year, Moench will share his studio space with two other artists for the event. One of them, Kasey Potzer, is a book artist and long-time participant in the tour.

Potzer started her book-making business in 2004 and first joined the tour in 2007. She transforms small rocks and large sheets of paper into handmade journals, and said the only things the books are missing are other artists to fill their pages.

“My favorite part [about the tour] is connecting with people while we do our work as well as with other artists,” Potzer said. “I get ideas from them. It’s a wonderful time and a great resource for those looking for fine art.”

Fifteen years after being introduced to the Whatcom Artist Studio Walkthrough, local artist Larry Richmond said he still enjoys showing his stoneware creations to the people of Bellingham.

A corner of Brooks’ creative space open to visitors on the tour. // Photo by Anelyse Morris

“This is my life seven days a week and it’s great to have people be a part of it,” Richmond said. “Most of the time you never know where your art goes, so it’s really neat getting to know the people who buy it.”

Brooks said while he is a newcomer to the event, he is certainly no newcomer to art. He has been painting for 61 years but has only been in Bellingham for six years.

In those six years, Brooks said he has spent a lot of time bringing the Bellingham cityscape and fictional characters together to create what he describes as funny pieces.

Brooks said he was selling his work at the Saturday farmers market at Depot Market Square when he stumbled upon the Studio Walkthrough event flyer and decided to get involved.

According to Brooks, while the walkthrough is a good opportunity for artists to sell their works, its not just about making money. He said the best part about the event for him is getting feedback on his art and feeling like he’s making an impact on the art community.

“It’s so cool to think about how right now, I am an early 21st century artist,” Brooks said. “One hundred years from now when people look to study the early 21st century artists of Whatcom County, I’ll be one of them.”

Brooks, Potzer, Moench and Richmond encourage the support of local art and artists.

“The art that you fail to buy today is the legacy that your grandchildren will not have,” Brooks said. “So drink local beer, buy local art, ride your bicycle and be part of the revolution.”

This year’s walkthrough will feature 39 different artists across nine different mediums: clay, glass, handmade books, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture and woodworking. Studios are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 13 and 14. Admission is free and more information can be found online at www.studiotour.net.

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