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Providing students a platform to reward creativity, showcase talent, shine light on Western’s art scene

These local businesses are just a couple of the many where you can support Western student artists

Western Washington University student artist Kaylee Lyons shapes clay on a wheel. The past year has been a time of growth for Lyons and other Western artists who are collaborating with local businesses. // Photo courtesy of Chad Lyons

The sprinkled pink donut sticker in the window of JoJoe’s Doughnuts caught an artist's eye as she drove on Commercial Street in downtown Bellingham. It was shortly after the business opened its doors in December 2021 and third-year Western student, Emma Deubler, was on the hunt to have her ceramic creations on display inside of a local establishment. 

“It was pretty nerve-racking to ask, especially with them being a new business, but the owner was so welcoming and excited to have me,” Deubler said.

Within the first month of having her work displayed, Deubler learned that all but one last piece of her work had been sold and it was time to restock inventory. 

JoAnne Dutton, an owner of the shop said part of their business plan was to designate retail space for local artists. 

“For me personally, I’ve always had the passion to propel people forward,” Dutton said. “My goal is to work with somebody that doesn’t have the means to have their own store front, get them in here, get their name out there— and then maybe someday they can.”

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Lyons recently made a cherry blossom bowl that showcases her progress as an artist. // Photo courtesy of Kaylee Lyons

Dutton said that she doesn’t expect Deubler to need much help further down the road. 

“People are drawn to her work, it’s a lot of fun seeing Emma and other artist’s display their work and the public being so immediately drawn in,” Dutton said.

JoJoe’s Doughnuts houses eight other artists on display in addition to Deubler.

Kaylee Lyons, a third-year Western student, shares a similar experience in her passion for ceramics. 

During the height of COVID-19, Lyons was able to purchase her own personal pottery wheel and built a studio space.

Lyons started an Etsy shop about a year ago and said it has been successful. However, she said it is a huge milestone to have her work displayed in a physical location. 

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Third-year Western studio art major Emma Deubler has mugs on display at JoJoe’s Doughnuts in downtown Bellingham. Deubler said she is inspired by Bellingham’s beautiful landscapes and shows that through her work. // Photo courtesy of Emma Deubler

In Feb. 2022, Lyons was able to secure a spot in a store front for her pottery at Rooted By the Bay. This coffee and gift shop displays other artists as well with products ranging from jewelry and candles to pottery crafted by local artists.

Being able to display her work in-person “feels like I’m witnessing my resilience,” Lyons said. 

Landscape painter and instructor, Ryan Bottem, is a fourth-year Western student who began teaching painting classes last year at Art and Happiness, a local arts and crafts store located in downtown Bellingham. 

“I am very fortunate to have Art and Happiness as a home for painting,” Bottem said. 

If it weren’t for the shop owner, Elli Anderson, Bottem said he likely wouldn’t have pursued painting further than a hobby. 

Art and Happiness has a designated space for classes where required supplies are in-stock and Bottem can lead comfortably. 

“The fact that I'm able to show up to the space, set up a folding table and just start painting is phenomenal,” Bottom said. “Elli coordinates and connects artists and I’m happy to have a place in it.”

Bottem makes it a point to teach his classes in a way that aids understanding of the painting entirely, rather than replicating an image of an object. 

“I think of painting as writing a book rather than drawing a picture,” Bottem said. “You can’t just say everything all at once, just like a story, a painting has a beginning, a middle and an end with numerous layers in between.”

Bottem said that art for him is a form of meditation, and that he has more fun working through the craft of painting rather than looking at the final result.

He said that he treats the classroom also as a safe space and tries to encourage mental presence from his attendees throughout the duration. 

“That’s where the real fun is, the painting is just a goodie bag you get to take home at the end,” Bottem said.

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A landscape painting by fourth-year Western student Ryan Bottem. He said that when he paints he feels connected to his brush and forgets the world around him. // Photo courtesy of Ryan Bottem

Mia Tocas

Mia Tocas (She/Her) is a reporter for the campus life beat at The Front this quarter. She is a second-year majoring in Public Relations with a minor in Creative Writing. Outside of work and school, she enjoys playing music, spending time with friends, and watching murder documentaries on Netflix. 

Her instagram is @milagro.jt

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