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Whatcom Museum welcomes 'Passport to the Natural World,' companion program to new 'Un/Natural Selections' exhibit

Free experience for local college students to attend museum’s current guest exhibit

The Whatcom Museum stands in downtown Bellingham, Wash., on Oct. 3, 2022. It is the main location for "Sketching from the Hall fo Birds," one of the many "Passport" events. // Photo by Kenna Dupree

The Whatcom Museum is currently showing a guest exhibit titled “Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art” alongside its companion program, "Passport to the Natural World." 

“Passport to the Natural World,” or the “Passport” program for short, includes a wide range of events happening until the end of October, all free to local college students. 

The program was created for students to engage in a variety of free programs at the Whatcom Museum and the museum's Lightcatcher Building. From book discussions to animal-pose yoga, each event is designed to show off the “Un/Natural Selections” exhibit and help students feel more connected to the natural world through art, without breaking the bank to experience it.

“Now that I'm getting a bit older I have to pay the adult price, and I wouldn't say that college students necessarily can afford the adult price,” said Emma Stiff, a current fourth-year at Western Washington University. “Having events like these for students removes those price barriers which usually come with wanting to have a cultural experience.”

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The Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher Building stands in downtown Bellingham, Wash., on Oct. 3, 2022. The Lightcatcher Building is currently showing the Un/Natural Selections exhibit until Jan. 8, 2023. // Photo by Kenna Dupree

Drew Whatley, the education manager at the Whatcom Museum, said these types of programs are a great way to draw in students; a target audience that the museum has had a hard time getting to attend during past exhibits. 

“I think the museum has been a bit undervalued by our college student demographic,” Whatley said. “I want people to know the museum is not just for homework or school trips, it's a fun place to be and to see some really cool stuff.”

The “Passport” program is just that – a way to show college students that there is a resource in town where they can relax, view art and experience exhibits that have the potential to connect them to the ever-changing natural world around us. 

“Local museums, generally, in my experience, don't cater to a younger audience. So, I kind of assumed that this program would be like that as well,” said Stiff after attending last Sunday's “Sketching from the Hall of Birds” event. “But I think they have done a wonderful job welcoming in college students. They have exhibits that we can relate to.” 

Not only do students get free access to the events going on with the “Passport” program, but the “Un/Natural Selections” exhibit is also free to college students from any local college, including Western, Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College and Northwest Indian College.

“It's a good opportunity to see our natural history expressed through artwork,” said Todd Warge, an employee at the Whatcom Museum. “And not just from our exhibits that are on display all the time, but from an exhibit that's just visiting and does a wonderful job of showing off a multimedia expression of wildlife in art.” 

“Passport to the Natural World” has been going on since the start of September, and it will conclude on Oct. 27 with its “Museum After Dark” passport celebration. The Whatcom Museum encourages all college students to attend this celebration along with the “Un/Natural Selections” exhibit, which will be on display at Whatcom's Lightcatcher Building until Jan. 8, 2023.

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