The Western Gallery on Western Washington University’s campus is giving students a lot to look forward to this winter. With live performances, concerts and discussions surrounding various art forms, the gallery has endless opportunities for students to experience.
The gallery is a way for Western students and Bellingham residents to become familiar with national and international artists. It strives to create an educational environment by emphasizing history and the artist’s personal frame of mind.
Zoë Fejeran, the Western Gallery museum educator, said that the gallery hosts up to five shows per academic year.
“Planning exhibitions is a huge team effort that takes multiple stages of planning. The director of the gallery, Hafthor Yngvason, spends months researching artists,” Fejeran said.
Fejeran spends her time researching the artists for exhibitions, scheduling artist receptions, inviting guest speakers and planning performances.
“I believe that art has the wonderful power of helping us to explore, learn and connect with one another,” Fejeran said. “Looking at art can help us understand different perspectives and bring us new understandings.”
This winter, the gallery plans to show a collection of films by Sky Hopinka. Author and filmmaker, Hopinka is a descendant of the Ho-Chunk Nation and Pechanga Band of the Luiseño people. The exhibition, “What Was Yours and Never Lost,” was curated by Hopinka to emphasize Indigenous experimental cinema and discuss topics surrounding identity.
“These works traverse a wide range of topics and formal strategies dealing directly and indirectly with indigeneity,” Hopinka said on his website regarding the exhibition. “Assertions of identity and presence in the face of and regardless of colonial history and outdated traditions of anthropology and ethnography."
Because there’s a variety of art mediums, the gallery does its best to put on events that appeal to everyone. By using their preferred art form, artists can discuss history in a decorative way.
On Nov. 9, 2023 the Western Gallery hosted an event titled “Jazz in the Gallery” in collaboration with Kevin Wood, Western’s director of jazz studies, and his jazz combo students. The musicians played a song that they believed worked in unison with the exhibition “Himalaya to Cascadia: Transcending Boundaries” by Jyoti Duwadi.
Jyoti Duwadi is an artist who has created an array of artworks since the 1970s. As said on his website, Duwadi’s works are typically produced with the help of natural substances, such as bamboo and beeswax, as well as human-made materials, like sanding belts and egg cartons.
Jovienne Anderson is a third-year at Western majoring in urban planning and sustainable development. When she first visited the Western Gallery, Anderson said that the art was thought-provoking and well-curated.
“Art is important to me because I think the way that people express themselves is really interesting,” Anderson said. “Art can help convey things better than words in some cases.”
Many venues that host art are exclusively for viewing, but there are some galleries that are more hands-on. This can provide visitors with a different kind of immersion.
The SPARK Museum located in downtown Bellingham is meant to provide visitors with a hands-on experience centering around electrical invention and education on history. Abby Whatley, the director of programs at the museum, said that the museum prioritizes interactive experiences like live shows and demonstrations to provide a personal experience with what’s there.
“People should ideally be enticed to go to the museums and galleries to experience joy, find moments of contemplation and learn something,” Whatley said. “In general, I think the goal of a museum should be to serve the community it is within.”
With a gallery right on campus, students are able to take the opportunity to expose themselves to new perspectives through art. Learning about another person’s experiences can help develop a greater understanding of the world around them.
“I would definitely go [to the Western Gallery] again,” Anderson said. “I think the galleries are beneficial to people here because it can be a space to find peace outside of busy student life.”
Keep up with the Western Gallery on their Instagram.
Neisha Gaskins (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a second-year student studying environmental journalism. When she isn’t writing, Neisha spends her time reading, making jewelry and sorting her recycling. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.