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Fairhaven fundraiser brings community closer together

The Heron’s Gallery helps raise money for art lost in the Bellingham Terminal Building fire

On the third floor of the historic Fairhaven Mason Block building, a small room is filled with art. The oak-colored floors are warm with footsteps as people gather, sharing stories and hugs.

Megan Velthuizen, a local Bellingham artist, lost all but one of her original art pieces in the Dec. 16, 2023 fire that ravaged the historic Fairhaven Terminal Building. 

More than a month after the fire, Jenny Foertsch, a local gallerist and co-owner of the Heron’s Nest Gallery, hosted a fundraiser to help raise money for Velthuizen’s lost art. Velthuizen’s collection, which had been the culmination of seven years of work, was estimated to be worth around $3,500. The Jan. 27 fundraiser raised roughly $1,500.

“Any sort of fundraiser was well above and beyond what I would have expected,” Velthuizen said, going on to express her gratitude for all the artists who donated pieces. 

One of the pieces, titled “Giant,” was donated to the fundraiser by Jenny Reid and went for above asking price, becoming a permanent addition to the Heron’s Nest Gallery.

“We could all just send her money but then we wouldn’t have gotten all of the hugs and the laughter and the connection that came from building this,” Foertsch said, specifying that “bringing people together is probably one of my main art forms.”

According to Jessyca Murphy, director at the Make.Shift Art Space, fundraisers are often a time for the community to be reminded of their priorities.

“We easily forget to take care of each other because our own lives have so many demands and pressures,” Murphy said.

Foertsch decided to organize and host the fundraiser after realizing that Velthuizen had applied to put her art up in the Heron’s Nest Gallery roughly 10 days before the fire. 

“It was serendipitous,” Foertsch said. “I hadn’t even gotten the chance to respond and say, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you,’ before she lost everything.”

Foertsch was a business owner when the Hohl Feed and Seed fire occurred on Jan. 17, 2019, in Fairhaven and understands the impact that a fire can have on a community, especially one as tight-knit as Fairhaven.

After the recent fire, Velthuizen recalls driving to the Terminal Building , and noticing many community members gathered around, sharing stories and hugs.

Harris Avenue Cafe
Megan Velthuizen puts her art on a wall in the Harris Avenue Cafe in Bellingham, Wash. on Dec. 1, 2023. The Harris Avenue Cafe, like many coffee shops, used to have monthly rotating artists put up their work for patrons of the coffee shop to purchase. // Photo courtesy of Amy Nye

The Fairhaven Terminal Building, located on 11th Street and Harris Avenue., was reported to be on fire just before midnight on Dec. 16. The blaze was contained by 3:30 a.m. The cause of the fire is still yet to be identified, according to a press release put out by the City of Bellingham on Dec. 17.

The fire destroyed the Terminal Building, which had nine offices and 12 tenants working on the second floor and was home to the Harris Avenue Cafe and the Old Independent Coffeehouse. 

On Dec. 26, after the building had been cleared as safe to enter, firefighters located the body of Nathaniel V. Breaux, owner of the Harrison Avenue Cafe and the Old Independent Coffeehouse. 

Since the tragedy of the fire, the community has been coming together and crowd-sourcing funds. A GoFundMe has been started for the staff of the Harris Ave. and Old Independent; the staff of Dirty Dan Harris; for Izabella, the young daughter of Nate Breaux; and the second-floor tenants of the terminal building.

William Morton

William Morton (he/him) is a third year news and editorial major reporting about city life for The Front this quarter. Outside of school, he enjoys playing the banjo and attempting to read Finnegans Wake. You can contact him at williammorton.thefront@gmail.

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