Visual

Check it Out

Art and books at the Bellingham Alternative Library

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I was in the basement at Make.Shift haggling over the price of a rabbit head Christmas ornament when I found it.

“How much for this little beauty?” I asked an artist at the 2012 Holiday Make.Sale.

“It’s yours for three bucks,” she offered.

“How about two fifty?” I countered.

“Fine,” she said, “it’s a deal!”  

And just as I started fishing the spare change out of my pockets, I happened to notice a sign on the wall with the words “Bellingham Alternative Library” written on it.

“Hmmm,” I wondered, peering around inquisitively, “do you know if this Bellingham Alternative Library has anything to do with the Bellingham Alternative Library in that house up on North Forest Street?” 

“It’s that same library, all right,” the artist said. “They just relocated.”

And so it was that after five years of irresolutely avoiding the Alt Library at its previous location, I finally mustered up the gumption for a visit.

The first thing that struck me in there was the sheer economy of space. How had they fitted so much quality reading material so neatly into such a tiny, bedroom-sized allotment of space? 

In the education section I rifled through a colorful clutch of life-enriching titles, everything from Lateral Thinking and Eco Mind to Edible Schoolyard and Good Sex Illustrated.

Over in gardening, I found One Acre and Security, Northwest Weeds, Hydroponics Q & A, The Backyard Homestead and GARDEN SASS:  A Catalogue of Arkansas Folkways.  

In the graphic novels and comics section I came face to face with a jumbo-sized hardcover edition of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland that proved so large, heavy and completely unwieldy that it took everything I had just to wrestle the thing down off the shelf without injuring myself.

Finally, as I made my way to the zine rack, it came to my attention that there was a person sitting behind the front desk.

Turns out, it was Cullen Beckhorn (a.k.a. “Future Man”) the founder of Bellingham Alternative Library—a cooperatively owned, volunteer-run lending institution that currently houses about 4,000 titles with about 500 dues-paying members. 

In conjunction with running the library, Beckhorn owns Neoglyphic Media, a small, independent publishing company and book distributor that specializes in promoting underground comics, art and music by a variety of Pacific Northwest creators. 

Beckhorn’s latest project is producing a full-color, 200-page comic book anthology called Emergence, featuring comics, art and mixed media from a variable cast of established and emerging Cascadian cartoonists who currently inhabit the lush, mountainous coastal zone between Vancouver, B.C. and northern California.  

“Each copy of the book will be assembled and bound by hand from the finest, most sustainable materials available, including locally sourced recycled paper and vegetable-based inks,” Beckhorn told me. “The book itself is intended to be an art piece showcasing some of the most original and inspirational underground creators you have likely never heard of. There isn’t going to be any sort of E-version.”  

To preview and/or pre-order a copy of Emergence go to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022516949/emergence-a-cascadian-comic-anthology

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