Creative Collaborators

Art and appreciation in Skagit Valley

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When Jean Behnke and Maggie Wilder first met, they knew right away they were meant to be friends.

And, since the two women are both active in the arts community in Skagit Valley—Wilder is a painter who owns and operates Gallery Cygnus in La Conner, and Behnke is a multimedia artist who also played a part in getting Anchor Art Space in Anacortes up and running—it didn’t take long for them to realize their friendship would also likely involve collaboration of the creative kind.

“I had recently moved to La Conner, so I was plenty happy to align with Maggie and our far-ranging conversations grew into an energetic partnership at Gallery Cygnus,” Behnke says.

One of the results of their meeting of the minds involved Wilder asking Behnke to exhibit her work at the gallery. The result is “I’ll Know It When I See It,” a one-woman show featuring Behnke’s eclectic prints and sculptural work made from combining materials in nontraditional ways (for example, one sculpture in the piece combines her father’s transparent rain hat with steel and marble).

Although Behnke’s work will only be on display through Sun., Dec. 22, that doesn’t mean when it’s done she’ll walk away from Gallery Cygnus and never look back. The partnership she and Wilder have developed includes collaborating on upcoming exhibits for 2014, including “Of This World and Not” with Heidi Epstein, Eddie Gordon, and Allen Moe in February, and, beyond, exhibits featuring the work of Eve Deisher, Lanny Bergner, Michael Peterson, Becky Fletcher, and others.

Being that part of the mission statement for Gallery Cygnus includes wanting to “meet and raise the expectations of visitors to the Skagit Valley in search of an art destination,” Wilder and Behnke were asked if they thought La Conner and Anacortes were important hubs for the cultural community in the verdant valley.

“I like to think of both towns as important spokes on the larger hub,” Behnke says. “To me, the whole Skagit Valley is a significant hub in the region. There’s a lot of criss-crossing support between Gallery Cygnus, Anchor Art Space, along with Smith & Vallee Gallery, all investing a great deal and providing local communities with compelling cultural experience.”

Wilder agrees, pointing out that “both these towns attract and nurture artists like they have historically—and actually pre-historically, with the traditions of the tribes here. There’s something here that says ‘slow down and notice what’s going on around you.’”

And, since both women are artists as well as being well-versed at helping make the place they live be accessible and attractive to art appreciators, they also acknowledge that it can be hard to make time for their own creative endeavors.

“The most challenging part of making art is being distracted away from making art,” Behnke says. “My favorite part is the invention; I get to invent whatever I want. I like that making art is the only realm in which all impulses, anything, can be explored.”

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Creepy Cabaret

6:30pm|Bellingham High School

Costume Party

6:30pm|Blaine Library

Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Berlin is My Paris

7:00pm|Village Books

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Lynden Pioneer Museum

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Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Lynden Pioneer Museum

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:00am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Final Ferndale Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Scary Bake Sale

1:30pm|Blaine Library

Gates and Fires

4:00pm|Village Books

Artist Talk

5:30pm|Syre Student Center

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Hamster Ball

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Panic Squad

7:00pm|Lynden Middle School

Ben Folds and a Piano

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Our Town

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Back to School Catechism

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8:00pm|Upfront Theatre


8:00pm|Old Main Theater

Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Ghosts of Concrete

11:00pm|Skagit County Community Action Center

Swinomish 2016 Bellingham Farmer’s Market
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Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Our Town

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Rocky Horror Picture Show

8:00pm|Walton Theatre


8:00pm|Old Main Theater


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Ghosts of Concrete

11:00pm|Skagit County Community Action Center

Fall Family Fun

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Lynden Community Center

Run Wild Bellingham

9:00am|Whatcom Falls Park

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Hummingbird Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

NSEA Work Party

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Family Activity Day

10:00am|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Chuckanut Writers Workshop

10:00am|Village Books

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Youth Symphony Fall Concert

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Gravestone Primer

1:00pm|Sedro-Woolley Museum

Writing Workshop

2:30pm|Lynden Library

Closing Reception at i.e.

3:00pm|i.e. gallery

Walk the Stars

4:00pm|Village Books

Artist Talk in Edison

4:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Ghost Stories on Bellingham Bay

4:30pm|T.G. Richards Building

BAAY Haunted House

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Irish Concert

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Halloween Contra Dance

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Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Saturday Night Spookeasy

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