Creative Collaboration

Whatcom Art Market makes a move

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Painter James Williamson takes his Whatcom Art Guild (WAG) membership seriously.

The maritime-focused watercolor artist joined the organization when he moved to Bellingham in 1975 as a way to become a part of the art community, and has spent the last 41 years partaking of the numerous perks that come with being a part of the creative club.

“I enjoy exchanging ideas and information with other artists, displaying work at various venues and establishing ties in the community by promoting the arts and artists,” Williamson says. “Guild artists encourage each other’s creative endeavors. The guild offers opportunities to educate, critique and assist each other with artworks. Each member brings different skill sets to the table from their different walks of life, and we highly value each member’s contribution to the organization as a whole.”

But although being a part of the oldest continually operating art group in Whatcom County is a boon—WAG has been dedicated to supporting the visual arts locally since 1964—Williamson and more than 40 other guild members have upped the ante for the last six years by selling their works at a gallery on Harris Avenue dubbed the Whatcom Art Market.

If you’ve been one of the many residents or visitors who have stopped by the basement of the historic Waldron Building to peruse and purchase the original, affordable works of art created by dozens of Whatcom Art Guild members, you should know that, as of last weekend, the cooperative is now operating at a new locale a few blocks away.

“We found that customers found it hard to find the place and the interior was in need of enhancements,” Williamson says of the reasons for making the move. “The opportunity presented itself to have a new street-level gallery, and the decision was made to move into the new location—a brighter, easy-to-find gallery with greater visibility and foot traffic in the heart of the Fairhaven business district.”

If you drop by to check out the new space, be aware that each time you come, it’s likely you’ll be dealing with different staff. That’s because the gallery is run solely by WAG members who volunteer their time to make sure the Whatcom Art Market is running smoothly—whether that involves hanging new art, making sales, sweeping floors or writing press releases.

When asked why it’s important to have a dedicated venue to sell the works of WAG members, Williamson says it’s the best way they’ve found to be able to continue to display their paintings, sculptures, photography, mixed-media works and more.

“As with any endeavor, there are expenses—materials to create work for each artist and then the costs of providing a space to display and sell,” he says. “Also, the act of a collector purchasing a work of art provides positive reinforcement,  encouragement and incentive to do more.

“Being under the umbrella of the Whatcom Art Guild has provided stable leadership for a venture this size and is a large reason why the Whatcom Art Market has experienced continued success.”

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