When setting out on the creative journey known as the Bellingham Art Walk, it can be difficult to decide where to go first, where to go last, and how to disperse your precious time among the many worthy establishments opening their doors in the name of visual stimulation.
Following is a compendium of hints I’ve found for making the most of the monthly outing. I’m sure others likely have their own routines for how to cram maximum exposure into the four-hour window of the event, but for those newbies who are looking for ways to ensure they see a spectrum of sights, read on.
First off, don’t make the mistake of starting your night off at a bar. If you want a cocktail, fit the stop in the middle somewhere, or wait until you’ve perused an ample selection of art at nearby venues to settle down for the stiff stuff. I’ve made the mistake of meeting friends for a “quick” pre-Art Walk drink, only to look up three hours later and find that, thanks to that third margarita, not only have I missed the boat, but I’m also in no shape to be a discerning viewer.
Secondly, don’t feel like you have to see everything on the roster, and don’t rush yourself. For example, if you get caught up in viewing Joey Bates’ “Recent Portraits and Nudes” at Make.Shift Art Space, don’t cut your viewing time short just because you haven’t seen what every studio is offering on their walls or common spaces. Art walks are not marathons, and you don’t need to treat them as such. If each person you’re traveling with has at least one or two must-see destinations on their list, that’ll be more than enough to keep you busy.
While not every event at Art Walk has the artists responsible for the work at their exhibits, most do, and that’s an important part of the equation. Not only are they able to answer questions you might have about the pieces on display, but they’re also the ones you go to to find out what their inspiration was. In some cases—such as at the Amadeus Project, where Gary Bennett will be showing his original, still-life oil paintings—the artists will set aside some time to talk about what drives them to do what they do. If you end up buying their work, you’ll have a story behind it, and that’ll make the purchase all the sweeter.
Finally, remember that you don’t have to be an art critic to enjoy art. Whether you’re buying a piece for yourself or for a friend or relative, or simply perusing the goods for your own viewing pleasure, look for what speaks to you and go from there. Places such as the Waterfront Artist Studio Collective—which features 18 artists who all have their studios in a big white building near the train tracks—make it easy to see that the mindset of each artist differs from medium to medium, and from person to person. Whether you’re looking for abstract watercolors, glass goods, handmade jewelry or oversized landscapes, trust your instincts and purchase something you can see yourself (or the person you’re buying the art for) enjoying for years to come.
To get started, look to the listings to the right of this story to find out more about participating venues and who will be where. Take notes, if necessary, or just set out with a few worthy destinations in mind. See you out there.
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