Best of Fish & Bicycles: Bellingham: Art Mecca?

Originally Published: November 12, 2009

The lede photo here is of the new Maxxi museum of contemporary art in Rome, which, according to The New York Times, opens this Saturday.

Not to be outdone by those elitist, eurotrash Romans, Bellingham will open its own new museum the very same day.

While Bellingham does have a vibrant arts scene, up to now, besides the grand Mt. Baker Theatre, it’s been a scene of smaller theaters (iDiOm, Upfront, Pickford) and art galleries (Allied Arts, Blue Horse, Lucia Douglas). In order to see anything resembling what the Maxxi will offer, a 90 mile trip to the Seattle Art Museum, at the least, was a necessity.

Enter the new Lightcatcher Building addition to the Whatcom Museum.


I think that’s pretty stunning, myself.

And, in true Bellingham spirit, the building, designed by Seattle’s Jim Olson, with its use of natural light and ventilation, radiant floor heating, rainwater catchment and green roof is slated to meet the standard for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

That said, a new contemporary art museum needs more than a cool building. How exciting, then, to get advanced glimpses of at least one of the inaugural exhibits, a mysteriously beautiful installation titled Bloom: The Elephant Bed, by Seattle artist John Grade.


The city’s vision is for the Lightcatcher Building to be the centerpiece of a downtown arts and culture center, and from the looks of it they are off to a great start.

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