For now, the Bellingham Arts Center exists only as a bright idea in the creative minds of artists Gabriel Miles and Kirsten Lew.
If the women have their way, however, their dream will become a reality and, not too far in the future, a venue will exist that will house as many as 15 studios for visual artists, a gallery space, a dance studio, a performing arts and music studio and additional classroom space.
“We saw a need in the Bellingham arts community for a space where artists of all mediums—visual, dance, performing—can come together to create, educate, entertain and inspire,” Miles says.
But without a significant amount of help, Miles and Lew point out, the center will never get off the ground. It’s just one of the numerous topics they’ll be discussing when they host information sessions March 14 and 16 in Bellingham.
Some of the ways they hope to raise startup capital, they note, is by offering memberships, hosting fundraisers and finding a core group of artists who would be willing to pool their precious funds (in return, they’d get a year of studio rental in advance, free membership and utilities for a year and a month of no-commission sales in the gallery).
“We want to inform the greater community of our vision, mission and goals for the arts center,” Lew says of next week’s meetings. “Also to discuss fundraising ideas and to understand what artists are looking for and how we can support them.”
As artists themselves—Lew is a jeweler and photographer, Miles a sculptor who also makes bath and body products—the women say they’ve both had issues with finding studio spaces that fit their needs. If it’s within their price range, it’s either already taken or there’s a waiting list. Spaces that are available, they observe, don’t often exist within an inclusive setting such as the one they’re hoping to create.
Which brings us to the Bellingham Arts Center’s mission statement: “We are a community that brings together established and emerging artists whose works inspire creativity and imagination, celebrates diversity and change, and instills emotional, social and political awareness. The Bellingham Arts Center will provide innovative, community oriented art and art education, while contributing to the economic development of the region.”
If this sounds like a bright idea you can get behind, bring your own thoughts and impressions to one, or both, of the upcoming meetings. Remember, it can’t happen without the support of those who’d be happy and eager to utilize it.
And, although there’s already a 3,000 square-foot space on State Street Lew and Miles have expressed interest in, if you have knowledge of a cool venue you think might just work as an arts organization, be sure and bring the details along when you show up.
In the short-term, obviously, the first order of business is to find a home for the Bellingham Arts Center big enough to fit so much creative goodness and figure out a way to make it pay for itself. Looking to the future, though, Kirsten Lew and Gabriel Miles hope for bigger things.
“Our long-term hope for the space is as an all-encompassing arts center that has working studio spaces, active and full classrooms and is able to hire staff for development, managing, gallery assistants and a working board,” they say. “There is no one space that brings all the arts together to both create and perform. We love the idea of a dancer and visual artists talking, inspiring and collaborating with each other in the hallways.”
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