For media inquiries, to arrange interviews, or to obtain images, please contact:
Christina Claassen, Marketing & Public Relations Manager, 360-778-8936.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, January 5, 2016— Returning Home: Six Decades of Art by Ira Yeager surveys the artist’s multifaceted approach to art where figures and landscapes, vibrant colors, and abstract lines harmoniously mingle. Highlighting more than 50 works of art, ranging from intimate en plein air studies to large oil and acrylic canvases, the exhibition provides viewers an opportunity to appreciate Yeager’s stylistic development over 60 years.

Opening at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building on February 6, 2016 and running through May 15, 2016, the exhibition marks the first Washington museum retrospective of the artist, who left Bellingham, where he was born and raised, for art school in San Francisco.

Ira Yeager has traveled the world and created a unique body of work that illuminates the characters and landscapes that he encountered while abroad. The exhibition reflects the ways that he reinvented himself as an artist while exploring the many places he called home: Florence, Corfu, Tangiers, Santa Fe, New York City, San Francisco, and Calistoga.

Born in Bellingham, WA in 1938, and exploring drawing from the age of eight, the region exerted a formidable influence on the budding artist. His father, Ira Yeager senior, the founder of the sporting goods store of the same name, outfitted and led fishing and hunting expeditions in the Pacific Northwest. But Ira, born of a sensitive nature, rejected this machismo culture and found refuge in the world of art.

“I longed to be on the shore painting when I was a child,” said Ira Yeager. “Painting was one of the things that helped me—that was my passion.”

His father’s store opened up a fertile avenue of artistic inspiration by providing Yeager contact with Native American traders from Western Washington and Vancouver Island. Although New Mexico sparked the artist’s interpretive series of aboriginal people, Bellingham provided the seed. He eventually looked outside of Whatcom County for a cultural center with an established art school. After graduating high school, he moved to California and attended the California College of Arts and Crafts where he studied with renowned painters Elmer Bischoff (1916-1991), Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), and Nathan Oliveira (1928-2010).

Yeager’s artwork reflects his love of travel, which began in the 1960s. He lived in Italy, Morocco and Greece, explored France and Spain, and has traveled extensively to other countries where he interpreted landscapes and culture. After living in New York City, Yeager returned to San Francisco in the early 1980s and has lived in the Napa Valley since 1990, where wine country landscapes have influenced his work.

Returning Home includes the artist’s luminous Napa Valley Vineyards, playful interpretations of baroque and rococo masters, and the series titled Indian Paintings that occupied him for forty years. From the verdant valleys of Napa where California’s finest winery grapes are grown to the eighteenth century French courtly painters, Yeager draws inspiration from both reality and fantasy. Add to this mixture the artist’s unceasing wanderlust and a touch of the exotic, and the result is a prolific body of work composed of many chapters in the artist’s stylistic evolution.

Returning Home: Six Decades of Art by Ira Yeager runs February 6 – May 15, 2016 in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street. The artist will lead a gallery tour of his exhibition on Sat., Feb. 6 at 2pm in the Lightcatcher building. The tour is free with admission/Museum members free. For more information about the exhibition or gallery tour visit


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, September 30, 2015—Opening at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building on October 24, 2015, is the traveling exhibition, Chipping the Block, Painting the Silk: The Color Prints of Norma Bassett Hall. Guest curated by Joby Patterson, scholar and author of Norma Bassett Hall: Catalogue Raisonné of the Block Prints and Serigraphs, the exhibition presents a spectrum of the Oregon-born Hall’s twenty-five year career as a printmaker. The exhibition will be showing through February 14, 2016.

Hall, who was born in Halsey, Oregon, in 1888, was a watercolorist and oil painter, but her greatest love was color printmaking. After studying at the Portland Art Association School and graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, she spent two years in Europe, where she learned the skills of block printmaking. She returned to live in Kansas, where she was a charter member of the Prairie Print Makers, and later New Mexico, where she became part of the pioneer movement in the development of serigraphy.

Hall was educated in early twentieth century America, when the Arts and Crafts movement was all the rage. This training is revealed not only in the carving of woodblocks as a form of craft, but in the Japanese-influenced style and interpretation of her subjects. As was typical of an Arts and Crafts artist, Hall found inspiration in the diverse landscapes that she encountered in her extensive travels through Oregon, New Mexico, France, and England.

This is the first solo exhibition of Hall’s artwork since her death in 1957, the first time that more than sixty of her prints have been gathered for exhibition, and likely the first time prints by the artist have been exhibited in the Pacific Northwest since a 1930 group retrospective at the Portland Art Association. Exhibited for the first time will be a cherry woodblock and a portfolio of color block prints depicting the Oregon coast, jointly made by Hall and her husband, artist Arthur William Hall (American, 1889-1981), on the occasion of their marriage in 1922.

Guest curator Joby Patterson has been involved with fine prints for more than thirty years. After research in black and white intaglio prints for the book Bertha E. Jaques and the Chicago Society of Etchers, Dr. Patterson’s new interests turned to color. Her most recent book, Norma Bassett Hall: Catalogue Raisonné of the Block Prints and Serigraphs, traces the adventurous and creative life of Hall and her spouse.

Patterson says she “hopes that visitors who enjoyed the Museum’s Elizabeth Colborne exhibition, [which showed at the Lightcatcher in 2011], will also enjoy Hall’s work, and that the exhibition will contribute to the appreciation and knowledge of color block print artists, especially from the Pacific Northwest.”

Patterson will share her adventures in uncovering Hall’s life and work during a tour of the exhibition on Sat., Oct. 24, 2pm. A book signing will follow the gallery tour. Museum members can attend a preview reception on Fri., Oct. 23, 5-7pm. All events will take place in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, Wednesday, September 9, 2015–Unhinged: Book Art on the Cutting Edge surveys recent directions in book art through 73 diverse works by 63 prominent artists in the field from across the US, and including Australia, Canada, and Great Britain. Opening in the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building on September 27, 2015 and showing through January 3, 2016, the exhibition explores the limitless potential of the book as an independent, creative medium through both intimately-scaled pieces and large installations.

Unhinged highlights a myriad of styles and processes. Many artists carve old volumes or twist their pages into unique, sculptural configurations. Others make their own books and experiment with a multitude of different formats: accordion, concertina, pop-up, tunnel, among others. Some artists reconfigure ancient book forms, such as the scroll or codex, to create unique artworks. Books are often combined with other materials, both manufactured and natural, such as plastic, crystals, and twigs, to astonishing effects.

The exhibition also presents artists’ personal experiences, including messages about identity, human justice issues, and environmental concerns. From political statements to metaphysical ideas, book artists interpret their medium through expressive and sometimes humorous constructions.

Curator of art Barbara Matilsky notes, “As many people are not familiar with books used in art, Unhinged will open viewers’ eyes to the beauty, complexity, and cultural significance of the book. With digital media quickly surpassing books as a means of communication, the idea that artists can infuse new life into this traditional object underscores the continued importance of the tome in daily life. Once again, books have become vitally relevant as artists expand the physical boundaries of text and volume to express a wide range of ideas.”

The exhibition features artists who revolutionized the field, including Doug Beube, Julie Chen, Timothy Ely, Ann Hamilton, Buzz Spector, and Richard Minsky, as well as younger artists who have become internationally renowned, such as Long-Bin Chen, Brian Dettmer, Andrea Deszö, and Guy Laramée. Unhinged also includes many artists from Washington State: Casey Curran, Donald Glaister, Morse Clary, Marie Eckstein Gower, Deborah Greenwood, James Koss, Jessica Spring, Elsi Vasdall Ellis, Thomas Wood, Suze Woolf, and Ellen Ziegler.

The exhibition will feature a hands-on display created by Hedi Kyle, one of the pioneers of book art, showcasing a variety of styles and formats. Visitors will be able to handle these volumes, which will convey the intimacy and kinetic component of many works exhibited in the show.

Matilsky believes that, “after visiting this exhibition, viewers will never look at a book in the same way again.”

The Whatcom Museum will host a variety of programs and events in conjunction with the exhibition throughout the fall. The museum is also partnering with regional artists and organizations, offering concurrent exhibits and workshops. Visit for a list of programs that highlight this exhibition.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, Tuesday, July 28, 2015–The Whatcom Museum, North Cascades Institute and North Cascades Audubon Society present author and photographer Paul Bannick for a slideshow and lecture in the Rotunda Room of Old City Hall on Tues., Aug. 11, 7pm for “The Owl & the Woodpecker Revisited.” Bannick brings the inter-relationships between these two birds into fresh focus with dozens of new images and stories, including many never presented before.

Bannick will share striking new images, videos and stories that provide fresh illumination to the themes of his book and the exhibit. Find out the latest discoveries since the release of his highly acclaimed book, as well as information from his newest title, Woodpeckers of North America. Doors open at 5:30pm, so come early to see Bannick’s exhibition by the same name on display in Old City Hall. The exhibition features 25-large format color photographs, exhibiting some of the most important species of owls and woodpeckers in North America. Books will be available for sale at the event. This event is co-sponsored by the North Cascades Institute and the North Cascades Audubon Society.

Tickets are $10 General admission/$5 Museum members and are on sale through August 10 at (event # 1381965) or by calling (800) 838-3006 ext. 1. You may also purchase tickets directly at Whatcom Museum reception desks. All seats are general seating. Space is limited, so purchase your tickets soon, as Paul’s previous events at the museum have been sold out, standing-room-only! Come early to get the seat of your choice; doors open at 5:30pm.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 28, 2015; Bellingham, WA — The Whatcom Museum is looking for new docents to lead tours of exhibitions, beginning this fall. Docents are volunteer educators and ambassadors for the museum, leading 50 minute tours for museum visitors in the Lightcatcher galleries. Docents research and develop informative, interactive tours to engage adult audiences in a conversation about the art on exhibit.

“Our volunteer docents contribute many hours of their time and knowledge to provide this important service to museum patrons,” said Marilyn Burns, Docent Educator. “Without their valuable skills and research, the museum would not be able to provide community members with such a personal experience.”

Museum docents study all aspects of art, from individual artists to artistic styles to elements and principles of art. They also conduct research, master the art of tour development, and hone their public speaking skills. Docents must commit to at least one year of service to the museum, and will prepare and lead between 10 to 20 public and private tours annually. Initial training takes about three months with once a week sessions lasting from 9 to 11:30am. Additional workshops precede each new exhibition.

In return, docents enjoy the intellectual challenge of researching and developing tours, exercising their public speaking skills, providing a valuable service to the community, and associating with a stimulating group of people who appreciate art too.

Fall training begins September 10 and concludes November 17.  New docents will begin touring the exhibition, Chipping the Block, Painting the Silk: The Color Prints of Norma Bassett Hall after Christmas. For more information on how to apply to become a docent, contact Marilyn Burns by August 14th at 360-778-8938 or via email.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, July 8, 2015–On Mon., April 27, 2015, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Timothy Egan made a presentation and talk at the Mount Baker Theatre about his book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. His presentation complimented the Whatcom Museum’s exhibition, Mingled Visions: Images from The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis (Feb. 7 – May 10, 2015). Co-sponsored by the Bellingham Public Library, the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, and Village Books, the event drew more than 1,000 people.

For those who missed the opportunity to see Timothy Egan live at the Theatre, Bellingham’s public access television station, BTV10, recorded the program. To watch the presentation, visit


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 22, 2015; Bellingham, WA — A new reference collection of more than 500 titles focusing on art and regional history is now accessible to community members and Whatcom County researchers, thanks to a partnership between the Whatcom Museum and the Bellingham Public Library, and generous donations to the Museum. The Joyce Morse Reference Library is open by appointment on Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon-3pm, at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street. Visitors can call 360-778-8938 to make an appointment.

The collection, which can be searched online through the Bellingham Public Library’s Special Collections catalog, includes general art references and art history books, with a focus on regional art and history Whatcom County history, and art and history of Indians of the Pacific Northwest. Catalogues and other publications of the Whatcom Museum are also available. The books will not circulate, but they are available to view in the Reference Library at the Lightcatcher by appointment.

“We are thrilled to provide the community with the resources to learn more about our regional history and art, and to further our commitment to stimulating curiosity about these topics,” said Executive Director Patricia Leach. “The library fits in perfectly with some of our other research tools, such as the photo archives.”

Although many of the books in the library are part of the museum’s collection, the new library attracted the attention of donors. Seattle residents Lee and Joie Soper were instrumental in providing many books for the library. With the help of Village Books owner Chuck Robinson and retired director of the University of Washington Press Pat Soden, Lee Soper, whose career included many years with the University Bookstore, donated a substantial collection of books on art, art history, decorative arts, regional art and artists, and photography. Many other donors contributed to the library as well.

The name of the library is also an important community contribution, as it is named after the late Joyce Morse, who together with her husband David, was a Cornerstone member of the Whatcom Museum. For 20 years, Joyce was responsible for organizing the volunteers at the museum’s store. She was also involved in the fundraising effort to help restore the Old City Hall building from fire damage and co-chaired the group that raised the money to start the museum endowment to support artistic and educational programs. She was a longtime member of the Whatcom Museum’s volunteer group now known as the Advocates.

“My parents were great supporters of the museum,” said Bob Morse, Joyce’s eldest son. “This honor would have made my dad especially happy; he was eager that my mother receive recognition for the many ways she enriched and supported this community.”

For a full list of titles, visit and under the menu item “Research,” choose the Joyce Morse Reference Library. To browse the online catalog, visit, go to “Special Collections” and then choose the Joyce Morse Reference Library.  The Joyce Morse Reference Library is open by appointment on Wednesdays, noon-3pm and Thursdays, noon-3pm at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building, 250 Flora Street. To schedule an appointment call 360-778-8938.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, May 21, 2015 — The Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) inside the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street, is planning an expansion, as well as updates to current exhibits, as we continue to integrate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) education into the curriculum. The Museum invites parents, teachers, artists and other adult community members to attend a design “charrette” or collaborative planning session, on Tues., June 2 from 10am-5pm in the FIG to weigh in on the change.* Community members interested in looking at the current exhibits in the FIG and sharing comments, critiques and ideas are welcome to drop in any time throughout this time frame to participate. The public is also welcome to join Museum staff for refreshments and a short presentation at 5pm in the Rotunda Room of Old City Hall, 121 Prospect Street, with FIG designer Larry Ackerley of Spaces and Experience Design firm in Seattle.

Participants will check in at the FIG and receive a pad of Post-It notes and a pencil for writing comments. They will have the chance to walk through the current exhibits and see concept floor plans for the proposed expansion. Larger comment pads will be placed throughout the FIG for participants to leave their Post-It comments. The Museum hopes to receive feedback from a wide range of community members, including educators, artists, parents, homeschoolers, and any other interested people. Comments will be collected and used to inform the design process.

“In the past few years, the FIG has seen exponential growth and interest in our educational programs and exhibits, especially in the realm of STEAM education,” said Executive Director Patricia Leach. “We want to grow the FIG’s STEAM presence in the community and offer cutting-edge curriculum to children of all ages, but we need the community’s feedback to learn how to best serve children.”

The Whatcom Museum will partner with the local school districts and other early education organizations to create exhibits that meet state standards for STEAM education. The new exhibits will be prototypes focusing on STEAM learning, and will connect the materials to specific aspects of STEAM. The lower level of the FIG will remain focused on early childhood education, tying in existing exhibits such as the farm area to STEAM concepts. The upstairs expansion is intended for children five and older and will include learning stations for hands-on design challenges. There will also be class teaching areas for further exploration of STEAM concepts.

The Family Interactive Gallery is an interactive, hands-on museum space designed for children of all ages and their families. By offering self-directed exploration, play, and learning together, the FIG provides educational opportunities in many critical areas, including science, technology, art, innovation, problem-solving, early childhood literacy and social and cross-cultural experiences. The FIG supports the Whatcom Museum’s mission of providing innovative and interactive educational programs and exhibitions that stimulate curiosity about our changing cultural, natural and historical landscapes.

*The charrette is an adult working session. Although children are important to the FIG, due to the nature of the open house, the Museum will not be providing activities for children during this time.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE; May 14, 2015, Bellingham, WA — Starting Thursday, July 9 and continuing each Thursday through August 27, the Whatcom Museum’s popular summer cruise aboard the Island Mariner takes a close-up view of parks, businesses, industry and neighborhoods from Bellingham Bay, with Bellingham native Brian Griffin as tour guide. This is the 32nd year of the history cruises, which are a popular summer pastime.

Guests travel aboard the 110-foot Puget Sound tour boat Island Caper, which leaves from Squalicum Harbor near downtown Bellingham. Squalicum Harbor is the Port of Bellingham’s boat haven for almost 1500 fishing and pleasure boats. The Island Caper has inside seating for more than 100 passengers, plus a covered upper deck viewing area. It has two main-deck onboard restrooms with household toilets and many more amenities, including a bar selling wine and beer on board.

Island Mariner Cruises is located at 2621 South Harbor Loop Drive, Bellingham WA 98225. The cruise boards at 5:30pm, departs promptly at 6 PM, and returns to the dock around 8:30 PM.

Tickets go on sale June 1st and are $35 general/$30 for museum members; $28 per person for groups of 8 or more people. Purchase through Brown Paper Tickets, by calling 800/838.3006 ext. 1, or in-person at the Museum Store located at 250 Flora St. Bellingham, WA 98225.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 12, 2015; Bellingham, WA — Helmi’s World: Symbol, Myth, Fantasy presents 65 artworks–paintings, drawings, prints, carved linoleum blocks, ceramics–drawn from the Whatcom Museum’s collection of artist Helmi Juvonen’s work, which numbers 250 objects. The exhibition, curated by Barbara Matilsky, also contains a detailed biographical timeline and illustrated object labels. It will be featured at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building June 27 through October 11, 2015.

Helmi Juvonen (1903-1985), known in her day simply as Helmi, was a prolific artist whose creativity embraced diverse media. She was particularly drawn to Northwest Coast native culture and developed a rapport with the chiefs of the Lummi, Swinomish, Makah, and Yakama, who invited her to participate in their ceremonies. Native art and ritual nurtured Helmi’s creative spirit, empowering her to transcend gender bias, poverty, and decades committed to an asylum for mental illness.

With her avid interest in anthropology, Helmi believed, as did the Seattle photographer Edward Curtis (1868-1952), in the importance of documenting Native American spiritual life. During the 1940s and 1950s, she lived with tribes in Washington, Vancouver Island, and South Dakota. Helmi also spent time studying and drawing ritual objects in the Washington State Museum, which later became the University of Washington’s Burke Museum.

Helmi’s World includes paintings of petroglyphs from Central Washington, watercolors of Lummi masked dancers, and linocut prints of the Makah Thunderbird and Wolf Dances, among others. The exhibition suggests the complexity of Helmi’s vision by displaying some or her most unusual artworks, including a large, mixed-media drawing inspired by ancient Peruvian tapestries. The influences of Mark Tobey, Pablo Picasso, and Scandinavian Folk Art will also be highlighted. Helmi forged a unique style that merged aboriginal Northwest culture with modern art. The artist also conjured “imaginary things,” and many of her works reflect both the dark and light sides of the human psyche.

“Although Helmi has not yet been recognized as widely as other Pacific Northwest ‘mystics,’ such as Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, she was, in many ways, ahead of her time,” says Barbara Matilsky, the Museum’s curator of art. “Her graffiti-like abstractions, mixed-media compositions, and paper cut-outs relate to trends in contemporary art and communicate easily with a new generation of viewers.”

Born in Butte Montana in 1903, Helmi attended the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) and honed her skills as a draftsman at the Boeing Aircraft Company during World War II. Spirited and independent, she forged an unconventional path through life. Living on the edge of poverty, she later sold prints at the Pike Street Market for 50 cents apiece. The artist’s talents were well-recognized and works were purchased by important Seattle collectors. Supported in part by Dr. Richard Fuller, the founding director of the Seattle Art Museum who acquired work for the collection, the artist was friends with many Northwest art world luminaries, including Morris Graves.

During the 1950s, a period of suppression and conformity in American life, a woman living alone as an artist proved difficult. Helmi’s eccentricities, including living with dozens of cats, alarmed neighbors and family who disapproved of her creative career. For a period of time, the artist’s obsession with Mark Tobey, the most renowned of the Pacific Northwest mystic painters, embarrassed Tobey as well as his many supporters.

Helmi was mistakenly diagnosed with schizophrenia (now recognized as manic-depression), and was committed against her will to Oakhurst Convalescent Home in Elma, Washington, where she lived the final 26 years of her life. Here, she continued to make art and welcomed artists and supporters, who organized museum exhibitions that she attended, including her 1985 retrospective at the Whatcom Museum thirty years ago.

Helmi and the artist Wesley Wehr gifted many of the works in this exhibition. A large number of pieces were also donated by Dr. Ulrich and Stella Fritzsche.  Dr. Fritzsche, author of the book, Helmi Dagmar Juvonen: Her Life and Work, a Chronicle (2001), has contributed greatly to our understanding of the artist’s biography.