For media inquiries, to arrange interviews, or to obtain images, please contact:
Christina Claassen, Marketing & Public Relations Manager, 360-778-8936.
WHATCOM MUSEUM HOSTS WHATCOM ARTIST STUDIO TOUR EXHIBITION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 31, 2017; Bellingham, WA—The Whatcom Museum is hosting the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour exhibition, August 4 – September 3, 2017 at Old City Hall. In anticipation of the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour in October, the Museum will be showcasing a diversity of artwork by participating artists in a variety of media. The exhibition will open on Friday, August 4, during Downtown Art Walk.
The Whatcom Artist Studio Tour is a free, juried event offering an opportunity to meet the region’s finest artists in their own creative spaces. In its twenty-third year, the Tour features 44 artists working in eleven different media, showing their work throughout Bellingham and Whatcom County.
These diverse artists open their studios to the public October 7 – 8 and 14 – 15. Visitors can meet the artists and get a glimpse into their creative processes. A free guide can be picked up at the Whatcom Museum, as well as at many local businesses, to help visitors plan their route and visit the studios. It’s also a chance for the community to purchase fine art directly from artists. To learn more about the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour and to see a list of participating artists, visit www.studiotour.net.
The community is invited to the opening of the exhibition during the Downtown Bellingham Art Walk, Friday, August 4, 6 – 10pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect Street. Admission is free for this event.
About the Whatcom Museum
The Whatcom Museum offers a variety of exhibitions, programs, tours, and activities about art, nature, and Northwest history for all ages. Its multi-building campus is located in the heart of Bellingham’s downtown art district. Whatcom Artist Studio Tour exhibition will be on view August 4 – September 3, 2017 in Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., Bellingham, WA 98225. Old City Hall is open Wednesdays – Sundays, Noon – 5 PM.
NEW EXHIBIT AT THE LIGHTCATCHER SHARES THE HISTORY AND ART OF THE NORTHWEST COAST TRIBES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, July 5, 2017 — A newly redesigned gallery in the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building shares the art, history, and culture of the Northwest Coast people, blending both historical and contemporary perspectives. The exhibit, People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey through the Tribal Cultures and History of the Northwest Coast, opens Saturday, July 15, noon-5pm in the second floor gallery of the Lightcatcher.
Featuring artifacts from the Museum’s collection, such as Coast Salish artwork and carvings, woven blankets, hand-made tools, clothing, baskets, and cedar hats, the exhibit will show some of the traditional crafts created by the Northwest Coast people. Visitors will have opportunities to learn about the traditions, languages, and stories of these tribes.
“The Whatcom Museum hasn’t had a permanent presence of Coast Salish culture and history, past and present,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “Now that our state legislature has mandated the teaching of native cultures in our schools, the timing on the creation of this new gallery space couldn’t be better. The Museum is excited to be enhancing the education of our local school children with the ‘People of the Sea and Cedar’ school program, which will actually take place in the new gallery.”
The Whatcom Museum has been offering its popular “People of the Sea and Cedar” program to Bellingham and Whatcom County students for more than 20 years. The new exhibit enhances the school program, which is being redesigned by the Museum education staff and will be in place this fall.
With input provided by tribal representatives, researchers, and educators, the Museum presents an experiential exhibit. People of the Sea and Cedar provides hands-on learning experiences, a Lummi and Nooksack language interactive, and videos showcasing Lummi and Nooksack weavers and carvers. Themes of cultural knowledge, art and symbolism, lifestyles, and community will present the Northwest Coast tribes as vibrant, living cultures who honor their past while building cultural and economic futures for their people.
People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey through the Tribal Cultures and History of the Northwest Coast will be a permanent exhibit, which will be continually developed with rotating art and artifacts in the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street. Through its Smithsonian Affiliation, the Museum plans to borrow artifacts from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in future years.
Members are invited to a members-only preview on Fri., July 14, 5-7pm in the Lightcatcher. The public opening on Sat., July 15, noon-5pm will include storytelling by Nooksack storyteller Tamara Cooper-Woodrich from 1-1:30pm in the Lightcatcher.
THE WHATCOM MUSEUM CANCELS FALL CONTEMPORARY CRAFT EVENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, June 28, 2017 — The Whatcom Museum regrets to announce the cancellation of the upcoming multi-day event, Contemporary Craft: Artwear | Craftware, scheduled for Sept. 22-24, 2017. Due to scheduling complexities and facility limitations, the event has been canceled. The Museum came to this decision with great consideration and would like to express gratitude to artists, sponsors, and the community for embracing the event planning up to this point.
The Museum will continue to provide top-notch exhibitions and programming this fall at Old City Hall and the Lightcatcher building, including People of the Sea & Cedar: A Journey Through the History and Cultures of the Tribes of the Northwest Coast, and Art of the American West: The Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum, opening October 7, 2017.
THE WHATCOM MUSEUM RECEIVES $50,000 GRANT FROM THE NORCLIFFE FOUNDATION IN SUPPORT OF ENDANGERED SPECIES EXHIBITION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, June 22, 2017 —The Whatcom Museum has been awarded a $50,000 grant in support of the upcoming exhibition, Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity, which will be on exhibit September 8, 2018 – January 6, 2019 in the Lightcatcher building. The grant will assist the Museum in funding exhibition design, related educational programming, and an exhibition catalogue. The exhibition will explore artworks by an international group of artists who interpret the fragile balance of life on Earth through a wide range of media.
“We are thrilled to have the support of The Norcliffe Foundation for this exciting project,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “The grant funds will assist us to assemble a truly impactful exhibition, and bring related high-quality educational programming to our community.”
Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity presents 70 works of art in various media, from rare books to cutting-edge video, that span the 19th through 21st centuries. It highlights artists who celebrate biodiversity’s exquisite complexity, interpret natural and human-induced extinctions of plants and animals, and focus on endangered species from diverse ecosystems. The exhibition explores art’s historic role in raising public awareness about the human activities that threaten habitats. Weaving together art, natural science, and conservation, Endangered Species also features creative solutions by ecological artists who revitalize habitats and reconnect people to the rich tapestry of life. Featured artists include Ernst Haeckel, George Catlin, Andy Warhol, Patricia Johanson, Isabella Kirkland, and David Liitschwager, among many others.
“We often read news headlines with alarming statistics—60% of the world’s primates, including apes, lemurs and monkeys, are facing extinction—and then turn the page,” said Barbara Matilsky, exhibition curator, and Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum. “Artists take this information and create imagery that inspires emotional and thought-provoking responses. Hopefully, Endangered Species will stimulate visitors to join with artists, scientists, and conservationists in preserving life’s biodiversity.”
The Norcliffe Foundation is a private nonprofit family foundation established in 1952 by Paul Pigott with the intention of improving the quality of life of people in Puget Sound communities by the application of financial and human resources. Succeeding generations of the family have continued to support The Foundation in this tradition. Grants are given to nonprofit organizations, and areas of support include education, health, social services, civic improvement, religion, culture and the arts, the environment, historic preservation, and youth programs.
BELLINGHAM NATIONAL 2017 JURIED ART EXHIBITION AND AWARDS @ WHATCOM MUSEUM FEATURES ARTISTS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Artwork selected represents a variety of mediums interpreting the theme of drawing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17, 2016; Bellingham, WA—The Whatcom Museum is hosting the second Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition and Awards, June 11 – September 10, 2017 at the Lightcatcher building. More than 300 artists from around the country submitted artworks for consideration for this exhibition, which centers on drawing practices. Representing more than 25 artists from six states, including Washington, the artists are based in cities such as New York, Portland, and San Francisco, as well as two artists from Bellingham.
Juried by Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Seattle Art Museum, the artwork selected will represent a range of approaches to drawing, from narrative and representational modes, to notation, transcription mapping, and deconstruction. Artists in the exhibition work in a variety of media. In recognition of their achievements, three artists will be honored with modest financial awards, in addition, members of the public will bestow a popular choice award.
The flood of images disseminated on the internet and social media invite renewed attention to drawing as a comparatively “slow” medium. Traditionally tied to the development of compositions and ideas, drawing remained the stepchild of painting and sculpture into the 1960s. Subsequent interest in artistic processes has elevated drawing to a more influential position. In light of the ever-expanding digital media stream that is in equal parts overwhelming and yet immaterial, contemporary drawing practices take on renewed significance and urgency.
“In light of the great technological shift that has profoundly changed our everyday interactions, this is an important moment to consider the conceptual possibilities and aesthetic capacities of drawing practices,” said juror Catharina Manchanda.
This juried exhibition will award prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 to three of the participating artists during the opening celebration. The popular choice award of $500 offers the community an opportunity to have their voices heard, and will be announced September 6, 2017.
About the Juror: Catharina Manchanda joined the Seattle Art Museum in 2011 as the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. A native of Germany, Manchanda received her undergraduate degree from the University of Stuttgart and her PhD from the City University Graduate Center in New York. Recent exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum include Pop Departures, Miró: the Experience of Seeing, and Big Picture: Art after 1945. She also mounted a series of contemporary projects and site-specific installations by John Luther Adams, Moyra Davey, Harun Farocki, Victoria Haven, Martha Rosler, Guido van der Werve, and others. Previously, Manchanda worked at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
34TH ANNUAL HISTORY SUNSET CRUISES SET SAIL THIS SUMMER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, May 12, 2017—The Whatcom Museum is pleased to announce the return of its popular summer history cruises along Bellingham Bay, now in its 34th year. For the 2017 season, the Museum is partnering again with San Juan Cruises for tour operation. The weekly cruises, which sail in July and August, will be offered on Tuesday evenings and will be leaving from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven.
Starting Tuesday, July 11, and continuing each Tuesday through August 29, the Whatcom Museum’s popular summer cruises will take locals and visitors aboard the 100-foot Victoria Star tour boat. Participants get great close-up views of parks, businesses, industry, and neighborhoods from Bellingham Bay, with Bellingham historians Brian Griffin or Doug Starcher serving as tour guides. They will tie their knowledge of local history with up-to-date facts about bay activities. Their narrative of history, trivia, and current events makes cruise guests feel they are becoming experts on their community, and gives new understanding of the area.
The Victoria Star leaves from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven. The boat has indoor and outdoor seating on two levels, an on-board snack bar, and a full bar with a selection of Northwest beers, wines, and cocktails. Restrooms are available on board. Guests are welcome to bring dinner, snacks, and beverages (non-alcoholic) for a picnic-style dinner while cruising. Each sailing boards at 6:15pm, with a prompt 6:30pm sailing, and an 8:30pm return.
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. Proceeds benefit Whatcom Museum exhibitions and educational programs.
San Juan Cruises is located at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Avenue, Suite 104, Bellingham WA 98225. The Port of Bellingham charges $0.50/hour for parking, in the large lot with numbered spaces about 30 yards in front of the terminal building. Overnight parking is $6/day. There is free parking for up to 2 hours in front of the terminal. To learn more about San Juan Cruises visit Whales.com.
CONTEMPORARY CRAFT 2017: ARTWEAR | CRAFTWARE 3-DAY FESTIVAL DEBUTS THIS FALL
6/28/2017 UPDATE: The Museum regrets to announce the cancellation of this event due to scheduling complexities and facility limitations. While we know this may be a disappointment to many, we hope you will mark your calendars for other exciting fall exhibitions and programs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, March 1, 2017—The Whatcom Museum Foundation and Museum Advocates host a brand new event this coming fall, Contemporary Craft 2017: Artwear | Craftware, held in downtown Bellingham, Wash., at the Whatcom Museum campus September 22-24, 2017. The show will bring 60 artists from across the region to display and sell their outstanding, unique handmade work in the Museum’s Lightcatcher building. Works of the highest quality will be on view, and for sale, in the categories of clothing, jewelry, glass, ceramics, wood, sculpture, and mixed media. The Whatcom Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate, and uses the Smithsonian Craft Show, the most prestigious event of its kind in the US, as a model for this debut show in Bellingham.
The three day affair will include several components:
- Celebratory party opening the show on Friday evening
- Two days of shopping for the public on Saturday and Sunday
- Luncheon with informal modeling at Ciao Thyme restaurant on Saturday
- Raffle for chances to win artwork and experiences
- Online auction starting a week prior to the show
- Juried gallery in the Museum’s Old City Hall building
While the City of Bellingham provides important support for the Whatcom Museum as a partner, the Whatcom Museum Foundation funds the Museum’s exhibitions and educational programs. Contemporary Craft 2017 will raise money for the Museum’s programs and bring new audiences to its campus. Visit www.contemporarycraft2017.com for more information about this exciting event, including sponsorship and artist participation.
NEW LIFE FOR 400+ OBJECT COLLECTION OF THE WASHINGTON ART CONSORTIUM FOLLOWING 40 YEARS OF COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMMING ACROSS WASHINGTON
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Seattle, WA, February 23, 2017 — The Board of the Washington Art Consortium (WAC) announced today that its seven member consortium will disband, and that WAC’s art collection and endowment assets will be distributed to six of its member art museums. Originally founded in 1976 by Seattle philanthropist and collector Virginia Wright, WAC was formed to bring works of art by distinguished modern American artists to the State of Washington, and to spur collaboration among art museums in the state. Across 40 years of partnership, WAC has amassed a collection of 411 works by 175 artists, including works on paper, photographs, and prints created from 1945 through the late 20th century, and presented more than 130 exhibitions and programs.
The decision to conclude the consortium arrangement follows a period of strategic planning over the last 18 months. This process included: an examination of the ways in which WAC has successfully spurred collaboration among its members; a review of the increased role of modern and contemporary art in Washington; and a careful analysis of the benefits and costs of maintaining the consortium as an independent 501(c)3 entity. Finding that the capabilities of each member museum—as well as other arts organizations in Washington—have grown substantially, the WAC Board, to which Ms. Wright is a lifetime adviser, determined the need for a separate entity to ensure broad access was now less relevant, and that the resources to maintain it could be better deployed in service of audience engagement with collections. While the consortium will no longer continue as an independent entity, the former members will continue to work together on exhibitions and programs, fulfilling Ms. Wright’s vision for collaboration among arts organizations throughout the state.
Of primary concern in the strategic planning process was the ongoing care of and access to the works of art held by WAC. Following the Board’s decision to disband the consortium, WAC assembled a panel of three independent arts experts to make recommendations on how to disperse the collections and endowment assets. The panel reviewed both the WAC collections and the collections of the member institutions, to determine which groups of works would best fit with a member’s current collections or programming expertise. The panel also considered geography as an element of the process, to ensure that these works of art would be distributed across Washington State, thus increasing their accessibility to a range of audiences.
“For the last forty years I have enjoyed watching the Washington Art Consortium’s progress and development,” said Virginia Wright, WAC’s founder. “In 2015, as we approached our 40th anniversary, I encouraged our board to think about the future. I am pleased with their decision and delighted that the collections will live on through our member museums, continuing to serve as an important resource for the entire state. And, finally, I want to extend my deepest thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts, to the Kreielsheimer Foundation, to the Aiken family, to Safeco Insurance, and to those other donors and advisors whose support has made WAC the success that it is.”
WAC’s seven members are: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle; Museum of Art, Washington State University, Pullman; Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma; Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham; and the Whatcom Museum, Bellingham. The collection is currently housed at the Western Gallery, Western Washington University in Bellingham.
The expert panel that advised WAC on the distribution of its collections consisted of Brian Ferriso, Director of the Portland Art Museum and current President of the Association of Art Museum Directors; Jack Lane, former Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dallas Museum of Art, and Carnegie Museum of Art, and founder of the New Art Trust, San Francisco; and Barbara Johns, an independent art historian, former chief curator of the Tacoma Art Museum, and former curator at the Seattle Art Museum.
The panel’s recommendations were to divide WAC’s collections as follows:
- American Works on Paper 1945-75, comprising 98 works, will go to the Western Gallery at Western Washington University
- American Photographs 1970-1980, comprising 185 works, will go to the Henry Gallery at the University of Washington
- Mary Margaret Aiken and Richard Aiken Collection of 20th Century Prints, comprising 24 works, will go to the Museum of Art at Washington State University
- Safeco Collection of Northwest Works on Paper, comprising 104 works, will be divided among the Tacoma Art Museum, Whatcom Museum of History and Art, and Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
The panel also recommended—and WAC’s Board has agreed—that the former members of the Consortium will have priority access to borrow these works for exhibition or research, free of loan fees. To continue recognizing the donors who created the collection, and to ensure an ongoing legacy for WAC, individual works of art will continue to be acknowledged in records and labeling as from the “Washington Art Consortium Collection,” and thus exist as part of a legacy collection linked to other members and reflected on these institutions’ websites. WAC’s $2.3 million endowment will be divided among the six institutions receiving parts of the collection, and will continue to be used for the care and maintenance of these works. Those artists still living whose works are in WAC collections have been informed of this change and of the new home for their works.
“Since this Consortium was launched, the visual arts in Washington have grown to an entirely new level, with expanded facilities, collections, exhibitions, and programs across the state,” said Sylvia Wolf, the president of the Board of WAC and the John S. Behnke Director of the Henry Art Gallery. “WAC was at the forefront of these changes, demonstrating how much could be accomplished through collaboration and collection sharing. In deciding to take this next step, we recognize that the landscape has changed for the better. This approach honors the intentions of the donors who helped create WAC collections and enables us to stay focused on these incredible works of art, and to provide greater access to them for audiences throughout the State of Washington.”
EXHIBITION OF MEXICAN AND CHICANA/O ARTWORK EXPLORES HISTORY, COMMUNITY-BUILDING AND CULTURAL CITIZENSHIP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, Jan. 17, 2017 — The Whatcom Museum is pleased to present “Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots” at the Lightcatcher building, opening Feb. 4 and showing through May 28, 2017. This exhibition, curated by Executive Director Patricia Leach, explores the development of Chicana/o art, from its beginnings in Mexican art of the early twentieth century, to the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and ’70s, to its relevance today. Many of the artworks reflect how Chicana/o art has influenced community building, history making and cultural citizenship for Mexican-Americans and Chicana/os.
“The Whatcom Museum has not shown the work of these important artists before, and with a growing Latina/o population in both Whatcom and Skagit Counties, it is wonderful to be able to partner with the Mexican Museum in San Francisco and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, to bring the work of many well-known artists to the Pacific Northwest,” said Leach.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Mexican artwork was largely influenced by artists academically trained in the European Academy style. After the revolution in 1910, the arts were dramatically changed, and artists outside of academia developed new styles. During this time, print-making through the creation of broadsheets—printed text accompanied by illustrations, usually printed on penny presses in Mexico City—became a way for artists to address politics and current events. “Images of Resilience” will feature examples of this art form created by José Guadalupe Posada in the early 1900s.
During the 1920s, a new style of art emerged in Mexico. Three internationally prominent artists known as “Los Tres Grandes”—Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco—were hired by the Mexican government to create identifiably Mexican art through murals. Their work emphasized cultural roots with a respect for non-Spanish traditions and instilled a patriotic pride in the Mexican people. A few select artworks by these artists will be displayed in the gallery to represent their contributions, including a Diego Rivera drawing from the Museum’s collection.
In contrast to the early works of the 1910s and ’20s, “Images of Resilience” will also present a variety of artists influenced by the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Artists of this era, and in the decades following, were motivated by cultural reclamation and the struggle for social justice. Drawing on styles created post-revolution, this era of Chicana/o art deals with rural themes—agriculture, religious holidays, folk heritage—as well as, the new urbanized lives that Mexican-Americans were living, shown through pop culture, cars and Hollywood iconography.
“Within the context of the Chicana/o movement for social justice, artists took their place in creating images and forms of art that would help enlist others in this movement for human rights,” said artist and scholar Amalia Mesa-Bains. “The work of individual artists and collectives was often anchored in community-based organizations.”
“Images of Resilience” will feature the work of contemporary artists such as Patssi Valdez, Ester Hernandez, Carmen Lomas Garza, Gronk, Enrique Chagoya, Frank Romero, and many more. The exhibition will also include mixed-media paintings by Seattle artist Cecilia Concepción Alvarez, and prints and paintings by Seattle artist Alfredo Arreguín.
“Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots” is sponsored by Heritage Bank and will be on exhibition Feb. 4 through May 28, 2017 in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St., Bellingham, Wash. 98225. The Lightcatcher is open Wed. – Sun., Noon – 5 PM. Members are invited to a member-only preview on Fri., Feb. 3, 5-7pm in the Lightcatcher.
- Public lecture with Seattle artists Cecilia Concepción Alvarez and Alfredo Arreguín, Sat., Feb. 4, 2pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. $5 suggested donation/Museum members free.
- Docent tours: Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 1:30pm beginning Sun., Feb. 12. Tours last one hour, start in the Lightcatcher lobby and are included with admission/free to members.
- Film Screening: “Chicano Legacy: 40 Años,” co-presented with the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival, Sun., Feb. 19, 2pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. Free.
- Public lecture with artist and scholar Amalia Mesa-Bains, Wed., March 22, 12:30pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. $5 suggested donation/Museum members free.
PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION MARKING 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF HURRICANE KATRINA TRAVELS TO THE WHATCOM MUSEUM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, Jan. 10, 2016 — The Historic New Orleans Collection marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with the release of the book and exhibition, “The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City.” Traveling to the Whatcom Museum, courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection, this photo exhibition features the haunting black-and-white images of New Orleans-based photographer David G. Spielman. His photographs chronicle the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the arrested processes of rebuilding and recovery that persist in many neighborhoods today. The exhibition will be on view Jan. 14 through May 14, 2017 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building.
Spielman, a fine-art photographer, freelance photojournalist and New Orleans resident, has spent the last decade capturing subtle, gradual changes happening in less-documented areas of the city affected by the storm, like the West Bank, Central City and Mid-City. Inspired by the traditions of photographers like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Gordon Parks, who captured the changing face of America during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in stark, simple images, Spielman’s contemplative look at the city reveals the complicated task of recovering from a major disaster.
The resulting photographs beg for careful consideration: where one initially sees stasis, a longer look reveals movement and hints of rebirth, as well as evocative traces of human activity. New Orleans’s subtropical climate makes for a city in perpetual struggle against nature’s attempts to reclaim the landscape—vines have begun to subsume structures in some of the photographs, but evidence of maintenance and new construction often inches its way into the background or the margin. From these images emerge stories of neglect, renewal and perseverance within New Orleans’s altered cityscape.
“Photography is the great educator,” Spielman said. “It puts a face on war, poverty and disasters. My most important task as a photographer is to render the most truthful image of each and every situation I find, because years from now, people want to see what it was really like.”
Although the photographs in this exhibition document a part of America that is far from the Pacific Northwest, it is a reminder that we are all affected by natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanos are a concern to Northwest communities, especially along the coastal regions. The Whatcom Museum hopes that this exhibition will inspire visitors to consider the importance of disaster preparedness in our own region.
This exhibition accompanies the book, “The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City,” which contains 138 black-and-white photographs, along with essays by Spielman, exhibition curator John H. Lawrence, and journalist and preservationist Jack Davis. The book retails for $39.95 and is available for purchase at the Museum Store.
About the photographer:
Assignments have taken David G. Spielman to six continents, where he has photographed presidents and other world leaders. “The Katrina Decade” is his fourth published collection, following “Southern Writers” (1997), “Katrinaville Chronicles: Images and Observations from a New Orleans Photographer” (2007) and “When Not Performing: New Orleans Musicians” (2012). He has called New Orleans home for more than 40 years.
About The Historic New Orleans Collection
Founded in 1966, The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to the study and preservation of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. For more information, visit www.hnoc.org.