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‘Art of the American West’ allows you to challenge traditional perceptions

“Cowgirl Over Kachina Mesa” is part of the artwork on loan to the Whatcom Museum from the Tacoma Art Museum, featuring works from the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art. The 1996 oil-on-canvas work by American Bill Schenck is on view noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at the Whatcom Museum - Lightcatcher, 250 Flora St., Bellingham. Admission is $10.
“Cowgirl Over Kachina Mesa” is part of the artwork on loan to the Whatcom Museum from the Tacoma Art Museum, featuring works from the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art. The 1996 oil-on-canvas work by American Bill Schenck is on view noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at the Whatcom Museum - Lightcatcher, 250 Flora St., Bellingham. Admission is $10.
“Cowgirl Over Kachina Mesa” is part of the artwork on loan to the Whatcom Museum from the Tacoma Art Museum, featuring works from the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art. The 1996 oil-on-canvas work by American Bill Schenck is on view noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at the Whatcom Museum - Lightcatcher, 250 Flora St., Bellingham. Admission is $10. “Cowgirl Over Kachina Mesa” is part of the artwork on loan to the Whatcom Museum from the Tacoma Art Museum, featuring works from the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art. The 1996 oil-on-canvas work by American Bill Schenck is on view noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at the Whatcom Museum - Lightcatcher, 250 Flora St., Bellingham. Admission is $10. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

When you walk into “Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum,” you’ll be struck immediately by the dramatic, and colorful artworks on display. The landscape paintings, portraits and sculptures represent various interpretations of the American West that have shaped our views of the region and the people, from pristine landscapes to mountain men, cowboys and Native Americans. Featured artists span the 19th and 20th centuries to today; contemporary artworks are juxtaposed with classic pieces.

Look closely at Bill Schenck’s oil painting, “Cowgirl Over Kachina Mesa” (1996) and you will see vibrant and hot colors of the Southwest region with a cowgirl on a bucking horse. Presented alongside more classic artworks, pieces like this challenge historical imagery and call into question assumptions, and provide visitors an opportunity to explore art history of the American West and how it has shaped our own views.

Discussion point: Girls can be cowboys, too! Strong and brave, women of all ages helped to settle the American West. In “Cowgirl Over Kachina Mesa,” the artist uses images similar to those from the movies to create a story. Is there anything you see in the painting that lets you know it’s a cowgirl?

Coming soon: Making Faces – Masks & Masquerading Around the World: Community Art Museum Day, noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St. All ages are invited to participate in a variety of mask-making activities, performances and gallery tours. $3 general, members free.

Ongoing: John M. Edson Hall of Birds offers the Whatcom Museum’s founding collection of mounted birds reinterpreted as an educational experience at Old City Hall. Designed in collaboration with the North Cascades Audubon Society, the exhibit provides opportunities to learn about bird migration, conservation success stories, birds in peril, and the importance of studying bird specimens today.

Continuing: People of the Sea and Cedar: The Story of the Coast Salish Tribes exhibit at the Lightcatcher shares the history and art of the Coast Salish people, blending both historical and contemporary perspectives. This exhibit features artifacts from the museum’s collection, such as Coast Salish artwork and carvings, woven blankets, hand-made tools, and cedar hats, clothing, and baskets. The exhibit 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 Coast Salish tribes as vibrant, living cultures who honor their past while building a cultural and economic future for their people.

Christina M. Claassen is Whatcom Museum’s marketing and public relations manager. Reach her at cmclaassen@cob.org.

Whatcom Museum

The non-profit Whatcom Museum is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the city of Bellingham. The Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect St. and the Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora St. are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). Memberships start at $50 and include free museum admission.

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.

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