Here’s your chance to raise a paddle to help the museum offer art education

“Studio Fetsi,” 2015, oil on canvas, is by artist Susan Bennerstrom. She is one of the artists whose works will be featured during the live auction at Whatcom Museum’s Gala Friday, Jan. 19.
“Studio Fetsi,” 2015, oil on canvas, is by artist Susan Bennerstrom. She is one of the artists whose works will be featured during the live auction at Whatcom Museum’s Gala Friday, Jan. 19. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Two years ago, the Whatcom Museum’s “People of the Sea and Cedar” exhibit was in the early planning stages, with ideas and sketches for creating a permanent Northwest Coast native gallery in the Lightcatcher building. It took countless staff meetings, research hours and thoughtful selection of artifacts and art from the museum’s collection. What finally helped bring this exhibit to the community was the financial support individuals offered to the museum during the 2017 Art Auction Gala.

The museum is once again hosting its annual fundraising event, the Art Auction Gala presented by Peoples Bank, on Friday, Jan. 19, at the Lightcatcher building. This glittering evening includes live music, a cocktail hour, silent auctions, a plated dinner and a live auction that includes fine art and experience packages.

As the museum foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year, the gala is not only a fun and exciting event but also provides vital funding for exhibitions and programming. The “Raise the Paddle” auction item helped raise essential funds last year for the “People of the Sea and Cedar” exhibition. This year, the museum will focus on the educational programming related to the exhibit, raising funds for an expanded native language component, as well as updating materials for the popular school program that accompanies the exhibit.

“The Art Auction Gala is the museum’s premier fundraising event, and it is a chance for supporters to dress up, enjoy delicious food and wine, and bid on experiences and artwork, all for a good cause,” said Executive Director Patricia Leach.

The live auction includes significant artworks contributed by locally and regionally renowned artists and donated from private collections. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on artwork by Susan Bennerstrom, Thomas Wood, Ira Yeager, Barbara Sternberger, Ed Bereal, Gerald Baron, Graham Schodda and others.

“We’ve just finished hanging the artwork for the live auction, and it is truly incredible to see the work that has been contributed by our local community,” said Development Manager Althea Harris. “We encourage everyone to stop by the Lightcatcher building to preview the lineup before the gala.”

The evening begins with a cocktail hour and silent auctions at 5:30 p.m, with silent auctions closing between 6:30-7:30 p.m. Once the silent auctions have ended, a plated dinner by Memorable Events will mark the beginning of the live auction, emceed by Tracy Olney.

The Whatcom Museum is supported by the Whatcom Museum Foundation, which provides essential funding for programs, exhibitions, the Family Interactive Gallery, and staff. Additional support is provided by the City of Bellingham. The Art Auction Gala is sponsored by Peoples Bank, which has been a long-time supporter of this annual event. Additional support is provided by US Bank, BelleWood Distilling, Capitol City Press, Bellingham Wedding & Event Rentals, and IAj Multimedia.

Art Auction Gala tickets are $125 per person and are available at BrownPaperTickets.com or in person at the museum store in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street. Ticket sales close Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

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.