Whatcom Art Guild celebrates 50 years of supporting artists

Whatcom Art Guild hosts the final event of its yearlong celebration of the organization’s 50th year with its annual group show and sale, “Art at the Airport,” Friday through Sunday, Nov. 7-9, at Hampton Inn’s Fox Hall.

Lorraine Day, the guild’s publicity chair, says members are most proud of the guild’s five decades of support to artists of all levels, the opportunities it offers members for showing and selling their work, and the two main benefit programs the group runs — a silent auctions to fund scholarships for Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College art students, and a raffle of donated art to purchase art and craft supplies for children at St. Joseph hospital.

Bellingham painter Lori Hill has been in the guild for three years. When she moved to Bellingham she wanted to connect with other artists, and the guild was a perfect fit, she says.

In the early 1980s she followed her husband’s work to live in Gabon, in west Africa. The experience still haunts her 30 years later.

“There was an indescribable connectivity I felt with the people and the land of Africa,” she says. “Some heavy primal force that made me view nature in a new light.”

“I have delved into many subjects in my art from landscapes, to birds, to teacups, over the years. No matter what I paint, my heart always goes back to Africa and the beauty of the land and its inhabitants,” she says. “I strive to capture this beauty in my artwork and to hopefully move others with the magnificence that is Africa.”

Mike Mroczkiewicz of Everson, who calls himself an “artist, fisherman and dreamer” (not necessarily in that order, he adds) says that when his decades-long remodeling career ended due to health reasons, he still had a desire to create and build.

“So I replaced my large, heavy tools with small, light tools and began working with the bits and pieces of driftwood, rocks, metal and other ‘junk’ that had accumulated in my shop,” he says.

What was meant to be a retirement hobby soon became a minor obsession, and with the encouragement of family and friends, he began to consider selling his creations.

“Not having a clue as to how to proceed, I joined the WAG to rub elbows with, and learn from, local artists,” he says. “It was the best thing I could have done. I've received a healthy mix of constructive criticism, art world exposure, moral support, and realistic advice. Nothing builds confidence like acceptance by the people you're proud to call peers.”

Ferndale maritime artist James Williamson has been a guild member since 1975. (His award-winning annual “Ships” calendar has been available for decades at local outlets.)

“I had just been discharged from the Air Force and began classes at Western Washington University, majoring in art and graphics,” he says. “I wanted to become part of the community as an artist and find venues to sell my work. I also wanted to meet other practicing local artists.”

As he met other artists, they exchanged knowledge about art supplies, venues, framing and marketing, which continues today, Williamson says.

Photographer Carol Sheppard, who joined in 2013, says the guild is a group where artists of all backgrounds and experience levels feel at home.

“It provides a collaboration of resources for those seeking to market their work, in addition to providing a safe space in which to get feedback about your work,” she says. “The other artists are not just colleagues, but great friends and sometimes even close to being family!”