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Bellingham arts center proposed for Cascade Laundry building

The former Cascade Laundry building is the site for the proposed Sylvia Center for the Performing Arts.
The former Cascade Laundry building is the site for the proposed Sylvia Center for the Performing Arts. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

On Feb. 27, I attended a meeting of about 80 local residents involved in the performing and visual arts who had been called together by Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao, the founder of iDiOM Theater.

He announced that iDiOm’s last show in the Cornwall Avenue space it currently shares with Allied Arts and Limelight Cinema would be this June. That’s because Hergenhahn-Zhao and his theater board plan to create a multi-venue performing arts center in the former Cascade Laundry building at 205 Prospect St.

We’re working on a large fundraising and grant-writing campaign so the project would be able to move forward even if we weren’t able to get city funding.

Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao, iDiOM founder

Called the Sylvia Center for the Arts, it would help meet Bellingham’s arts community’s need for affordable space for performances, rehearsals, and educational activities. The budget for the center is $1.4 million, with about $550,000 still to be raised over the next nine to 12 months.

Hergenhahn-Zhao says the center isn’t necessarily relying on money from the city.

“We’re working on a large fundraising and grant-writing campaign so the project would be able to move forward even if we weren’t able to get city funding,” he says.

The project has two phases.

Phase one: The main floor, with about 7,500 square feet, will have a main theater available for performances starting February 2017, and a studio theater space with a classroom, rehearsal area, and a ground-level stage area, all available for classes and rehearsals this May and for performances in September.

Plans also include a cafe to open with the large theater next February.

Phase two: The second floor, with about 2,000 square feet, would be available later for weddings, fundraisers, and performances, as well as for nonprofit arts organization offices, rehearsal studios, classrooms, photography and video-production studios, soundproof music rooms, and a costume shop.

The signed lease includes 20 years of options on the building.

The center is named after Sylvia Scholtz, a patron of iDiOM theater, who died in 2009. She was the mother of Bellingham musician Richard Scholtz and grandmother of Ben Scholtz, owner of Mallard Ice Cream.

People can see the future home of the arts center starting at 6 p.m. during the Friday, April 1, Downtown Art Walk. There will be music by Deakin Hicks, cake walks for kids, a craft market, art from Allied Arts’ recycled art expo, and information about the project, followed by a square dance.

A fundraiser for the project will be April 30 at iDiOM’s space on Cornwall Avenue, with jazz by Julian MacDonough and friends, cocktails and appetizers, poems, and toasts to the old space.

iDiOM is seeking board and staff members. People interested in volunteering, or who have special skills to offer, should email

Amy Armitage at Vinostrology

March 31 Amy Armitage Keep Your Head Down
Amy Armitage exhibits her works at Vinostrology during the Downtown Art Walk, April 1. Amy Armitage Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Painter Amy Armitage shows her work at Vinostrology, 120 W. Holly St., during the Downtown Art Walk on Friday, April 1.

Armitage and her husband, John McColloch, came to Bellingham from Denver in 2000 after they read “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America.”

Armitage says she’s often asked why many of her paintings depict animals that are trying to prey on other animals. Perhaps not coincidentally, the series she has been working on for the past few years is called “Everybody’s Gotta Eat.”

In 2015, she had a painting purchased for Northwest Youth Services by Bellingham Group Art Purchase, organized by Jeni Cottrell to match local artwork with nonprofit service organizations in the community.

For more on her, go to and

Jazz returns to Sudden Valley

March 31 Harry Allen Jazz
Harry Allen performs with Cory Weeds April 2 at the Sudden Valley Dance Barn. Chriss & Co. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

K. C. Sulkin once again hosts his annual Sudden Valley Jazz Series, beginning with a Battle of the Tenors at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the Dance Barn, Gate 2, 8 Barn View Court. The concert features two prominent tenor saxophonists; Canada’s Cory Weeds and New York City’s Harry Allen.

Tickets are $20 for each of the four concerts. Tickets for the entire series can be purchased for $70 at Saturday’s concert. Individual and series tickets are also available at the Sudden Valley Community Association office, Sudden Valley Community Center, Village Books, and online at Details: call Sulkin, 360-671-1709.

Future concerts, which all begin at 3 p.m., are:

May 21: Greta Matassa and her little Big Band, backed by a 13-piece jazz band led by David Marriott playing the music of Bellingham’s Phil Kelly.

Sept. 24: Jon-Erik Kellso salutes the music of Louis Armstrong, with Evan Arntzen on reeds.

Nov. 6: Jorge Luis Pacheco, direct from Havana, Cuba.