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Art consortium disbands, two Bellingham museums will get part of collection

Old City Hall, in Bellingham, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The building was built in 1892 and is now part of the Whatcom Museum.
Old City Hall, in Bellingham, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The building was built in 1892 and is now part of the Whatcom Museum. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

The 7-member consortium of the Washington Art Consortium will disband and WAC’s art collection and endowment assets will be distributed to six of its member art museums, its board said Thursday.

Among the six museums the collection will be distributed to are Western Gallery at Western Washington University, and Whatcom Museum.

The board’s decision to disband “the consortium arrangement follows a period of strategic planning over the last 18 months,” according to a news release from the board.

“Of primary concern in the strategic planning process was the ongoing care of and access to the works of art held by WAC,” the news release said. “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 board also agreed the former members of the consortium will have priority access to borrow those works for exhibition or research, free of loan fees.

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, and Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

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, according to the news release.

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