Students view art

Whatcom Museum partners with Bellingham Public Schools on a variety of programming supporting arts in education.

During the winter/spring exhibition of Images of Resilience: Chicano Art and its Mexican Roots at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, nearly 400 Bellingham Public Schools students participated in the “Art FUNdamentals” program. The program was a three-part educational series which included a pre-tour visit to classrooms, an interactive gallery tour and a hands-on studio experience at the museum. As part of the program, students from seven schools learned about traditional Mexican art and the artists that inspired the 1960s Chicano Art Movement. They viewed the art pieces hanging in the museum gallery with a museum educator, discussed Mexican-American and Chicano culture and identity while exploring their own heritage, and created a work of art onsite at the museum that explored their own identity/culture.

Photos 1 to 4: Museum educator Mary Jo Maute leads elementary students through the exhibit on Chicano art

Photos 5 to 9: Northern Heights students create art inspired by their walk through the exhibit.

Art Career Day is another program offered by the museum reaching out to high school students who may be aspiring artists. Now in its twentieth year, Art Career Day offers onsite sessions with artists and art schools. Students from all four high schools in the district attended. Students participated in a keynote session and five other workshop sessions they chose, meeting with college representatives, area artists and art businesses. (Photos 10 and 11: High school students with Seattle artist Alfredo Arreguin and artist Christen Mattix)

Most recently, the Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) at the Whatcom Museum hosted an event for families prior to the solar eclipse in Aug. 2017 and partnered with the district on making attendance accessible to families.  (Photos 12, 13 and 14)

Museum staff Mary Jo Maute and Susanna Brooks took time to respond to a few questions about their recent Arts Fundamental programming.


Describe what the students experienced when they visited the museum and viewed the artwork on display in the Chicano exhibit, or in any exhibit?

Brooks: The museum visit provides students with the opportunity to come face-to-face with works of art, a unique opportunity for teachers and their students to engage in a visual and tangible way with objects while stimulating conversations outside the classroom walls. The museum provides a safe and neutral place for dialogue to occur. The Chicano art exhibition, in particular, introduced students to traditional Mexican art and culture and Mexican American or Chicano art and culture. The exhibition gave students a safe place in which to confront their own ideas about multicultural identity.

Maute: Students we worked with in the Images of Resilience exhibit were very excited to see the colorful and interesting art in the huge gallery with brightly painted walls. They loved seeing the recurring skeleton theme and learning more about Dia de los Muertos. Minority students were very proud to see work of Mexican American artists featured at the Whatcom Museum and to learn more about the rich history of Mexican artists and culture. They also loved the studio project which asked them to select an animal that represented their personality and created a colorful patterned marker drawing based on Alfredo Arreguin’s work and the Alebrijes carving tradition.

The three-part Art FUNdamentals program is designed with these goals: to bring students to a cultural center to see original art; to introduce students to art history, contemporary art teaching, and important historical and cultural movements; to provide techniques for looking at and talking about art in a group setting (developing visual literacy and visual thinking strategies);  to give students an opportunity to respond creatively to works of art or themes in a studio setting using materials they may not have regular access to; and to introduce students to elements of art and design as they create a work of art.


Was there any memorable moment of students being moved by the museum experience?

Brooks: I experienced this during my tours. I had a few students open up to me after the tour and share that they were grateful to learn the difference between being Mexican, Mexican American or Chicano. They always thought these identities were one and the same. They felt the tour helped them better understand the complex relationship between ethnicity and culture from multiple perspectives. They were especially intrigued by the piece titled Sun Mad, a socio-political print about the deadly pesticides that Mexican American farmworkers are still exposed to today.



Visit the museum website for information on upcoming Art FUNdamentals art exhibitions.

Information on school tours and workshops can also be found online.

For more information and to schedule a Whatcom Museum tour program, contact


1 Comment

  1. Can you direct me to any programs for 4 year old artists who are showing signs of serious talent in the Bellingham area of Washington State please.

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