Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Kids Love Mid-Summer Arts Festivals

Summer must bring out the best in Northwest artists. While our little corner of the world has something beautiful to offer each season, several local communities celebrate the end of July with an arts festival. Take a look at some details about festival highlights that you and your kids won’t want to miss this year!

Bellingham Arts Festival and Chalk ArtFest
Saturday, July 31, 10 AM – 6 PM & Sunday, August 1, 11 AM – 5 PM
Cornwall Avenue and throughout Downtown Bellingham

Bellingham Arts Festival & Chalk ArtFest Bellingham Arts Festival & Chalk ArtFest
Photo by Tore Ofteness

Bellingham’s fifth annual art festival, previously known as La Bella Strada, showcases the craftsmanship of over 60 Northwest artisans. Along with vendors selling pottery, fine art, jewelry, and other crafts, there will also be local food vendors available for purchase and live music by local performers. Families will definitely want to stop by the Allied Arts Info Booth at 1400 Cornwall Avenue for activities that kids will love, like face-painting, drawing with oil pastels, and mandala making. If you venture away from Cornwall Avenue, you can also enjoy the magnificent chalk art by local artists of all ages that will decorate our city’s sidewalks. Until the next rainfall, at least.

Point Roberts Arts and Music Festival
Saturday, July 31, 11 AM – 7 PM & Sunday, August 1, 11 AM – 5 PM
Lighthouse Marine Park

Bellingham Arts Festival & Chalk ArtFest Bellingham Arts Festival
& Chalk ArtFest
Photo by Tore Ofteness

Artists of all disciplines, musicians, dancers, and culinary artists will share their talents at Lighthouse Marine Park for the Point Roberts Art Foundation‘s 15th Annual Point Roberts Arts & Music Festival. Kids can try their hand at making some art of their own, and have a chance to talk with the various artisans about their creations. Come ready to eat, dance, and celebrate Northwest art!

Samish Island Summer Arts Festival
Saturday, July 31, 10 AM to 5 PM
Samish Island Community Center

The quiet community of Samish Island invites visitors to attend their 14th annual Summer Arts Festival, featuring glass art, woodwork, photography, garden art, and much more, created by Northwest artists. This year’s featured artist is Kathy Huckleberry, a ceramic artist who celebrates the natural beauty and wildlife of Skagit County with custom mixed glazes and fused glass in her sculptures. Enjoy live music, buy lunch from Sigi’s Breads and Cinnabuns, and win a door prize!

How does your family celebrate the arts in the Northwest? Leave a comment below!

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Summer Youth Improv Channels Creativity

Summer Improv Class Upfront Theatre Summer Improv Class
Left to Right: Baker McQuaide, Amelia Stark, and Mathew Pysden. Photo by Mike McQuaide

Improv (short for improvisational acting) means performing without a script, making the content up with your partner as you go along. Whether you’ve seen improv at Bellingham’s The Upfront Theatre, on television’s Whose Line is it Anyway?, or never before, improv classes designed specifically for youth (ages 7 to 15) are available in Bellingham this summer.

Children are naturally creative and silly all on their own. Parents, teachers, and especially peers encourage them to “act their age.” Upfront Instructor Rosemarie Guarino clarifies, “at this age, kids feel they have to hide or change who they are to fit in and be cool.” That push toward maturity can squash their inherent imagination and playfulness.

Improv Playworks Instructor Sheila Goldsmith has noticed that some kids that don’t feel like they fit in anywhere else find their niche in improv class. “It’s amazing to see shy kids, or kids that consider themselves misfits, blossom in this environment.” Learning improv provides a fun, safe, and constructive outlet for kids to express their originality through games, exercises, and storytelling.

Eleven-year old Baker McQuaide, who recently completed a youth class at the Upfront Theater, first became interested in improv after learning some games in drama class at Cedar Tree Montessori. “My mom, dad, and aunt also took adult improv classes at the Upfront, and we’ve seen some great shows there with Ryan Stiles. He’s one of my heroes,” explains Baker.

The class approach varies depending on the age group and instructor but usually involves playing games and creating impromptu skits or scenes using only suggestions from the audience and the inventiveness of the individual actors.

Summer Improv Class Upfront Theatre Summer Improv Class
Left to Right: Baker McQuaide, Instructor Billy Tierney, Amelia Stark, seated Instructor Rosemarie Guarino, and Mathew Pysden.
Photo by Mike McQuaide

“Our games accomplish goals like learning to focus, channeling impulse, and connecting with other people, including becoming comfortable with eye contact,” explains Upfront Instructor Billy Tierney. Guarino also notes, “Kids are very familiar with storytelling. We just help them focus and dissect the essential elements of a story like setting, character, problem, and solution.”

Students also learn practical skills that can be applied elsewhere. “Improv builds confidence. There is no consequence to failure here. Teaching kids that failure is okay is a really powerful tool,” explains Tierney. Kids learn confidence when they are asked to do something and then accomplish it, even if that doesn’t happen on the first try.

Baker’s father, Mike McQuaide, considers improv an important part of his son’s educational foundation. “Baker has had piano lessons for four years as the basis of his musical education. Improv works the same way, as groundwork for dealing with new situations.”

Baker plans to sign up for the next level class this summer as a one-week camp. “I had a great time and I would definitely recommend the classes to other kids. I really liked the teachers. If I get good at it, I’d like to volunteer and maybe someday become a player on stage,” says Baker.

Both The Upfront Theatre and Improv Playworks are currently registering for one-week camps in July and August. Contact each location directly to register.

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Interview with Art Teacher Gabriel Miles

We’re always excited to help local parents get to know some of the amazing people in Bellingham and Whatcom County who help make our community a special place to raise children. Gabriel Miles is a local artist, certified art teacher, and parent. Gabriel offers special art programs for kids ages 2 to 8 (and their parents) at various locations in Bellingham. Keep reading to find out more about Gabriel’s philosophy of working with young children in the arts! When did you first become interested in the arts?

Gabriel Miles and her daughter. Gabriel Miles and her daughter.
Photo courtesy Gabriel Miles

Gabriel Miles: I’ve always known that I was destined to be an artist. As a child and young adult, I would spend hours creating art or experimenting with new mediums.

NK: What is your educational background as an artist and educator?

GM: I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and a Master of Science in Art Education from Syracuse University.

NK: How long have you lived in Bellingham and what brought you to the area?

Student at Gabriel Miles' art class. Student at Gabriel Miles’ class.
Photo courtesy Whatcom Museum

GM: My husband and I have lived here for almost seven years now. We love it here. We are east coasters originally and moved here after living in the Bay Area for a couple of years. We were done with city living and love the outdoors; Bellingham just sounded amazingly appealing.

NK: What do you enjoy most about working with pre-school and school-age children?

GM: I’ve recently come to love working with the younger children. When I was first in graduate school and student teaching, I enjoyed working with the high school students; to me, they were easier to teach, perhaps because I was younger and closer to their age.

Now, after having a child of my own and teaching art for the last several years to all age groups, I have a new found love of teaching and creating with toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary age children. There is such a vivid imagination in them and a fearlessness of creating. To them, it is mostly experimenting and creating to create; they are not at all concerned about the outcome. There is a freedom in that, one that the older children do not posses.

NK: What advice would you have for parents who want to expose their children to art of all kinds?

Student at Gabriel Miles' art class. Student at Gabriel Miles’ art class.
Photo courtesy Whatcom Museum

GM: Do it! Allow them to create at home. Have crayons and paper handy at all times. Allow them to paint, to mold with play-dough (excellent for motor development skills), and to be free. Please allow them to make a mess; that is part of the experience! Remember, most child-friendly art materials are parent-friendly because they are very easy to clean up.

Look for art classes, take them to museums, into nature, listen to music while drawing, dance and remember to have fun. You are doing your child such an amazing benefit by encouraging creative expression. More than likely your child will not grow up to be an artist, but the arts impact to the whole education of your child. In music arts, there is a correlation to math; the same can be said in visual arts as well as history, writing, speaking, expression, opinion, problem solving, and so much more.

NK: Do you have plans to open your own art school?

GM: Oh, such a dream. I’ve had this dream for as long as I can remember. Who knows? I would sure love it. Maybe someday.

Keep an eye on Activities to find the great art classes Gabriel offers for the kids in our community.

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