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Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
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November 2012
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Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

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June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

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April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

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November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

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September 2011
Hope springs eternal


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The Hotel Waldorf
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Education for the eye,
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Fine art inkjet prints
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Gallery Views

By ANN ROSENBERG

Sculpting with Light at Bellingham's Whatcom Museum

Our last article featured the Richmond Olympic Oval. In May of this year, months in advance of the Olympics, the multipurpose sports and wellness facility received an Award of Excellence for Innovation in Architecture (Science) from The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada because of its ingenious roof structure and green building methods. The building's most important conservation feature is the way that the rain water collected high above on the roof is sent down run-off channels to perform a number of different tasks.

Whatcom Lightcatcher

Whatcom Museum's new award-winning 37-foot high Lightcatcher feature, designed by the architecture firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen.

Like the Olympic Oval, the Lightcatcher addition to the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham received accolades from critics and prestigious associations before construction was completely finished. In September, two months before the November 14 grand opening of the 42,000-square-foot Lightcatcher, the Seattle architecture firm of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen won the American Institute of Architects 2009 AIA Architecture Firm Award for their design. Later that month, the winning firm issued a press release stating that the Lightcatcher was designed by founding partner Jim Olson and named for its focal point and most innovative featurea spectacular wall 37 feet high and 180 feet long that captures the Northwest' s most precious natural resource, sunlight.

The chief architectural element of the Lightcatcher begins in the interior where it is a major feature inside the new addition and is linked to the older part of the museum before extending outside into a public plaza, where it becomes a inviting, protecting arm of the two-storey high courtyard. The same curved unit bridges and unifies the museum's interior and exterior spaces.

During the day, the light-porous wall, constructed of specially designed, large glass rectangular elements floods the halls and galleries inside with a warm luminosity, serving as a beautiful, eco-friendly, and energy-saving light fixture that will also help to ventilate the building. In addition, the elegant wall reflects light into the Garden of the Ancients in the courtyard, a site which is expected be one of Bellingham's “most active public spaces.”

As the sun sets, the Lightcatcher responds to and glows with the changing colours of the structures interior illumination in a lantern-like fashion. This luminescence serves as a welcoming beacon to the community and can be seen from afar. The building uses natural materials endemic to the region and is the first museum in Washington State designed and registered to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver-level specifications.

Olson described his Lightcatcher as a celebration of the Northwest glass movement and as an object that occasionally glows like a piece of yellowish agate from a nearby beach. At other moments he wanted it to soften light like our clouds and create a sense of mystery like our mist and fog.

The firm considers the Lightcatcher to be a dynamic, porous backdrop for sculptures. This claim will be put to its first major test when the inaugural exhibits are in place. The new addition which contains state-of-the-art climate-controlled galleries will increase the museum's capacity to display local and travelling shows and provide more naturally ventilated spaces for public programming. The shape of the light wall in the Lightcatcher appears more or less concave depending on its hue. In certain conditions the rectangular niches in the interior where three-dimensional objects are placed, resemble cubicles in a crematorium, suitable repositories for revered artifacts ancient or modern.

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic and author.

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