Mindport entrance. Photo by Zach Barlow and Anne Elliott.

The wild and whimsical art of Mindport

By Anne Elliott

Mindport entrance. Photo by Zach Barlow and Anne Elliott.
Mindport entrance. Photo by Zach Barlow and Anne Elliott.

Mindport is a Bellingham museum where art, science, and technology come together in exhibits that are imagined and put together by its very own staff. “Our exhibits range from wild to whimsical,” said Warren Sheay, a museum guide at Mindport.

“We are trying to muddy up the boundary between science and art,” said Art Director AnMorgan Curry, who has been working at Mindport since 1998.

Mindport originally opened on Grand Avenue in 1995. Curry said that it moved to its new home on Holly Street because of its location and size. After a year of remodeling, Mindport reopened in 2001.

Mindport has a basement where employees can do woodwork for their projects. A workshop on the main level is available for gathering materials and final assembly of exhibits, “and then in the way back we have the metalwork machines,” said Curry.

Mindport was founded by “three guys” who were interested in having a community workshop where people could come in and make things, Curry said.

“One who was interested in science, one interested in technology, and the other who was more interested in photography and the fine arts. They put their heads together and found funding,” she said, adding that Mindport’s funding comes from an anonymous patron. “We are unbelievably fortunate to have private funding,” she said.

Curry said that Mindport does not receive government or corporate funding because the staff does not wish to change its values in order to represent any particular interest.

“We want people to come in and hear their own inner voice and their own judgment,” Curry said.

Mindport is not a commercial gallery, meaning that profit is not its main goal. “We keep a modest admission fee [so that] everyone has the same opportunity to come in,” said Curry.

Kevin Jones is a founding member and the Director at Mindport whose art can be found throughout the museum, in the form of both scientific exhibits and still life art. His photography often depicts scenery from locations around Washington.

One of Jones’ interactive exhibits is “The House of Mystery,” which started as an experiment in “spontaneous creation,” Jones wrote in a description about his piece. He went on to say that he wanted to reproduce the atmosphere of one of his reoccurring dreams set in a decaying house.

The miniature house took eight months to put together, and is built mainly from Lummi Island beach wood. It features rooms that light up with the wave of a magnetic wand, revealing tiny surprises in each one.

Glowing gas discharge tubes light up the rooms. Jones wrote that this “ionized gas, glowing in a near vacuum, has been called the fourth state of matter. The others are gas, liquid, and solid.” It’s the same gas that’s found in the sun and stars.

Curry, who also has still life art and interactive exhibits set up around Mindport, said that her favorite thing about the museum is that staff members are “free to do what we want to do. We are allowed to play, with some purpose.”

In one part of the museum, staff members built a small library containing puzzle and quiz books, photographs, a glass-top table filled with sand, and a guitar with a chord sheet.

Curry said that a fan, a fog machine, and some simple piping make up a miniature tornado exhibit, in which you push a button to create a whirlwind.

Curry recommended the museum as a good place to bring a first date. “[Couples] can come here and then go around the corner to Bayou on the Bay,” she said. She mentioned that a pair of visitors once got engaged at Mindport, which they wrote in the museum’s guest book.

If someone is looking for a place to cultivate an artistic career in terms of science, technology or fine art, Curry said she is more than happy to consider them as a future employee.

“When I find someone who has some unusual work, or people who may be able to take their work further once they see it set up [in the museum], those are the people I am interested in hiring,” she said. “You don’t have to have a portfolio or prove to me that you can do something. I talk with people and see what they have in mind, and encourage them to break out of the patterns of art they’ve been making for a while.”

Curry said that she will soon be working with Margot Myers, whose “bread and butter” is making art with unique fabrics. “Margot Myers currently sells her work at the farmers market, she is a very good fabric and fiber artist,” said Curry.

Admission to Mindport costs $2 per person. The museum is open Wed.-Fri. from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sun. from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit Mindport’s website, mindport.org.

“It’s a great place. The kids love it,” Sheay said. “It’s a lot better than sitting in front of a video game.”


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