Every Saturday and two Fridays a month, passersby will notice canopy tents nestled in Commercial Street Plaza. Beneath the canopies are local artists showcasing and selling their works — macramé, jewelry, photography, paintings, and everything in between. These folks are creators and makers who put inclusion and respect at the forefront of their collective. Perhaps you’ve heard of them: They are the Rebel Artists of Whatcom.
Founded by Autumn Mattson at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rebel Artists of Whatcom is an artist collective that has both an in-person and online presence. Every Saturday from 3-7 p.m. and first Fridays from 4-8 p.m., up to ten Rebel Artists take over Commercial Street Plaza for their market. They also facilitate “Kids Night” on the third Friday of the month from 3-7 p.m. Bubbles, chalk, and hula hoops are provided for kids to play with while their parents shop around.
“Kids Night is really cool,” Mattson says. “It’s free for vendors and all of the vendors have something to offer the children for free.”
Mattson, who owns Wild Hendrix Designs, specializes in macramé and embroidery. Because previous rejections made her feel excluded from other art communities, she aims to create a space for artists to feel welcome rather than judged.
“I’m autistic and I’ve been excluded from a bunch of things my whole life,” Mattson says. “I don’t want other people to feel like how I felt before.”
What started out as Zoom meetings between Mattson and artists she already knew quickly became a weekly staple in downtown Bellingham’s Holly Street Plaza. When Holly Street reopened for vehicles, the collective moved to their current location with the help of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership.
“It just kind of all came together organically in a really cool way,” Mattson says.
Their website includes a list of members who wish to be featured as well as a diversity statement.
“We don’t discriminate against our members for any reason,” it states. “Specifically regarding BIPOC and racial diversity within the membership, we would like to say that we recognize that some members of the collective have experienced a generational inequity to resources. We strongly wish for everyone in the collective to have an equal opportunity to succeed.”
Prospective members can apply on the collective’s website. Membership is $15 a month and includes a website listing, a monthly Instagram post, and three Instagram story mentions. The market fee of $10 is also reduced to $8 for members.
1314 Commercial St., Bellingham, rebelartistsofwhatcom.com