How The West Was Spun

Whatcom Museum exhibit seeks to correct enduring myths

By Rob Smith

Red Star, Wendy_Four Seasons-Spring copy
Artist: Wendy Red Star; Spring From Four Seasons Series: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, 2006

August 11, 2022

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Much of what you know about the Old West is a myth. A new exhibit at the Whatcom seeks to provide a broader and more historically accurate perspective.

The nationally-touring exhibition, “Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea,” examines the perspectives of 48 modern and contemporary artists who offer a more inclusive view of the West beyond historical narratives and pop culture. 

The museum says the exhibition “examines previous misconceptions and questions racist clichés.” It is presented in both English and Spanish and is organized around three main themes: “Caretakers,” an examination of how artists can redefine what it means to care for communities; “Boundary Breakers,” featuring artists who correct culturally inaccurate myths; and “Memory Makers,” an exploration of how artists act as transmitters of cultural memory as they focus on neglected histories of the West.

“Many Wests” highlights artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Latinx and LBGTQ+.

The exhibition runs through Aug. 21 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building in Bellingham.

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