This art train is bound for Blaine

Published on Thu, Jul 4, 2002 by Mikael Kenoyer

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This art train is bound for Blaine

By Mikael Kenoyer

To see the awe-inspiring moonscape of Man’s First Step On the Moon, by Norman Rockwell, the famed Andy Warhol silkscreen of Buzz Aldrin, Moonwalk 1, or Henry Casselli’s introspective watercolors, the Blaine art lover would normally need to visit Washington, D.C. Thanks to the United States/ Canada Peace Anniversary Association (USCPAA), it won’t be necessary to travel any further than Peace Portal and Marine drives.

The exhibit is Artistry of Space, and unlike other traveling collections that are shipped from museum to museum, this one has wheels. ARTrain USA, the only museum in the nation of its type, will be chugging into town behind a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe engine July 18.

Of the train’s five cars, three are gallery cars, that carry artwork selected by the former curator at the National Air and Space Museum, Susan Lawson-Bell. She has whittled the approximately 3,000 pieces contained in the NASA Art Program, 40 year’s worth of artist interpretation of space exploration, to a 78-piece display of varied media, from drawings and paintings to music and fiber art. The exhibit is designed to take the viewer from the American lunar missions, to the space shuttle and the deep-space explorations, telling the story of the space program, as well as the NASA Art Program. Other cars on the ARTrain USA house the office, a gift shop, and an artists’ studio where audiences can watch local artists at work.

The USCPAA has been on a waiting list for a couple of years to bring Artrain to Blaine. “It’s a very big deal,” said Christina Alexander, founder and president of the USCPAA. Her goal with Artrain was twofold: to bring important works of art to a community that doesn’t have ready access to nationally important exhibits, and to bring people to town who haven’t had reason to come to Blaine before.

Artrain is another indication that the USCPAA, founded in 1995 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Peace Arch, is moving toward bigger activities, according to Alexander. While the USCPAA is responsible for attracting the Artrain and preparing Blaine to play host, Alexander is quick to credit others instrumental in making the event a success. “The city has been great, really supportive,” she said, in cleaning up the surroundings of the railroad siding that will be home to Artrain. The Whatcom Transit Authority will offer a special park and ride shuttle through downtown and to Birch Bay. The Semiahmoo Ladies Club (SLC) has made Artrain a part of their Adopt-a-Project volunteer program.

Coordinated by co-president Pat Gilson, the SLC has come up with about 50 volunteers to guide ARTrain tours. Volunteer Al Gilson said “It’s a major accomplishment of the people of Blaine to have brought this particular train and its contents to Blaine. It’s really a feather in the cap.” He added both the space program and the train itself, a string of newly renovated 1940s cars, should attract their own admirers.

Alexander anticipates easily 500 visitors each of the four days Artrain will be open in Blaine. If all goes well, and Artrain is the “really neat, smooth-running event” she expects, the USCPAA will likely ask to host it on the next west coast tour, after the exhibit changes.

ARTrain will be open daily 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., July 18 – 21. While the exhibit is free and open to all, donations will be accepted.. .
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