College of Fine and Performing Arts

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Learn more about the College of Fine and Performing Arts & Departments!

College of Fine and Performing Arts

The CFPA offers hundreds of performances, presentations, and exhibitions each year featuring the talents of our students and faculty, special guest lecturers, professional performers, and visual artists. These include many of our successful alumni who return to share their expertise with our students to prepare them for their own careers.

We provide our students with rigorous visual and performing arts education. Our students, faculty, and alumni are recognized nationally and internationally.


The generosity of friends of the CFPA has made a invaluable impact on our students and the community we serve. Gifts fund:

  • professional performances and exhibitions open to the public
  • crucial K-12 education outreach
  • scholarships for students in all our departments
  • academic programming, including
    • clinics
    • masterclasses
    • guest lecturers
    • student travel
    • faculty professional development
    • symposia


The goal of the College of Fine and Performing Arts is to nurture a comprehensive understanding of the languages of Movement Art, Visual Art, Theatre Art and Music in order to create thinking artists and artistic thinkers who will shape and translate global culture in the 21st century.

To fulfill this mission, the College of Fine and Performing Arts aims:

  • To maintain a viable connection with the liberal arts tradition of the university.

  • To equip students with the creative and intellectual tools necessary for success in the arts.

  • To enable students to value, understand and challenge traditional concepts.

  • To maintain an environment that supports diversity, reflection and dedication to creative pursuits.

  • To promote critical thinking, innovative ideas and active arts leadership.

  • To provide world class and multicultural experiences in the arts for both students and members of the community.

  • To prepare students for a dynamic, lifelong relationship with the arts.

Art & Art History

Student Success Story:

From an Art Student – “I noticed this mail art call with a Covid themed project called “You Are Not Alone” from the Penticton Art Gallery in Vancouver, BC sometime in March. They were calling for artists to make a response to the quarantine with work that highlighted “resiliency, creativity and collective humanity in face of these extraordinary times.” I decided to incorporate it into my class curriculum and make it our final project for 306, Mixed Media on Paper. They used cyanotype as one medium in the process, and with the help of work study Dulce we got their home addresses, and Allen ordered and sent each one of them a cyanotype kit. After the projects were completed, and we critiqued them online I had students deliver their work to my home by mail or deposit them on my front porch in a box. I packed everything up and shipped it all to Canada. They made strong impactful work about their individual experiences with the Quarantine and Covid-19.  

Later I received a wonderful message from the curator Paul Crawford about opening the box and what a great surprise it was. Now we are all in an international exhibition with many well-known artists. It will be digitized and preserved as a time capsule, and it is going to travel to Berlin and France in 2021! It is amazing and inspiring to read all the artist names and find my students names mixed in with some very well-known artists.” 

For events, please check out the Western Gallery Talks by recent BFA students October 5-8:

If that is too early for your purposes, I know that Tami Landis is working with Jeniene Bengtsson on a Western Engaged event in November that will feature BFA alumni. I don’t have the date for that yet, but Jeniene might have it.

For funding priority, what about raising funding for the B-Gallery and BFA catalogs? The annual B-Gallery catalog highlights the work of seniors in their capstone courses. The BFA catalog accompanies the BFA exhibition in Western Gallery, features the culmination of BFA students’ yearlong project and also features essays written by Art History majors.

Theatre & Dance

Student Success Stories:

2019 Alum Jay Chavez won the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival’s National Award for Full-Length Undergraduate Play.  In short, this is the top award for undergraduate playwriting in the country!  WWU Theatre & Dance will kick off our 2020-2021 season with a live-streamed production of their play how to clean your room: and remember all your trauma this fall, directed by faculty member Evan Mueller.

2019 Alum Aiken Muller, one of our most talented actors to graduate from our program, just scored in the top 99th percentile when he took his law degree entrance exam.  He is currently applying to top law schools to apply his performance skills to fight for social justice in court.  Aiken was a double-major in Theatre and German and studied abroad in Munich during his summers at WWU.

Specific funding priorities for this year.

Replace the blue mats in PAC 399 – our acting studio.  We’re hoping to replace half of them (14); we need $3000.

Reusable wood floor for DUG Theatre Productions: $2500.  We have designed and starting to build a wood floor that can be reconfigured for different production in the DUG Theatre for years to come. This moves us towards Green Theatre practices of reusing design elements and lessens the pressure on our production teams.

What is new in the department?

Our devised production of HereToo-WWU won three National Awards from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival this spring: the Citizen Artists Award, Distinguished Devised Production Award, and Outstanding Lead Deviser Award for faculty member Rich Brown and guest artist Barbara Pitts-McAdams from NYC’s Tectonic Theatre Project. This marks the second time Brown has won the Outstanding Lead Deviser Award (the first was in 2012 for US), making him the only person in the country to receive it twice since it began in 2012. When guest artists of the caliber of Pitts-McAdams reaches out to WWU to work with our students, it shows the evidence of our national reputation for devising and undergraduate theatre training. HereToo is also a national theatre project that will continue to be produced by professional and educational theatres across the country in years to come.


"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams" - Arthur O’Shaughnessy

A community dedicated to music

We are a community of musicians and teachers who work collaboratively to support and encourage one another. All are welcome in our department to experience the joy of performing, listening, and learning about music. More than ever before, we believe in the power of music to bring joy, beauty, and peace to the world.

Work hard, play more

Our department’s core values of hard work and the spirit of work and play reach back to the early 20th century when Western was known as the Bellingham Normal School and the town of Bellingham was a community of hard-working pioneers. In 1923, a music student was quoted in the student newspaper remarking that, “I never worked harder in all my life nor have I ever enjoyed myself more in my work.” These values are as relevant today as they were nearly 100 years ago.

Help our students through this uncertain time!

Many of our students and their families are struggling with the financial hardship and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Your gift to our music department scholarship fund will go to our returning music students to help them remain in school next year.


Student Success Story:

Rae Baitx, who won the Research and Creative Opportunities for Undergraduates Award. Their winning project, which is currently in process, consists of a year-long art program comprising of twelve unique fine art print editions, which are being distributed monthly in different locations around WWU and Bellingham. Students in WWU’s Studio Art and Design programs are creating each unique design, which are free to the public and available in a limited edition of prints. Additionally, one print from each edition will be displayed in a gallery exhibition and fundraiser that will directly support the program’s continuation.


Students selected for Western’s Design BFA cohort complete internships as part of their degree requirement. These internships typically involve students relocating to Seattle where they work full-time for 10 weeks at a design studio or corporation. The circumstances of 2020 with the global pandemic invited an opportunity for innovation in order to meet the needs of both the students and our employer partners. Despite economic and proximal uncertainties, the strong reputation of Western’s designers enabled placement of over half of the cohort in full-time, paid, remote employment. Reviews from both the students and employers at the completion of these internship were resoundingly positive – though they did not interact in person, mentoring, growth and contribution flourished.

The remaining students formed a mini design studio named “Tyro,” a word meaning “beginner,” and conducted a design sprint – a two-week summer intensive - where they solicited and completed brand work for local small businesses. While the experience was distinct, this new format taught students entrepreneurial skills along with the hands-on collaboration critical for a design professional. The students designed logos, websites and promotional collateral for companies such as CrittEar, calming ear plugs for dogs; Wear on Earth, a yarn and clothing business; Saville Arms, a specialty knife retailer;Claudette Evan’s yoga studio;and fragrances by Molly Ray, a boutique perfumery. In addition to working directly with clients, students were partnered with successful design alumni from around the country for mentoring sessions. These students will complete their remaining internship credits Fall quarter along with their university courses, made possible by the remote learning and employment modalities. While the circumstances are daunting, the strength, creativity and resilience of Western’s design program demonstrates once again it is up for the challenge.

Gifts to Design:

Specific funding priorities for this year include scholarships (especially those supporting students affected by the pandemic), special guest speakers, virtual workshops and presentations by prominent designers from around the world, and equipment that supports student’s future ability to be competitive in today’s design job market. Some equipment we are interested in is: a 360 degree camera students can borrow for motion graphics, Cinema 4D software, and a subscription to an online music library so students can add music to motion and video projects. We would like to make some physical classroom improvements, as well, such as adding windows to the print and computer labs and spatially integrating the print lab, screen-printing facilities, and Instruction & Classroom Support Technician office.

Though Design Days was completely virtual last spring due to Covid 19, it was a great success and was accessible to a much larger audience of current and potential students, as well as to our alumni all over the world. Whether or not Design Days is in person or online next spring, we are confident that we will curate a successful and joyful celebration of our students’ work. We are looking forward to incorporating some of the lessons from this year of remote instruction and learning, and to pursue further online opportunities to expose our students to a wider design community. Our Design Club, for example, is currently busy organizing various opportunities for our students to interact with professional designers, which will be posted on our website.

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