Unbreakable legacies are built by those who understand the hard work and dedication it takes to create them. The staff at Jansen Art Center embodies an incredible work ethic, continuing to develop comprehensive programs and opportunities for each new generation of artists in Whatcom. As the Jansen Art Center evolves, it is with grace and honor that its team thanks departing longtime colleague Karen Bacon, artist and former exhibits manager, for her time and commitment to laying the groundwork for the exhibits.

Artist Terry Redden began volunteering at the J six years ago, wishing to pass on some of his unique artistic experience and knowledge. “In the art center’s early days, they were choosing more fledgling-type artists and that’s good, but you need to build a place that represents the best of,” he says. “What is the best, what is good art? Karen understands how to create or enhance that agenda.”

Its standard of creativity and commitment to local artists sets the J apart from other galleries. Photo courtesy: Jansen Art Center

Alongside her unwavering appreciation for local artists, Terry says Karen always sought to continuously raise the standards in exhibits through meticulous care and organization.

“The art center became a place that wasn’t just a little local gallery, but a spot on the map where it would join the ranks of some of the top commercial galleries in Washington state,” Terry continues. “It’s now a landmark, and she is singlehandedly responsible for raising the status of the art center.”

The level of focus and attention to detail Karen brought to the J always left her coworkers in awe of her skills. “Karen works with precision and growing enlightenment,” Terry says. “She’s very interested in learning and fine tuning her craft and remembers people’s names better than anyone; she always knows the images that people produced and is like an encyclopedia.”

Karen Bacon is a beacon of true professionalism and dynamic leadership in her field. Photo courtesy: Karen Bacon

Jansen Art Center Executive Director Vin Quenneville ruminates on Karen’s work on the exhibits committee and the quality she brought to the J. “One of the big areas of responsibility on her plate was managing the exhibits committee,” Vin says. “Her personality is a really good fit for managing a group of volunteers; she leads by example and sets the stage for everyone to know what the expectations are.”

To Karen, the highest priority has always been not about finishing a project for the sake of it being done, but rather ensuring her elevated standards were met with calm efficiency.

“As an artist,” she says, “I was originally drawn to the J as a beautiful and inspiring venue for exhibits. And, as a creative person, I find it rewarding to support other creative people in the arts. Developing the exhibits at the J has been a rich experience — with the many talented artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and a wonderful team of volunteers.”

High-profile artists trust the Jansen Art Center with their precious work, proving the art center’s reputation for quality standards precedes them. Photo courtesy: Jansen Art Center

Local artist Nancy Canyon worked with Karen two years ago as together they prepped a show of Nancy’s work in the J’s Piano Room. “Karen is intuitive at matching artists’ work and setting up shows that are alive and flowing,” says Nancy. “She such a lovely person and has helped make the J a dynamic center for beautiful art. She will be missed, but I’m sure her elegance will grace us at upcoming J openings in the future.”

Another local artist, Ron Pattern, sings similar praises.

“I had an exhibition at the J in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, and Bacon was a joy to work with,” he says. “She was professional and accommodating and her sense of space and design were impeccable when it came to displaying art. I’m sad to see her leave the J but wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors — I know she will succeed.”

Jansen Arts Director Lindsey Gerhard worked closely alongside Karen for the past year and a half, looking up to Karen as a mentor and an invaluable resource. Now, Karen passes on her duties to Gerhard, who understands the intricacies of artistry in Whatcom and Karen’s vision for exhibits.

Exhibits are one of the strongest elements of the Jansen Art Center organization. Photo courtesy: Jansen Art Center

“Karen is so warm, and so classy,” Lindsey says. “I really loved working alongside her on all the exhibits at the J. She was there quite a long time and over the years got to develop the exhibits into one of the most meaningful parts of our organization.” Thanks to Karen, the J now exhibits high-profile artists that have come to trust the art center with their work.

Lindsey says she appreciates the reputation of exhibits and carries her respect for its thriving structure into her own leadership. “One of my favorite parts about exhibits is being able to work with different artists from all different kinds of backgrounds and experiences and calibers of work,” she says. “[Exhibits] have grown and created an environment that upholds a standard of quality but also prioritizes inclusivity to provide a space for artists to grow and continue their work.”

“Her sense of space and design were impeccable when it came to displaying art,” says local artist Ron Pattern of Karen Bacon’s talents.

This has become an illustration of how the J itself has evolved. “There’s a clear path now where you can take a class here, you can hone your skill in open studios, you can create your art and then set it to display in exhibits or sell in our gallery shop, and then maybe eventually teach here,” Lindsey says. “Everyone has had a part in connecting that full circle of experiences and it’s great to see that play out in exhibits.”

For Karen, it was always a delight to see artists of all ages and experience levels be excited to have their work exhibited at the J, “and bringing their loved ones in to share the experience together,” she says. “I’ll miss the collaboration with both the artists and the volunteers.”

The Jansen Art Center is proud to acknowledge Karen Bacon’s enormous impact on its growth with utmost gratitude and appreciation, and the entire Whatcom art community looks forward to watching Karen flourish in her future endeavors.

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