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Submitted by Mindport Exhibits

Mindport Exhibits, a downtown Bellingham fixture since it opened in 1995, has announced its intent to close permanently in fall 2024.

Founded almost three decades ago by friends Kevin Jones, Robin Burnett and Joe Edwards as an experimental project, the interactive museum has been a destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a unique space for exploration and learning at the intersection of art and science. One-of-a-kind, interactive exhibits, hand-built by staff, have provided numerous opportunities for discovery and education to visitors from Whatcom County and around the world.

“The founders were driven by their own experiences in biology, physics, electronics, art and all the ways people — especially children — interact and learn through wonder,” said Tallie Jones, Kevin Jones’s daughter and executive director of Mindport Exhibits.

Mindport has always been about learning and exploring together. In addition to the museum offerings, Mindport staff operated a low-to-no-cost tutoring program, curated art installations featuring local and regional artists and brought travelling exhibits to venues around Whatcom County.

“It’s been wonderful to do something for which there wasn’t a blueprint and hopefully encourage the unique, creative, inquiring spirit that exists in everyone,” said Kevin Jones.

Interactive exhibits have encourage curiosity at Mindport since 1995. Photo courtesy Mindport Exhibits

Business model challenge, high competition for limited funds

The decision to close Mindport stems from several factors, including the retirement of founding director Kevin Jones in 2019, and the end of funding from a donor who has financially supported the museum for decades. Those factors present a natural stopping point for the privately owned business.

“Financial support from a dedicated and generous donor was key to making so many wonderful things possible at Mindport,” Tallie Jones said. “That support allowed what started as an experiment to grow and become an active part of the community for many years.”

Alternatives to closing were explored. One option was to change Mindport’s business model to a nonprofit. But to be successful and sustainable, according to legal and nonprofit consultants, the museum would need to create and sustain a nonprofit model capable of continually raising the substantial amount of money needed to support exhibits, programs and other operations.  

With more than 120 arts, culture and humanities nonprofits already in the Bellingham area, according to Cause IQ, Mindport is choosing to close instead of competing for limited funds with its museum friends and other vital organizations, Tallie Jones said.

“We are so grateful to have played a part in weaving the rich cultural life in Bellingham and appreciate all of the people who engage in and support local arts,” she said.

Founder Kevin Jones with daughter and current director, Tallie Jones. Photo courtesy Mindport Exhibits

Fall closure to help ensure smooth transition for employees

The exact closing date of Mindport will be announced soon; however, the business has committed to remaining open into the fall.

Efforts are underway to ensure a smooth transition for the museum’s two full-time and six part-time staff members, who have been integral to the institution’s success. Staff have been provided with a timeline they can depend on, and supplemental pay and paid transition time have been offered to those working during the closure period.

Jones remains hopeful that staff members will be able to continue their work — interacting with museum visitors, curating exhibits and fulfilling positive and rewarding community projects — through the summer and fall.

New life for 210 W. Holly Street, new homes for exhibits

The building at 210 W. Holly St., a prime location in the Arts District, should not be vacant long. Conversations with a potential new owner are underway, and an announcement is expected soon.

Tallie Jones is working to find new homes for Mindport’s custom-made interactive exhibits, so they can continue to inspire people of all ages.

“The exhibits are best suited for an environment where they can be enjoyed by many and maintained by experienced exhibit professionals,” she said.

Everyone who has been involved with Mindport — including co-founders, the donor, current and past staff, visitors and community members — should be incredibly proud of the legacy they have built over the decades, Kevin Jones said.

“We have been part of many people’s memories, and they of ours,” he said. “We are grateful to have been a presence in downtown Bellingham for almost 30 years, and we’re going to miss being here.”

Updates on closing events, exhibit transitions and future developments can be found on www.mindport.org/news. For inquiries, contact Tallie Jones at 360.647.5614.

Mindport Exhibits is a unique interactive museum located in Bellingham, dedicated to fostering curiosity and creativity. Since its founding in 1995, Mindport has offered hands-on exhibits that blend art and science to inspire visitors of all ages. Our mission is to encourage exploration, learning and a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of our world. For more information, visit www.mindport.org.

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