Excerpt from Lea Kelley’s Speech at the Mayor’s Arts Award Ceremony in April 2009:

We’re living at a time where people can become isolated from one another and forget our commonalities.

Our culture is inundated with manufactured celebrities who are paid to tell us what to buy, who we should be, and what we should believe.

These glamorized illusions confuse real people who this culture is made up of in communities like ours.

Bellingham is not as diverse as some places, but we do have a unique population. It’s a microcosm of the larger society.

There are people from many walks of life meeting in our coffee houses, markets, and on our sidewalks.

They smile at each other and there is generally very little pretension or animosity among most of them.

I consider these people, the ones we live with every day, as worthy of celebrity status.

They should have at least as much impact on our lives as fictional characters, billboards, or televised personas.

I believe we need to remember that we are not alone and that each of us is valuable.  We just need to acknowledge one another.

There are thousands of people, beyond our town, looking at our faces and recognizing their own faces in them.

I get emails from people in other communities who want to initiate similar projects after seeing the people of our town.

Evidently, real people can be an inspiration to real people.

The faces of Bellingham are not glamorous or contrived. Some are even a little unfocused. But they are authentically beautiful. There is no agenda attached to them to sell you something, alter your political views, or coerce you into believing in anything—except Humanity.

I’m very grateful to everyone who shared their authentic beauty in the evolution of this project, and of my own perception of people.

I get asked what I would like to do with all these images when I reach the goal.

I think I would like to build a public installation of faces, transferred onto durable photo tiles.

It could be an interactive display of joined faces to remind us that everyone is somebody and we are all connected.

I’m not sure where this permanent exhibition would be in Bellingham, but I am open to suggestions and support for this concept.

So thanks again, for this personal acknowledgement, but I hope faces of Bellingham is a reminder that Community and Society, is really “all about you”.

Project Initiated in April 2008


This community art project reflects a culture in which we are obsessed with celebrities.

We live our own lives through celebrities.

We watch them, love them, and give them the responsibility to reflect our desires and aspirations.

We all want what celebrities have.

We want recognition for who we are and acknowledgment for the things we do.

Each individual has the ability to contribute to our society by way of our talents, personalities, skills, and participation.

Whether we are carpenters, artists, baristas, bartenders, farmers, loiterers, or business owners, our community would not be what it is without every one of us.

Face it!

We are all worthy of celebration status!

And we are one small town in a country of thousands of small towns.

WE THE PEOPLE are quite a “site” when we are all together.

CLICK title faces of bellingham at the top of this page to view photos.

April 5, 2008 Words about this project

Bellingham, Washington, is on the I-5, on the Bay of Bellingham at the opening of Puget Sound, 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Its population is 70,000, & it’s the Whatcom County seat, population 140,000.

In countable ways, it is the best small city on the western U.S. coast. Briefly, it is a big city in miniature size. It has a skid row – 3 blocks long. It is the home of Western Washington University. Mark Twain wrote stories & had drinks with his friend, Grover Cleveland, in the historic district, Fairhaven, which is much as it was in the 1890s. The downtown section of the city is substantial & remarkably friendly. It’s egalitarian – one finds the homeless & the poor, young & old side by side with everyone else, & they share their coffee houses, bakery sweets, news, shops & conversation. The police happily greet the street people by name.

Scholars of urban communities have a concept known as ‘Sense of Place.’ It is unusual for a city to be self aware, concerned with its aging beauty, its traditions, its role in the larger scheme of things, knowledgeable of its history, determinedly trying to preserve what has been best about itself while at the same time building new variations upon its venerable forms. Bellingham people refer to themselves endearingly as ‘Bellinghamsters.’

Bellinghamsters possess a strong sense of place. For instance, the only chain store in the whole of downtown is a Starbucks, opened about 2 years ago despite energetic opposition. If one likes to explore cuisine, there are about 30 very good privately owned restaurants – most with full bar – & the food is splendid & greatly varied.

Ms Kelley’s project, Faces of Bellingham, has at this writing only 84 faces. But look at them! Wonderful people! Self aware, but with little if any preposterous hubris or ridiculous vanity! Open! Friendly! Ready to talk, share opinions & ideas, stop for a cup of coffee if asked, & above all – trusting!

Now that it’s started, it is obvious that Faces of Bellingham was a necessary historic record of this uncommon town & its visibly free citizens.

I hope the project grows. I hope everyone gets his or her face in it. And I hope the world comes to see it. It would be very good for the nation in this difficult & troubled time.



23 Responses to “PROJECT STATEMENT”

  1. This site is developing into a “trend” that should take itself into the world at large. Do you know how phenomenal this project will continue to be, if you keep on taking photos of these amazing people? Do these people (and those yet to be discovered) know how amazing they are?

    Great job, great project, great photos.

  2. I love projects.
    It reflects a new trend that is highly creative and satiates our thirst for more and more quality and contextual threads. Keep up the great work my friend.
    Michael Pokocky

  3. this is a brilliant idea!! i’m in awe! so simple yet very powerful and enthralling! 😀

  4. Fantastic idea! I love it and will come back again!!

  5. I enjoyed browsing your pictures of everybody that is somebody!

  6. I love how beautiful Bellingham is… the people as well as the area.

    This is a fantastic project; what I’ve noticed the most about the pictures is how peaceful and content everyone looks.

    Truly remarkable, thank you.

  7. Not only do I love your project, I love the reason why you are doing it. We are all special, and everything we do is important. Every job is important, and if you do your job with love and passion you will be successful.

  8. Wow, how refreshing to come across your site. Just by looking at the photos, I can see that each person has a story of their own to share.

  9. Thank you!!!!!

  10. I wonder if it’s OK to use my own face in my blog? I hope so cause the lighting, colors and so forth turned out good. Likely better than my camera could do. Faces of Bellingham is great concept for a site. I find neighbors more interesting than celebrities anyway.

  11. Robert,
    Yes, it is absolutely okay for you to upload your photo to your own site!
    Lots of folks have.

  12. a great project statement. shows clarity of thought and purpose. made me feel good to look at the faces, too.

  13. Actually, the Pita Pit is a chain also!

  14. But I love the ideas behind this project, and it always makes a meal at the Bagelry more interesting when there is something like “The Faces of Bellingham” to look at.

  15. I absolutely love Bellingham! And look at all these lovely Hampsters! I love your project and your mission statement! Faces of Bellingham is a wonderful masterpiece and I hope it spreads throughout the world! Nice labor of love! Great job!

  16. This is amazing! I actually just joined wordpress and am starting my own blog…i wanted to look at other people’s pages and clicked on the cateogory, “People” and yours was at the top of the list. Anyway, what a coincidence that I went to college in Bellingham! I loved it up there. Anyway, I love your project statement and think this blog is a great idea. Keep it up!

  17. […] Faces of Bellingham Pictures of ordinary everyday people, not celebrities!  A fantastic blog with lots of pictures random folks!  (Also on Flickr!) SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Speedlinks #8”, url: “” });Posted under Everything Else, Speedlinks […]

  18. This is such a cool blog! I lived in Bellingham for seven years, and I loved it there.

  19. Great blog!!!!
    Beautiful proyect…
    Love and light

  20. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  21. What a great project idea – fantastic!

  22. Love this idea!

  23. Faces of Bellingham. Great idea for a project.

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