11 Questions: Amy Marchegiani

Interview by Brent Cole

Photo by Sarah Van Houten

It’s not a stretch to say What’s Up! wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Amy Marchegiani. She was part of the initial team, handling all our design and covers during the first six years, doing countless hours of work… for free. If it hadn’t been for her, the damn thing never would’ve gotten off the ground. Over the decade plus since then, she’s played music, created and taught art and become very active with Make.Shift, getting art into the world. She’s started to do covers for the magazine again, which has been awesome.

Ladies and gentleman, this month’s 11 questions is Amy Marchegiani.


Who are you and where did you come from? Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I was born on the east cost, raised in Cali, and have been living in Washington ever since – mostly in beautiful Bellingham. I love this town so freaking much. It’s aesthetically breathtaking, the people are kind – no matter what their personal beliefs are, I can take my dog everywhere with me, the music and art scene are rockin’, I can get most of what I need locally… what’s not to love? It always confuses me when people want to move away, but to each their own.

Some of you may know me from the early What’s Up! years (when the mag was stapled). Some of you may have seen me play bass for a handful of local bands, or you may have been rockin’ out next to me at a show. Or maybe I had you or one of your kids as an art student. But beyond that, I’m just a carbon unit, trying my best to survive, like everyone else. I really like the fact we’re all carbon units with the power of imagination, though. And when we engage our imagination, we can see that everything’s all a matter of perspective. I guess my perspective has always been through the lens of a kid. I like making things, just for the sake of making things. I like people and animals, and spaces that involve either one. I like performing and playing, but I don’t like drama. I will always love watching cartoons (Rick and Morty!!!). I’m curious and like learning new things (mistakes are the quickest way to learn) then I get excited to share what I learned with others. I like making the most out of any given moment and giving my all to good causes, however /whenever I can…which can be overwhelming at times. Mix all that together and here I am!


When did you first begin creating art? Was it an instant connection?

The first connection came through survival, so yes, it was instant. I had a severe stutter until I was 14 years old, so the only way that I could express complex thoughts and feelings was through pictures. I’ve always loved the experience of making art – turning a blank page into something unique, feeling the pencil release it’s graphite onto a paper surface, the sensation of dragging oil paint over canvas, the joy of watching pigments change when mixed with other colors, and learning how to work with new media – it’s all so enjoyable!


It’s a sleepy Sunday morning in Bellingham, what are you doing?

Coffee first, put on some good tunes, then maybe an on-line poker game as I wake up.  I’ll check Weather Underground to see when the best time to walk Péle will be and then I’ll schedule chores, work, art, music, napping, and eating around that. Yay! Adult livin’!


What are your top five desert island classics?

Oh, I hate this question. I like so many songs and musicians and my mood changes with the seasons. But, OK, if I had to choose, the 5 albums that I can never get tired of, and will keep me from going nuts, are: The Pixies (Surfer Rosa), Tame Impala (Lonerism), Buena Vista Social Club (self titled), Nicola Conte (Forma 2000), Jneiro Jarel (Three Piece Puzzle) and  – because I need to get my dance on – The Black Eyed Peas (Monkey Business). I’d be super stoked if any Pink Floyd, Metric, Beatles, or QOTSA happened to wash up on shore.


Be honest – you’re pretty shocked What’s Up! is still around, aren’t you? Can you tell the readers your favorite story from the first year of the magazine?

Dude! I’m stoked What’s Up! is still around! I know how hard it is to fund something tactile in this digital age, and I don’t know how you do it… but I’m so happy that you are still doing it! You have provided such a great arena for musicians, writers and artists to express and absorb and meet like-minded folks. I hope it feeds B’ham’s creative forces for years to come!

Oh, man… the first year was whacky. I remember not having the computers or software to get the files to press. We spent a lot of time at Kinko’s and campus computer labs, usually in the middle of the night. I also remembering ending up at Casa pretty regularly. I don’t think any of us really knew what we were doing back then, but we were all super passionate to do it. You know, I stumble upon the first issue of What’s Up! every once in a while and it always cracks me up. The layout was so bad… two columns? The color center spread given to the calendar? I’m still proud to have it in my portfolio, though. I also start laughing when I come across the “Find Mr. Peanut” issue. Was that the first year? Did anyone actually win that contest? Ridiculous.


You are showing your artwork for the first time in public. Why has it taken so long for you to have a showing?

I ask myself the same question. I guess I was just lost in the realm of making of things. That, and I’m a bit nervous about putting myself out there. A lot of my paintings are reflections of personal experiences and ideas that were never really intended to be displayed or sold, just made to express a moment. I keep on creating and I’m running out of room, so it’s time to open the doors. I am happy to be showing my stuff for the first time at the Joy of Pilates Studio this winter.


With painting, how would you describe your style and is there a thread that runs through all the pieces? 

I like using bright colors and flowing shapes. My subject matter can range from surreal expressions of thoughts and emotions, to abstract moods, to stylized animals, plants and landscapes. I’ve met some really inspiring artists and musicians in the past few years who have helped me with my “flow” – so to speak. I’ve been experimenting more and I try to give myself the challenge of making a series out of the new method or medium I stumble across.


Who is your all time favorite local band and why?

The Dts. Every member of that band kicks major ass and has been doing so forever. It seems like they are always recording or playing a show or inspiring some young talent to do something great. I like how they play benefit shows that reflect their values and try to help newer bands get shows and exposure. Oh, yeah. Their hard soul sounds are epic as well! It blows my mind that this band can play to thousands of people at festivals all over the world, yet they can’t pack the house here in town. What’s up with that?


You’ve gotten very involved with Make.Shift. Please tell us what you do for the organization and why you think Make.Shift is so important to the community.

I strongly believe that any given community functions better when it’s members can express themselves and their values through positive means. Art, music, dance, theatre, “spittin’ rhymes”… take your pick! Unfortunately, I observe that smaller cities like Bellingham tend to focus their recourses for the arts on the “common denominator”  – usually mainstream creators in their late 20’s to early 40’s who make things that are very digestible for the masses – like pizza. “Pizza art” is delicious, and has its place, but I personally gravitate towards the fringe of society, seeking the arts that push boundaries and take risks.

I also can’t help but admire the energy level of younger people. It’s an amazing sight when that youthful energy is fearless – pushing us observers out of our comfort zone. Make.Shift embodies these values. Since the days of Jinx, The doors have always been open to fringe artists and musicians, providing a safe, supportive atmosphere to share their craft. Make.Shift is an extraordinary resource for teens. It’s a positive, welcoming community where you can be yourself without judgment, as long as you don’t break the three rules: No Booze, No Drugs, No Jerks. It’s not only a great venue for people to put their creations on display, but it’s also a fun space to absorb this creative output and meet like-minded people. It’s crucial, especially in these changing political times, to have this kind of a safe space for all people – regardless of age, gender, religion, skin color, or country of origin.

I’m really excited to see what direction Tyson Ballew (executive director) and Hollie Huthman (Board President) will take Make.Shift. They are both very active in the community and are passionate about the all-ages scene. Make.Shift also has a fantastic staff and board, dedicated to improving and expanding the organization. I predict that you will see a lot of action coming out of Make.Shift in the years to come.

I’m currently helping Make.Shift anyway I can because I know that it takes a lot of effort to keep a non-profit functioning. Right now I serve on the Board of Directors as Secretary, I volunteer for events, and I help out with ads and posters. Being chronically broke and busy is a challenge, but I value this unique organization so much that I can’t just sit on the sidelines and hope it stays around – I’ve seen the short life span of too many other all-ages venues. Make.Shift has the potential to be a permanent establishment in Bellingham – it’s up to all of us to make that happen. If everyone reading this could donate10 bucks or 3 hours of volunteer time a month, we can have Make.Shift in our community for years to come!


What about teaching art do you dig?

Everything! It’s teaching and art! Within teaching, I get to brainstorm and perform on a daily basis, which are fun activities that I could never get tired of. I also really enjoy meeting so many amazing people with such diverse experiences. I work at Home Port Learning Center with “at-risk” youth – “at-risk of not graduating High School”… being at risk, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good happy life, it just means you need to look at options outside of the High School-to-college track. Many of these students have experienced some really stressful things, but have found a way to survive and push forward. These students are stronger than a lot of adults I’ve known. They are just on a different path – excellent fodder for creative expression.

Being an art instructor has been a dream come true. I get to work with all ages and skill levels (Bellingham Art, WWU), helping them learn new techniques, express themselves and overcome fears. All people made art when they were younger. Some people loose interest or are unable to practice, but everyone has an inner artist that they can tap into whenever the need arises.


Any last thoughts?

Here’s some advice that has helped me over the years, it may help get you through the storm on the horizon:

Be true to yourself – Follow the 4 Agreements (Toltec culture)

Seek understanding in whatever you are afraid of and be open to different ideas, values, and methods of doing things.

Appreciate what you have right here, right now. One of my favorite quotes is from Kung Fu Panda: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift… that’s why they call it present” – Master Oogway

Keep active.  The internet is a thing of beauty, but it can also be a bowl of molasses. The sugar draws us in and then we can get stuck. Don’t let yourself get stuck! Go out and do something good for you and your community as often as you can.

Smile. You have every reason to.

Whoo Hoo!

Check out some of my art: http://amym5000.wixsite.com/amyart


Published in the December 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine