Forecast: Rain likely with a strong chance of fine art

This weekend's 31st Stormy Weather Arts Festival draws visitors to Cannon Beach to tour galleries, hear music and shop, no matter the weather

I first attended the Stormy Weather Arts Festival in 2002, and from the start, the name amused me. Stormy Weather. Who called attention to the one variable that might well keep people away?

As a travel writer, I was more accustomed to festival organizers exaggerating everything good and downplaying the rest. I quickly came to see, however, that the name actually was very clever. It got your attention. And it celebrated what the Oregon Coast winter (as well as spring, fall, and sometimes, summer) is known for. It also lent itself to some great poster art: mermaids with umbrellas, painters in wellies, wind-whipped waves, and yes, the ray of light through the darkest of clouds.

Brian Blackham’s minimalistic still lifes, such as “Water in Glass” (oil on panel) are at White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach.

“We’re telling you up front this is a stormy weather season, so expect it,” said Jim Paino, executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce. “If it does rain — of course in Oregon, it rains quite often — it’s right in the title, so you should expect it. Rain or shine, it is a great event. We have indoor backup, so even if it is raining horribly, you can still get out and enjoy it.”

This year marks the 31st anniversary of the festival that began as a fundraiser for the Cannon Beach Chamber, a celebration of the arts, and a way to draw people to the north coast during months that can be pretty quiet. The festival runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 2-4.

Artist and gallery owner Jeff Hull recalls the first time he heard about the festival idea. “What I remember is the director of the chamber, Nancy Littell, walked through our gallery door and said, ‘We are thinking about what we can do to have some off-season thing visitors will enjoy. What do you think?’”

Hull, owner of Jeffrey Hull Gallery, was all for it.

“I’m always of the opinion that there’s great value in having people gather around the arts, for any reason,” he said. “I call it stepping stones. It’s a long ways between Labor Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend in places like Cannon Beach and other destination communities. You jump from one stone to the next, to make it to the next.”

Jeff Hull sells both his original paintings and prints, such as “Road to Oysterville,” at his Jeffrey Hull Gallery.

In the early days, the main feature was the “quick draw” event, which saw artists gathered at the Community Hall, racing against the clock to create a piece of art in an hour. The works were then auctioned off. In those days, the festival was more of a community event, with most visitors arriving as a sort of happy coincidence.

“It was very common for someone to walk through the door and you’d say, ‘Hi, how are you doing? Are you here for the Stormy Weather Arts Festival?’ And they’d say, ‘Huh, what?’,” Hull said. “Since then, there’s been a profound change — slow, but profound. It is definitely our most popular and most populated arts event, and the fact that it happens in the first week of November is really telling of how much people enjoy it.”

Icefire Glassworks shows the work of four glass artists including Jim Kingwell, who created this Northern Lights vase.

The quick draw no longer takes place, but the festival has grown far beyond the Community Hall. About a dozen galleries host individual artists with receptions, demonstrations, workshops, and artist talks. There’s music inside and out, including busker stations around town for local musicians, as well as concerts – this year by the Lloyd Jones Struggle and Curtis Salgado — at the Coaster Theatre. Merchants offer Stormy Weather specials, and on Sunday, the festival winds down with Brews, Blues & Barbecues at the chamber. Tickets for the concerts and the brew fest range from $25 to $40 are available here.

I’m no weather forecaster, so no predictions from me as to what the weather will be, but in Hull’s experience it’s generally “somewhere between fabulous and kind of OK,” he said.

“If we don’t have any rain or wind, some of our visitors can be kind of disgruntled thinking we promised them a storm, I guess,” he said. “I do remember a Saturday about 10 years ago when we got hit pretty hard with wind and rain. The power actually went out at about 3 p.m.”

With town full, receptions and gallery events set to start in only two hours, and daylight already waning, Hull wondered how they’d manage with so little light. He and his wife, Carol, set about gathering flashlights and candles and whatever light sources they could find.

Jim Eppler’s bronze raven is among sculpture at Bronze Coast Gallery.

Of course, that’s when the power came back on.

“All the gallery owners and artists who had worked so hard to be ready were certainly thankful. But there were a lot of people that were disappointed when the power came back on. We were NOT part
of that group. It turned out to be a great event and most everyone enjoyed the thrill.”

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The Stormy Weather Arts Festival runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 2-4.
Get your schedule of events, ticket information and a downloadable brochure here.

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