A healthy community needs a healthy cultural side, and that includes the arts, says Tammy Jo Wilson, cofounder of Art in Oregon (AiO). After a first year that included setting up a database of Oregon artists and offering micro-grants to Clackamas County businesses to purchase art, the nonprofit is turning its attention to Lincoln County.
Wilson and her husband, Owen Premore, got the idea for the nonprofit after the only gallery in Oregon City closed soon after the couple, both artists, bought a house in town. “We really started to think, how is art going to be part of our community?” Wilson said. “That led us to think not only about our community, but Oregon in general. That’s what led us to start this. Not just think about our community, but the state as a whole.” Wilson, a painter, and Premore, a sculptor and installation artist, started Art in Oregon in late 2017 with the goal of building bridges between artists and their communities.
Through a program called the Art Shine Project, they have set up a curated database of artists they hope will serve as a digital gallery leading to the purchase and placement of artwork in public. The 2018 Art Shine Project focused on Clackamas County, providing funds to help three local businesses and nonprofits purchase art of their choice from work submitted by 33 local artists.
“We are trying to connect with the artists of Oregon, both emerging and established and everything in between, and then help them find their community,” Wilson said. “So the goal of the Art Shine Project was to find as many artists in Clackamas County as we could, and from that we started the Art Shine database.” There is no charge to be included in the database, which includes close to 100 artists throughout the state.
Wilson sees project benefits as three-fold. The artist makes money from the sale of art and gets to see it publicly displayed. The businesses get to own an original piece of art, and the community is exposed to work by a local artist.
To be considered, Clackamas County businesses were required to have been open for more than a year, be a nonprofit or socially responsible community-focused entrepreneur, have demonstrated a positive contribution to their community, and have a public space suitable to display artwork long-term.
Art in Oregon also considered physical accessibility, family friendliness, and the likelihood the business might be inspired by art ownership toward further contributing to the “creative ecology” of Clackamas County. The final artwork selected for purchase was identified in collaboration between the business and the nonprofit.
Funding for the 2018 project came from a grant from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition and individual donations. AntFarm Youth Services in Sandy received $300, Grano Bakery & Market in Oregon City received $350, and the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City, $370.
The Museum of the Oregon Territory chose a landscape by Elo Wobig, Road to Timberline — the first painting in the museum’s collection.
“I think the project’s great,” said Jenna Barganski, manager of the museum. “I know that sometimes Oregon artists have a hard time, especially In Oregon City, finding a place to display their work. We’re happy to prominently display a painting that is meaningful historically to Oregon.”
In Lincoln County, Art in Oregon is seeing a lot of exciting things, Wilson said. “We see them really embracing the arts and seeing it as a part of growing their community and economy,” she said. Wilson listed the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, the Lincoln City Cultural Center, and the Newport Visual Arts Center, as well as art galleries and artists across the county. “I think they are missing each other,” she added. “They are very independently focused. I think if they could work together a little more, they would see the value in what the other is doing.”
Niki Price, executive director of the Lincoln City Cultural Center, says the arts community on the central Coast is supportive of each other and frequently works together. “The making of art can be in and of itself a quiet peaceful and relatively isolated activity,” Price said. “I tend to think our beautiful surroundings and laid-back communities are very helpful in that way.” It can also, she added, make it harder to see the ways that members of the arts community on the central Coast routinely support each other and work together.
“When it comes to arts organizations, we work together very well,” Price said. “A good example: We’re going into our third year of the art studio tour, which enables people to visit artists in their studios everywhere from Depoe Bay to Neskowin. We’re all represented by the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, and we have the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition, which supports all sorts of activities with grants. I feel we are not silos; we have a really great working relationship, and we look forward to adding this new organization to our network.”
While the Art Shine Project in Lincoln County is still in the beginning stage, Art in Oregon is considering publishing a book on the local art scene. Wilson said she thought an actual book, as opposed to a website or digital version, would be better received.
Price is all for the idea. “Any book that explains and highlights the wonderful amount of work that’s being done in Lincoln County would be fantastic, because it really is a vibrant arts scene here. We welcome their work and look forward to working with them to make this happen.”
Wilson said a book would “appeal to the locals, but also tourists, to help them see the richness and value of the culture in that area. I think it will be a really big benefit for the local economy. It’s important to reach beyond the art community, to bring new people in the community into thinking about appreciating and looking at art.”
The book, which Wilson expects will be a two-year project, would include profiles of Lincoln County artists, cultural and art centers, galleries, art walks, studio tours, and festivals.
“If you are coming to Lincoln County and want to experience art, here’s everything you want to know,” Wilson said. “I’m very excited about it.”
This activity is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.