COAST

Final call for a Newport original

Art by the late Juergen Eckstein is included in an online sale and show at the Newport Visual Arts Center

A three-month online art exhibit at the Newport Visual Arts Center will showcase Oregon artists and raise money for the artists and the center. It also is likely to be one of the last opportunities to buy a piece of art by the late Juergen Eckstein, who died Oct. 31 at age 77, following a stroke.

“Juergen’s art is just stacked downstairs,” said his wife, Dianne Eckstein. “He has so much work. It seems to me it should be in a good place.”

Juergen Eckstein invited all of Newport to join “The Yellow Umbrella Project” in 2004. “First individuals, forming trickles as others join creating streams of yellow umbrellas as they move closer towards the center of Nye Beach where they gather as a sea of yellow,” he wrote on his website. Photo courtesy: Gary Lahman
Juergen Eckstein invited all of Newport to join “The Yellow Umbrella Project” in 2004. “First individuals, forming trickles as others join creating streams of yellow umbrellas as they move closer towards the center of Nye Beach where they gather as a sea of yellow,” he wrote on his website. Photo courtesy: Gary Lahman

Eckstein, who is considering a move, gave two paintings and one sculpture to the city to be displayed in Newport City Hall.

Juergen Eckstein was a German native who traveled the world before settling with Dianne in Newport in 2000. A familiar presence around Newport, he co-founded the For ArtSake artist co-op and created the driftwood sculptures that stand outside the Newport Performing Arts Center and the Visual Arts Center. He was self-taught and worked in almost all mediums, including oil wash, wood, and pottery, his wife said.

“If he found a stone or piece of wood, he’d see something in it and go from there. He’d find something on the beach and make something of it,” she said. “He was always seeing something in an object that I wouldn’t. I think he just had a very wonderful imagination.”

The Oregon Coast Online Art Show, open to artists who have shown previously at the center, who live on the coast, or who are members of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA), received more than 120 submissions. All of the work has been organized and presented remotely. The show goes live Friday, May 29, and continues through Sept. 7.

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Welcome to the Goon Docks, virtually

Astoria dials back the 35th-anniversary celebration of the cult classic because of COVID-19 restrictions, but fans will still find ways to fete the film

In June 1985, as Mikey Walsh and his young friends set out from their coastal Goon Docks neighborhood in Astoria in search of hidden treasure, I was living on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and knew nothing about his adventure. Of course, we had movie theaters there, but if The Goonies made the local big screen, I didn’t know about it.

In truth, it would be 20 years before I heard of the movie. That was 2005, the year of the first Goonies Day, hosted by the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce. For those who don’t know the story, Mikey’s family is about to lose their home to the expansion of the neighboring country club. Then Mikey stumbles on a treasure map and, with his friends, sets out to find the pirate’s treasure and save their neighborhood. First, however, they must elude an evil family whose restaurant sits above the entrance to the cavern where they believe the treasure is buried.

Corey Feldman (from left), Sean Astin,, Ke Huy Quan, and Jeff Cohen starred as the pirate-treasure-hunting heroes of “The Goonies,” filmed largely in Astoria and along the Oregon Coast.
Corey Feldman (from left), Sean Astin,, Ke Huy Quan, and Jeff Cohen starred as the pirate-treasure-hunting heroes of “The Goonies,” filmed largely in Astoria and along the Oregon Coast.

It’s a fun story by Steven Spielberg that takes many viewers back to their own childhoods. But it’s more than just a family-friendly flick; its devoted fans have elevated The Goonies to a worldwide cult classic.

Astoria annually celebrates June 7 as Goonies Day, with blowouts every five years since 2005, and, since 2011, smaller events during the years in between.

“It touches people from all over the world,” said Regina Willkie, marketing manager for the chamber. “Visitors come from all over: Australia, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil, and all over the U.S. The fans are always so excited. They seem to adopt Astoria as a second home.”

This summer was to be the 35th anniversary celebration. And it still will be – in the virtual world.

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‘I am still here.… It still is a time for singing’

Voices from the front: Five members of the coastal arts community talk about how the pandemic has changed them – and it’s not all bad news

I can’t think of another time in my life more unexpected or unpredictable. When will it end? Who will I be when it’s over? Certainly not the same, of that I’m sure. But the pandemic has not been without bright spots. Nearly every day I see evidence of something good. A rekindled relationship; an inspired new business; new friendships formed at virtual gatherings.

Thinking others must be experiencing the same, I reached out to members of the coastal arts world and asked three questions: What has been a pleasant surprise of the pandemic? What have you learned? Will your work be different as a result?  Here are their answers, edited for length and clarity.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Betsy Altomare is co-owner with her husband, Keith, of the Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City. The theater is closed but offering virtual films through its website. And every day from 6 to 7 p.m., the Altomares sell their popular popcorn to go.

Betsy Altomare is co-owner of Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City.
Betsy Altomare says she has been surprised at the outpouring of love for the Bijou Theatre.

What has been a pleasant surprise of the pandemic?

Altomare: Probably the reminder that people really love the Bijou Theatre. We decided to do a GoFundMe with the goal to pay off our mortgage, which was only $2,984. We actually raised it in 10 hours.

What have you learned during the pandemic?

Altomare:  Patience, and that viruses don’t discriminate.

Will your work be different as a result of the pandemic?

Altomare: That’s the big one. Very different. We’ve been doing virtual cinema. That’s been fairly popular. Right now, we have nine movies on our website and they are things we would normally play. I think we’re going to continue doing a few titles even once we open our doors. Also, the popcorn.  

Alison Dennis has been the executive director at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology since October 2018. The nonprofit was fortunate to receive a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program that has allowed Sitka to keep its full staff working full hours.

“We’re working remotely from home, both making preparations for the summer, adapting as we learn what will be possible, and also hard at work planning the 2021 schedule now,” Dennis said. “Even before the pandemic, Sitka had been pursuing a number of innovative ways to expand our reach, and we’re excited to share more about what we’ve been working on in the months ahead.”

Alison Dennis is executive director for Sitka Center for Art and Ecology near Otis.
The Sitka Center’s Alison Dennis says she feels both more isolated and more connected than ever.

What has been a pleasant surprise of the pandemic?

Dennis: The generosity of the Oregon arts community is awe-inspiring. Whether generosity in spirits (well wishes) or financial support (donated money for spring workshops we’ve had to cancel). Instead of requesting full refunds, people are donating part or all of it. We’re really overwhelmed. One of our newest team members put it this way: “The people are reaching out to us to make sure the Sitka team is doing OK. I’ve never worked anywhere where people care so much.”

I was really moved by that reflection. One of the other biggest surprises is feeling isolated, but also more connected than ever at the same time.

What have you learned during the pandemic?

Dennis: On a practical level, the Oregon Coast is an art and nature destination. It’s important for all of us who are part of coastal tourism and government to collaborate across county lines to determine when and how we welcome people back to the coast. On an art and ecology level, now is the time to listen to nature. Altea Narici, a cellist and vocal artist from Rome, participated in a residence here. Reflecting on her time here the first week of the pandemic, she wrote, “The world is saying I am still here, life is still here, spring is happening now. It still is a time for singing.”

Will your work be different as a result of the pandemic?

Dennis: I bet it will. At one level, Sitka is very much a place-based organization. We’re a place people come to get off the grid, connect with nature, reflect, and create. At another level, Sitka’s real work is the inspiration people take with them into their lives after spending time in this place. The pandemic is bringing communities together across geography in new ways. I’m excited to see how Sitka’s community of art- and nature-inspired people will connect, share, find inspiration in one another’s work through the pandemic, but also beyond.

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Looking for a few Wild women

Sue Neuer of Cannon Beach finds casting a play scheduled for a September opening has its challenges – not all of them related to COVID-19

Last time we caught up with actor Sue Neuer, she was playing a lead role in Deathtrap and readying to play the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Neuer, an innkeeper in Cannon Beach by day, is tackling a new role, one that may prove to be among her most difficult.

Neuer has signed on to co-direct The Wild Women of Winedale, by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. It’s her first go at directing and the challenges are plenty. Opening night is planned for Labor Day weekend at the NCRD performing arts center in Nehalem. The question is, will the show really go on? We talked with Neuer about the task ahead.

How, in this crazy time, did you end up with your first directing gig?

Neuer: I was planning on auditioning for Spamalot at the Coaster. That got canceled and I hadn’t made any plans to do anything else. I am on the board of Rising Tide Productions. George Dzundza was going to do Wild Women. [You may remember Dzundza from his roles in The Deer HunterWhite Hunter Black HeartBasic InstinctCrimson Tide, and Dangerous Minds and the long-running NBC series Law & Order.] He backed out for personal reasons. I thought about it and contacted Margaret Page, another Rising Tide board member, and said I’d do it if she would co-direct — even though I’ve never directed before — and she agreed.

Sue Neuer says Rising Tide Productions is incorporating social distancing and virtual rehearsals into plans for its September show. “Our whole mission is to do theater,” she says. “Of course we’d like an audience, but our mission is to support actors and let them work in their craft.”

What’s been the toughest part so far?

I’m having difficulty casting the show. I posted on our Facebook page we are going to try to do the show and were holding private auditions. I didn’t get any response to that. So, I’ve just been reaching out to actors I know to precast the show.

COVID-19?

No, it’s not because people are scared of the virus. I think it’s the timing. The show opens Labor Day weekend. Some people already had plans. I have a couple of actors in Astoria interested, but they don’t want to drive to Nehalem to put on the show.

Tell us a bit about the show.

It’s a great script, all women between 40 and 60. There are six monologues and three leads. It’s about two sisters and a sister-in-law. They’re at a crossroads in their lives. They’re the Wild sisters and they live in Winedale. The show takes place mostly in the living room of one of the sisters. She is the director at a museum and is working on a project videotaping women to talk about profound events that have shaped their lives.

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Blood, sweat, tears — and a little Beatrix Potter

Lincoln City's Nora Sherwood left a lucrative career in geographic information systems to become a natural science illustrator

The daughter of a foreign service diplomat, Nora Sherwood has lived the life of a world adventurer from the start. Born in Colombia, she graduated high school in Spain and, in between, lived in Sweden, Finland, and Chile. She returned to the United States to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, then embarked on a highly lucrative, but largely unknown, career in geographic information systems (think Google Maps).

After raising a family, she walked away from geographic information in favor of a career she wasn’t, to be honest, quite ready for. Not that it stopped her. Today, Sherwood is a successful natural science illustrator whose clients include Williams Sonoma, Oregon State University, and the High Desert Museum in Bend.

Lincoln City artist Nora Sherwood is scheduled to teach a workshop on bird illustration this summer at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.
Lincoln City artist Nora Sherwood is scheduled to teach a workshop on bird illustration this summer at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.

Sherwood recently hosted a virtual tour of her studio in Lincoln City and is scheduled to teach a July workshop at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology (it’s full, but there’s a waiting list). We talked with Sherwood about her career as a natural science illustrator.

So about the midlife career change — what made you trade a career in technology for one in the arts?

Sherwood: It’s kind of complicated. There are two main reasons. First, I got into that field very early on and rode a really interesting wave of trying to help people understand how that tool could be applied. When I got to the point of telling people I was into geographic information systems and they stopped asking, “What is that?,” I realized it was time to get into something else. I started a family and took time out to raise my kids. Geographic information systems is a fast-moving field. When I was able to focus again full-time, the field had gone past me. I would have needed to do some significant retraining, and with a family I just didn’t want to do that.

Why natural science illustration?

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I wanted to do next. I have always liked science illustration. I like the style of that artwork. There are programs where you can be taught how to be a science illustrator. I looked into that. If I had looked into it better, I might have realized how much money I was leaving on the table. (Laughs.)

Sherwood works primarily in watercolor, but also uses colored pencils, pen and ink, graphite and scratchboard. She says an involved illustration, like these ospreys building a nest, can take 50 hours to complete.
Sherwood works primarily in watercolor, but also uses colored pencils, pen and ink, graphite and scratchboard. She says an involved illustration, such as these ospreys building a nest, can take 50 hours to complete.

Are you a natural artist?

No, I am not. That was kind of the crazy part. The program at the University of Washington assumed you would already be an artist. I had the rude shock of realizing my art skills were not good enough. Fortunately, the Gage Academy of Art (a four-year art school oriented toward adults) was nearby, and I took all the basic drawing and color-theory classes it offered. It’s been blood, sweat, and tears. I felt a little bit desperate. I had walked away from my career. I had to do this. I graduated in 2014 from the University of Washington with a Certificate of Natural Science Illustration.

On your webpage, you talk about some of the illustrators who have influenced the field, Maria Sibylla Merian and John James Audubon. But your favorite is…

Beatrix Potter. She’s thought of as the “Peter Rabbit lady.” But she turned to doing those books partly out of frustration at not being taken seriously for her studies of mycology.

In this ever-changing age of technology, does science illustration still have value?

I think sometimes a piece of artwork is much more beautiful than a photograph, so that you will actually want to look at it. You might blow by a photograph of the same subject.

What about from a practical standpoint?

I get asked to do projects for people who need stuff you can’t photograph. I’ve drawn a lot of blister beetles. They’re a commercially important beetle used in surgery as a blistering agent so that medicines can be put in subcutaneously. I worked with a professor in entomology who needed drawings of blister beetles. The differences are really subtle, so that you need to see those differences only and not the whole beetle. You need to simplify it.

The Western Painted Turtle is native to Oregon. On a post for the Burke Blog, Sherwood writes: “Science illustrators don’t render individual specimens, but rather often illustrate an accurate ideal,” a composite of attributes from multiple specimens that can be used to illustrate guiding characteristics in scientific papers, journals, and field guides.
Sherwood says she enjoys illustrating reptiles, such as this Western Painted Turtle. On a post for the Burke Blog, Sherwood writes: “Science illustrators don’t render individual specimens, but rather often illustrate an accurate ideal,” a composite of attributes from multiple specimens that can be used to show guiding characteristics in scientific papers, journals, and field guides.

What is your favorite subject?

I am pretty much known for birds.

What is the most difficult?

I’m not as good a botanical artist as I would like to be. I’m still getting better at that.

How long does it take you to complete an illustration?

The simplest I would ever do would be five hours – for maybe a 5-inch portrait of a little bird. At the other end, 50 hours. That might be something more like a 13-by-19 illustration of a pair of ospreys building a nest.

You’ve lived all over the world. What drew you to the coast?

I really had no say in the matter. We lived in Steamboat Springs, Colo. My husband is from Southern California, and he wanted to get back to the beach, but not California. We moved in 2014. I didn’t like it initially. I thought, “Oh my gosh, how am I going to make this work?” But now I think this is a wonderful town for an artist.

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This story 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.

Lincoln City Cultural Center mines COVID-19 silver lining

Creative Quarantine provides activity kits for kids and online entertainment for adults

Even in these strange days, people are finding the silver lining. At the Lincoln City Cultural Center, that’s been a chance to connect with innumerable people who previously may not have known the center existed. It’s also been a reminder of what creative and innovative people are in our midst.

Last month, Executive Director Niki Price temporarily closed the center due to COVID-19. It wasn’t easy. There were layoffs, reduced hours, and the cancellation of one of the year’s biggest kids’ events, the Festival of Illusion.

Sisters Juniper (left) and Hazel Jones made Ben Soeby Fishboxes, https://artstudiotourlccc.com/artists/ben-soeby/ part of the April 9 Creative Quarantine packet, using popsicle sticks, pens, markers, paint and glue. Photo courtesy: Lincoln City Cultural Center
Sisters Juniper (left) and Hazel Jones made Ben Soeby Fishboxes, part of the April 9 Creative Quarantine packet, using popsicle sticks, pens, markers, paint and glue. Photo courtesy: Lincoln City Cultural Center

“Everybody went home and rested for a few days,” Price said. “And then I began to think, we have all these supplies and all these ideas. Surely, we can find a way to get them out there in a safe way.”

So she called the center’s visual arts director, Krista Eddy, who knew exactly what Price was thinking.

And that’s how Creative Quarantine was born.

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Lincoln City theater owner aces celebrity name game

Bijou Theatre’s Betsy Altomare met plenty of musicians when she worked for Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard

In these strange days, I’m game for pretty much anything that might inspire a few grins, and lately that’s coming, often as not, from Facebook, where I spend entirely too much time.

One recent “game” going around asks for the names of five (or sometimes 10) celebrities you’ve met, including one that’s a lie. Then it’s up to your friends to guess which one that is.

I listed Joe Cocker, Wally Lamb, Ty Burrell, David Ogden Stiers, and Tippi Hedren.

I met Cocker when I interviewed him at his wife’s café in Crawford, Colo., a little town about 70 miles southeast of Grand Junction. He was shy, friendly, and constantly in motion. I had lunch with Stiers as the guest of a friend who bid on the meal for a fundraiser. Wally Lamb — just as nice as you might imagine — read from one of his novels at the Denver Woman’s Press Club, and I met Hedren when I interviewed her for a story for The Oregonian. She was friendly but disturbed that I wasn’t taping our conversation. She said she had canceled interviews over a lack of recording. But she let me go ahead and later thanked me for getting it right. You can guess from the above whom I never actually met — I’ve always loved that he was raised in the Rogue Valley, where I also lived for a couple of years.

My list, however, pales next to Betsy Altomare’s. Betsy and her husband, Keith, own and operate the Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City. Although the Bijou is closed for now, you can still get their famous popcorn and stream movies from their virtual theater.

Betsy Altomare remembers meeting Paul Newman when she was 16 years old. He did not give her an autograph.

But about that list. Altomare named nine celebrities she met and one she didn’t.  They are: Elton John, David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, Tina Turner, Neil Young, Sarah McLachlan, Cameron Crowe, Paul Newman, John Entwistle, and Bruce Springsteen. How did she meet all those famous people? Turns out she worked at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, and also did marketing for music trade publication HITS Magazine.

Who was your first?

Altomare: Paul Newman. When I was 16, a bunch of actors — Newman, Joanne Woodward, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Jacqueline Bisset — came to sign a petition at a Santa Monica Beach parking lot to stop off-shore drilling. Me, my best friend, and my dad went to see all the Hollywood stars. I caught Paul Newman going into his bus and I asked for an autograph. He said, “No, I don’t believe in that sort of thing.”

What was the most surprising encounter?

I guess maybe Elton John. I was a huge Elton John fan when I was a teenage girl. When I was 25, he came into Tower and I was too shy to talk to him. He went across the street to a video store after the record store. I followed him. That’s when I finally went up to him and told him I loved his music and got his autograph.

Elton John, however, did give Altomare an autograph.

Was he friendly?

He was polite. He had bodyguards with him. It was the biggest record store on the West Coast. Elton John was known to just close down the record store and do his shopping. His song writer, Bernie Taupin, used to come in regularly, and I would help him. He would bring a list and we would help him find the records.

Neil Young?

He was a character in the movie, Human Highway.  It was pretty silly. My boyfriend and I got tickets to the premiere and premiere party and he was there. It was in a big warehouse and they had these games related to the movie. He was very, very polite. I asked for his autograph and he said, “You know, let’s wait a second.” There were a couple of guys across the room and there was something going on, and he walked over to them, then he came back and signed it.

What was the most memorable?

Probably having dinner and riding in a car with R.E.M. My boyfriend, now my husband, worked for the record company that represented R.E.M and the Go-Go’s. I was invited to go to a dinner with R.E.M. members Peter Buck and Mike Mills.

Wait, that’s not on your list.

I know, but I only had room for 10.

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