COAST

Art on the Road: Au Naturel, Astoria

The Royal Nebeker Art Gallery's evocation of the contemporary nude in international art reveals the human, unadorned

Story and photographs by FRIDERIKE HEUER

We have this thing in our household about language. Well, someone has a thing in our house about my language – more specifically, my usage of the verb to love as applied to something other than a human being. Don’t devalue such a strong emotion, I am told, by wasting it on things, not persons! (That from the same Beloved who still despises split infinitives…)

Jay Senetchko, Sleepwatcher at the End, oil on wallpaper, detail

I can’t help it. Here I go again: I love this state. I love finding out new, beautiful things about it, even after 33 years since our arrival from New York City. You turn around and face surprises, in the natural as often as in the cultural landscape. Case in point was a recent visit to Astoria. I have written here before about this small former fishing and cannery town at the mouth of the Columbia river. I’ve described the increasingly vibrant art community, the diversity of what is on offer, from music to photography, from the perspective of a visitor as well as from that of an exhibiting artist.

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Nehalem Winterfest capitalizes on the coast’s off-season

Festival music ranges from crocodile rock to chamber to jazz. In Cannon Beach and Tillamook, theatrical comedies brighten the dark days

This is the quiet time on the Oregon Coast. The holidays are over, spring break still a ways off, and with the exception of a couple of three-day weekends, there’s not a lot of opportunity for extended bouts of R&R here. While that may not be bad news for locals, for businesses, it can make for some lean stretches. Such was the inspiration last year for the first Nehalem Winterfest.

“In the summer, there are competing interests, you go to the beach, you build bonfires, you go hiking. You do all sorts of things like that,” said Mary Moran, head of the North Coast Recreation District’s Performing Arts Center, where Winterfest performances are held. “You don’t necessarily want to sit inside a theater and listen to music. In the winter, you don’t expect to do outside things so much as inside things. We just decided it’s a great time to have music and concerts, and get people to come to the beach and enjoy themselves.”

It went over so well — with visitors coming from all over Oregon, Washington and beyond — they’re doing again.

The 2nd Annual Nehalem Winterfest kicks off Friday, Feb. 8, with Kate & the Crocodiles. Featuring vocalist Kate Morrison, trumpeter Gavin Bondi, pianist Craig Bidondo, and drummer Brent Follis, the band plays rock originals and covers, jazz, classical, “and other surprises from far and wide.”

“Kate and the Crocodiles are always a good seller here,” Moran said. “Great people, great music and lots of fun to listen to.”

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‘Amazing landscape’ inspires Sitka Center resident artists

The five new residents, who will introduce themselves Wednesday, include an underwater photographer and an artist whose work is linked to animals

Artists Isabelle Hayeur and Felix Prater, who began residencies at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology this week, both journeyed from afar to practice their craft at the retreat dedicated to fostering creativity, curiosity, and education.

They are among five new residents who will stay through May 1. Others are whale researcher Fred Sharpe, writer Matt Jones, and mixed-media artist Brenda Mallory. On Wednesday, Jan. 23, the group will share a bit about themselves at the Resident Show & Tell at 6 p.m. in the Boyden Center.

Residents spend from 2 weeks to 3-1/2 months making art, composing music, writing, or conducting research without the limitation of a product-driven residency, program coordinator Sara Haug said. “Residents are given the time and space to explore creative pursuits that are enhanced by the Sitka Center’s mission of existing in space dedicated to the intellectual pursuits of art, ecology, and the fusion of both.”

Isabelle Hayeur often works in waders in her quest to photograph life underwater.

Residents do not receive a stipend but are provided a private, fully furnished cabin and a studio or workspace for the duration of their residency.

If you can’t make Wednesday’s gathering — apologies for the short notice — you’ll have another chance when residents do final presentations April 27 in the Boyden Studio. In the meantime, here’s a look at two of the artists visiting our coast.

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Art in Oregon turns its bridge-building to Lincoln County

The nonprofit is dedicated to helping artists connect with their communities by setting up a statewide database and awarding funds for the purchase of art

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.

“Road to Timberline,” by Elo Wobig (right), is the first painting purchased by the Museum of the Oregon Territory, says museum manager Jenna Barganski (center). Tammy Jo Wilson (left) says Art in Oregon hopes to continue working with the museum to expand its collection to include more Oregon artists. Photo courtesy: Art in Oregon

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.

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Art gallery reopens at Salishan Resort

The gallery director says she hopes to oversee restoration of John and Betty Gray's art collection to the coastal landmark, as well as support new artists

After decades of decline, the Salishan Resort in Gleneden Beach may be looking at a brighter future. New owners, Alpha Wave Investors, took over the property a little more than a year ago and are promising to restore the resort to its glory days. That includes a commitment to showcasing Oregon artists, which has already seen the Gallery at Salishan reopened, once again under the direction of Patricia Williams, a close friend of the original developers.

Gallery at Salishan’s current show includes paintings by Allen Cox, including “Materia Medica,” 48” x 36”, oil and wax on linen (2016).

The resort was built by John Gray of Portland, whose other landmark Northwest projects include Sunriver and Skamania Lodge. “When John and Betty Gray opened the Salishan Lodge in 1965,” Williams said, “their mutual love of art became an important component of the lodge’s aesthetic. They had already started an impressive collection of Northwest art, and worked closely with well-known art professors from Oregon State University.”

When the Marketplace at Salishan shopping area opened in the mid-1970s, Gary Lawrence opened a gallery, partnering with art collectors Patrick and Darle Maveety. Patrick Maveety was director and curator of Asian art at Stanford University.

New owners took over Salishan in 1996 with an eye toward turning it into a corporate retreat. Valued art was lost, rumored to have been given away, stolen, and even found in dumpsters, and the gallery closed.

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Ill wind blows good wood for Newport museum

A theater in the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center is being trimmed with old-growth Douglas fir blown down in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm

The Lincoln County Historical Society scored big time in 2004 when it bought a historic, French chateau overlooking the Newport bayfront. The 30,000-square-foot building with gabled roof needed work — one of the reasons the Newport nonprofit was able to buy it at a bargain-basement price — but that view, that setting, the history.

A member of the volunteer team of “old guys” works, sander in hand, at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. The rough-sawn wood behind him will be sanded just enough to leave a rough texture to match trim work throughout the building. Photo courtesy: Steve Wyatt

It wasn’t just the historical society that scored, so did the county. In what became the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, it gained a museum, retained a piece of history, and saved a structure that otherwise might have faced demo crews.

Another layer of history is being added to the story. Wooden finish work is about to begin in the 2,000-square-foot Doerfler Family Theater. This is not just any old wood, but old-growth Douglas fir from trees downed atop Cape Foulweather by the 1962 Columbus Day storm. The trees were recently helicoptered out of the grove and milled at Siletz River Lumber.

Historical Society board member Bud Shoemake knew about the salvage operation and helped broker the deal for the wood. Oregonencyclopedia.org reports that after the storm, during which winds in Newport hit 138 mph, Congress passed special funding to accelerate salvage of the 11 billion to 17 billion board feet of lumber that was blown down so it wouldn’t rot. How this grove survived earlier salvaging or rot is a question to which I haven’t yet found an answer.

“It’s just amazing, gorgeous,” said Steve Wyatt, executive director of the Historical Society, describing the wood. “Just straight grain. There is not a knot of any kind in this beautiful wood.”

The 1,524 board feet of lumber will be used for extensive trim work, wainscoting, door casings, and grid work on the theater ceiling.

“In keeping with this historic property, the finish work will be similar in style to the trim work already completed on the main floor of the museum, only with a higher level of refinement,” Wyatt said.

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Seeing with fresh eyes

ArtsWatch’s Coast correspondent reflects on what she learned covering the arts in 2018

An editor once told me the best way to learn anything is to write about it. That lesson was driven home this year as I took on the beat covering arts on the Oregon Coast. Prior to that, I would have told you that, yes, the arts are alive and well on the edge of the Pacific. At other times, I could have been heard grumbling that there was nothing to do here. Then admitting, grudgingly, that even when there was, I didn’t do it. I might have said it was a case of “been there, done that.”

In truth, after so many years of covering breaking — often tragic — news, lightened by the occasional feature, and even then hamstrung by the rules of conventional journalism, I kind of forgot about art and just how much it encompasses. I forgot that art unites us, teaches us, makes us better people. That art brightens the world.

Newport’s Nye Beach neighborhood once hosted more rats than visitors.

And so, when the offer came to write this weekly column, I was sorely tempted to say no. Other than living here, I didn’t think I had the connections. But I thought about it and I wavered — yes, no, maybe, well OK, at least for now. I had this idea that it could be a chance to broaden my horizons, to move from that place of stagnation, and start growing again. It was an enticing thought, but really, I had no idea what I’d happened upon.

I soon learned that you can’t write about the arts in a place like the Oregon Coast — a place where one of the largest cities has roughly nine traffic lights — and not come away inspired. Again and again, I have been awed by what people in these small towns accomplish through sheer will, generosity of time and spirit, and the absolute refusal to give up.

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