Finding freedom in adversity

A pandemic, a wildfire – while the hits keep coming, the Lincoln City Cultural Center responds with an online fundraiser and a transition to arts incubator

Some people just can’t catch a break.

Yes, it’s a cliché, but clichés exist for a reason, and at the Lincoln City Cultural Center this one may seem doubly true. And still they rise.

Last spring, after the pandemic changed our world, the center made the difficult decision to cancel its annual Culture, Of Course! fundraiser. The 6-year-old event typically brings in $20,000 to $30,000, unrestricted operating funds the center uses for necessities.

Niki Price, co-chair of the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition and vice chair of the Oregon Cultural Trust, says of donating to the trust, “Once we convince a donor to do it once, we rarely have to resell that donor. Once you try it, you’re in.”
Niki Price, executive director of the Lincoln City Cultural Center, says with travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the center decided to focus its auction on adventure, “interesting things we could go and do and dream about, something great to look forward to.”

Then, after months of finding innovative ways of operating safely — streaming concerts, virtual workshops, drive-in movies, take-out art supplies — center leaders knew they were ready to bring Culture, Of Course! back in a new way. There would a drive-in movie screen, food provided and prepared by Kyllo’s and delivered to tables set up alongside cars, entertainment by the surf/punk band Retroactive Gamma Rays, an arcade, and auction.

Then the Echo Mountain fire blew up. Parts of Lincoln City were evacuated and Pacific Power crews took over the center parking lot as a staging zone.

Canceling the Sept. 19 in-person event wasn’t a hard choice — they had no choice. But they did have options and, of course, they grabbed one — an online auction.

“We focused on adventure,” said Executive Director Niki Price. “Given all the travel restrictions and the way we have been kept at home, we focused on interesting things we could go and do and dream about, something great to look forward to.”

The list of items continues to grow, and so far includes a biplane ride, a mushrooming camp at Camp Westwind, an art class and retreat at Sitka Center, and a plein air artist getaway in Baker City, including accommodations, a tour of downtown, a gift card for lunch, and an artist-guided day-long high desert plein air workshop.

(Bidding in the auction is simple – register, follow the link in your email from the Lincoln City Cultural Center to complete registration, and stake your claim. Bidding ends Oct. 14.) 

A ride in a 1929 Travel Air biplane is among the auction items in the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s Culture! Of Course fundraiser.
A ride in a 1929 Travel Air biplane is among the auction items in the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s Culture! Of Course fundraiser.

The center, which is housed in the former Delake School, is also stepping up to help local artists. 

“It’s brand new, so sort of a work in progress,” Price said. “Everybody is concerned about the losses of the fire. There are artists and musicians who have lost everything. We’ve decided to set up something called the Echo Mountain Arts Fund. The committee would like to take a portion of proceeds we raise in Culture, Of Course! and dedicate it to this fund.”

It’s a good illustration of how the nonprofit has adjusted to help the community, support artists, and continue keeping the arts alive. Some spaces inside the center, such as the gift shop and kitchen, ceased to be useful because of pandemic restrictions. So, the gift shop became a studio for a group of textile artists; the kitchen, a mosaic studio; the meeting room, a pop-up gallery for gearhead metal sculptures; and the former yoga studio, a space to pick up quarantine art packets.

“The pandemic has forced us to make some difficult business decisions, because we had no other choice, and that actually feels a little bit freeing, to be honest,” Price said. “What we transitioned into is an art incubator. The idea is when people come, there are at least three or four doors open. They can see the Chessman Gallery, the Gearhead Gallery, the weaving. It’s kind of an open-studio idea.”

The Lincoln City Cultural Center’s “Invest in Inspiration” campaign will turn the yard around the historic Delake School, which houses the center, into a plaza, park, paths, and parking. Photo courtesy: Lincoln City Cultural Center
Pandemic restrictions have caused the Lincoln City Cultural Center, housed in the Delake School, to find new uses for old spaces.  For instance, the kitchen became a mosaic studio and the gift shop a studio for textile arts.

The performing arts components of the center have also been transformed to create a hybrid of in-person and streaming. The center offers concerts on its YouTube channel, sending links for access to a limited number of people. It has a camera crew, director, and professional sound person – collectively known as the Stream Team. In recent months, the center has hosted Celtic, jazz, and rock concerts. The show that stands out for Price is a recent performance by Darrell Grant and his All 4 Naught Trio.

“I was super nervous,” Price said. “I knew all of his fans would be watching and we would be streaming this all over the state. It went very well. I was very proud of what we were able to accomplish. I would never have thought we would stream anything. I didn’t think we had it in us, but obviously, we did.” 

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FARTHER NORTH ON THE COAST, the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay is sponsoring a video mask contest, “Tell the World Why You Wear a Mask.” Each selfie should include enough background to show where in the Nehalem Bay area it was shot and be no longer than 15 seconds. “The narrator of each selfie should begin the video with, ‘I wear a mask because _____.’ Be personal, be creative, but be brief.”  Deadline is Sept. 30. Submit your video here: masks@evcnb.org

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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.

About the author

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pups Luna and Monkey.

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