In Newport, an art estate sale and Visual Arts Center reopens

Sculptor Sam Briseño's last works are available online, and the city's exhibition space will welcome visitors for the first time since March

Visitors to Newport may not know the late sculptor Sam Briseño by name, but they likely know his work, most notably the larger-than-life Ambassador. Set in Don Davis Park, the sculpture of a godlike figure with arms outstretched welcomes all to the coast and is part of the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail.

Briseño’s work is scattered throughout Newport and Toledo: an octopus at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, a park bench, weathervanes, fences, gates, arbors. Now, the public has the opportunity to purchase the last 40-odd pieces Briseño created before his death in 2015 at age 64. Jen Kent, the niece of Briseño’s life partner, Deanne Dunlap, had a dual purpose in setting up the website that features the pieces.

Sculptor Sam Briseño fashioned this piece out of an old wagon wheel.  The late artist’s friends are selling some of his last pieces; the suggested price on this one is $5,000.
Sculptor Sam Briseño fashioned this piece out of an old wagon wheel. It is among the 40-odd pieces the late artist’s friends are selling online.

“Sam was a part of my family since I was 10,” said Kent, 45. “We wanted to make sure that these were getting into people’s homes where they could be enjoyed the way he intended.”

The money raised by the sales also will help fund Dunlap’s move to California, as well as the brewery Kent plans to open at the Port of Toledo next spring or summer — pandemic depending. The pieces are priced, but negotiable, Kent said.

The work includes coffee tables, frames, sculptures, wine racks, and fireplace tools. Some are sculpted from reclaimed items, including a scene on a hatch cover and Kent’s favorite, a wagon wheel.

“He did this beautiful scene inside an old wagon wheel,” she said. “There is a blue heron in the reeds, trees, and snow-capped mountains. It’s very calming and it’s gorgeous.”

IT’S GOOD NEWS AT LAST FOR NEWPORT’S VISUAL ARTS CENTER, opening to guests on limited basis Oct. 24. The center has been closed since March 21, but plans for the reopening have been in the works for the past four months.

“The idea of us opening has been on the horizon for quite some time, but it keeps getting pushed back and back,” said center Director Tom Webb. “Now that we are finally in phase 2, we’re going to open slowly. In the beginning, just two days a week. We’re confident we’re ready for people, but it will change things once we have live bodies walking in off the street.”

Guests will be required to wear masks and will have their temperatures scanned using no-touch thermometers. Social distancing will be followed. Public spaces will be sanitized on a regular basis.

Work by Corvallis artist Greg Pfarr, including “Below North Sister, Central Oregon Cascades” (etching, 32 by 43 inches) is displayed in the Newport Visual Arts Center’s Runyan Gallery.
Work by Corvallis-area artist Greg Pfarr, including “Below North Sister, Central Oregon Cascades” (etching, 32 by 43 inches), is displayed in the Newport Visual Arts Center’s Runyan Gallery.

The two exhibits on display went up in early March just before the center closed.

“Those two artists in particular — it wasn’t fair that they only had exhibits up a couple of weeks,” Webb said. “Just to be fair and to ease back into being open, it makes more sense to keep what we have through November.”

The Runyan Gallery showcases Greg Pfarr’s exhibit, A Sense of Place in the Pacific Northwest, a series of paintings and etchings reflecting the high-alpine drama of the Cascade Mountain Range and Alaska. Pfarr’s work was recently chosen by the Oregon Arts Commission for an exhibit in the Governor’s Office. His work has been exhibited widely, including in the Portland Art Museum, and is in the permanent collections of the New York Public Library and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. 

Visitors to the Covas Showcase will find Friderike Heuer’s exhibit, Postcards from Nineveh, a series of photomontages combining contemporary landscapes with historical Dutch whaling paintings. Heuer is a frequent contributor to ArtsWatch whose photography has been exhibited at the LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria and in Portland at Camerawork Gallery, the Oregon Jewish Museum, Blackfish Gallery, Newspace Center for Photography, Gallery 114, and Artists Repertory Theatre.

“Reminiscence,” by Friderike Heuer (photomontage, 14 by 17 inches, printed with archival ink jet on German Etching paper)
“Reminiscence” is among Friderike Heuer’s photomontages on exhibit in the Newport Visual Arts Center’s Covas Showcase.

“I really want this opening to feel celebratory and that we’re really recognizing the value of the VAC, but at the same time, it’s not going to be a normal opening with 70 people in the room and special talks,” Webb said. “All the things you see at normal gallery opening don’t make sense with social distancing.”

While the center was closed, exhibits were featured online and that will continue.

Also at the center, banners for the 12th Annual Nye Beach Banner Project will be displayed for in-person viewing from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 31, Nov. 4, and 7. A virtual auction of the banners will be from 10 a.m. Oct. 30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 8.

THE LINCOLN COUNTY CULTURAL COALITION is accepting applications for its 2021 grants to fund programs delivering arts, culture, heritage, and humanities to the residents of Lincoln County. The Oregon Cultural Trust provides funding for the grants, which are awarded to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Lincoln County. Awards range from $200 to $1,300 and must be used for programs or projects taking place in 2021. Applicants must address one of the three cultural priorities: improving access to cultural experiences; raising the awareness of youth; or facilitating infrastructure improvements. Due to COVID-19, “the Cultural Coalition will also consider requests for general operating support and capacity-building projects, submitted by nonprofits that address the priorities listed above.”

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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.

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