New art territory in Oregon City

At the Museum of the Oregon Territory, a dynamic partnership and a "gutsy art of overcoming" create an art show and an auction

Jugaad: Originally from Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, and Urdu.

Definition in the Oxford English Dictionary: “a flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way.”

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ONE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS OF BEING GERMAN is that everybody comments on the weird words your language generates, and in particular their length. Yes, it’s strange to have (real!) words like Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (loosely translated as the law for the task assignment of monitoring beef labeling), but then again, their length is proportional to the length of German sentences that extend across half a page. Other languages, less often mentioned, engage in similar stretching exercises, Turkish, Greenlandic and Finnish among them. How is this for a lingual marathon? Ymmärtämättömyyksissäni suuntautumisvaihtoehtoni opintotukihakemuskaavakkeeseen kuulakärkikynällä kirjoitin is a Finnish statement, I am told, that translates into, “In a state of not fully comprehending, I wrote my major thesis on the form for financial aid provided by the state using a ballpoint pen.” Just saying. …

Bethany HayesErratic 1

In reactive fashion, I have become very fond of truly short words that convey incredibly complex meanings. Jugaad is one of them. Fully aware that I might engage in inappropriate cultural (mis)interpretation, the word implies making do with very little, salvaging what can be salvaged, miraculously coming out ahead. Or, as the Harvard Business Review defines it: “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.”

The word came to mind when visiting the Museum of the Oregon Territory (MOOT) in Oregon City last Saturday, to meet with executive director Jenna Barganski and Tammy Jo Wilson, president and co-founder together with Owen Premore, director, of Art in Oregon.

Gutsy?✓ Harsh constraints?✓ Limited resources?✓ Improvising? ✓ Effective solution? YOU BET.

Jenna Barganski, executive director of MOOT, and Tammy Jo Wilson, president of Art in Oregon. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Art organizations, particular those only arriving recently on the scene, are struggling. Small museums are fighting for survival. Historical societies are not exactly showered with financial support. The need to improvise is paramount and dependent on the creativity of approaches, skill in networking, and envisioning of possible resources. All are clearly evident in the work of these two young women, who are embarking on a shared fundraiser for their organizations, an art auction, and an exhibition, Art Makes History.

Kathryn Cellerini Moore Lifelines (Playa) #22

This Friday, Jan. 17, the museum will host a preview party in the Tumwater Ballroom, the museum’s event space overlooking Willamette Falls, of artwork donated by local artists. The work will be displayed and lit on a hanging system also provided by a donor. Art Makes History will then be open for silent-auction bidding (online here) and the winners will be revealed at the closing event, an auction dinner party on Feb. 29 (reservations here).

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THE MUSEUM OF THE OREGON TERRITORIES is one of those cultural institutions that run under the radar, even though it can be reached in less than half an hour’s drive from Portland. Established in 1952 and part of the Clackamas County Historical Society, it has a collection that has steadily grown, and now houses about 30,000 artifacts, including a treasure trove of more than 10,000 digitized photographs. The museum’s mission includes but is not just restricted to preserving and interpreting Clackamas County’s history, including native peoples’ communities, life in the territories with the advent of pioneers, industry’s role in the development of the dam and power generation, and a family history archive.

Jenna Barganski. Photo: Friderike Heuer

With the leadership of executive director Jenna Barganski, who received her B.A. in art history from Northern Arizona University and M.A. in history/public history from Portland State University (and also curates the occasional art exhibit) MOOT will open its newest exhibit: Lines on the LandMapping Clackamas County at the end of January. Also on offer is a monthly lecture series, the Murdock Talks, that range from local historical topics to cowboy poetry to a history of Oregon’s women murderers. A new book club aimed at people interested in history meets monthly at county historical society’s other cultural site, the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House. And now there will be art on view, reflecting a broad cross- section of artists in the community.

The art will have to compete with the extraordinary view from the museum’s windows…..

Views of Willamette Falls. Photos: Friderike Heuer

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JUST AS HISTORICAL SOCIETIES ARE ROOTED IN COMMUNITY, Art in Oregon (AiO) is focused on building bridges between artists and communities. The nonprofit group wants to link artists, businesses, educational spaces and community spaces to promote art patronage and, importantly, access to art for people who do not necessarily visit museums and established art galleries on a regular basis.

Tammy Jo Wilson. Photo: Friderike Heuer

I met Tammy Jo Wilson this summer as one of the participating artists in Maryhill Museum of Art’s Exquisite Gorge project (I wrote about her here) and was impressed by her vision. She’s a gifted artist herself, and I think she and her co-founder, sculptor Owen Premore, have put their fingers on the pulse of the current art scene and found it to be, shall we say, erratic. It beats too rapidly when in the presence of the big and shiny, the arrived or the cool, however you want to put it, parts of the established elite. It slows down to a faint murmur when it comes to local artistic expression, which marches to different standards, perhaps in skill, perhaps in focus of expression, but still pumps the necessary blood to the heart that is community.

AiO wants to change that and offers an on-line database of Oregon artists with its Art Shine Project. Artists can apply online to be added to the roster; they can also respond to calls for curated exhibitions. Public venues can easily peruse the offerings and pick what’s appropriate for their needs.

The project describes itself as “a grassroots venture which builds relationships between Clackamas County artists and local establishments (i.e. businesses, libraries, schools, museums, etc.) and facilitates placement of artwork by regional artists in highly visible, public spaces through a micro-grant program. This project increases investment in local artists and expansion of cultural assets throughout the county.”

Natalie WoodThe Stevens-Crawford Heritage House.

Jugaad. Instead of brick-and-mortar galleries, instead of art dealers and agents of exclusivity, you have an effective solution based on local talent and local interest matched at an electronic site that makes art (and artists) visible, with little cost involved.

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THE ARTISTS WHO DONATED WORK for the Art Makes History auction and exhibition are a representative sample of what you can find in the data base, from emerging artists to those who’ve already made their mark in the art world.

Some lovely pieces are hanging on the museum walls – some traditional, some funky, some abstract; multi-media creations, photographs, collages. Bidding prices start at comparatively low levels, given the sums that some of these pieces would fetch at galleries around town.

Amanda TriplettConnected Currents.

Among them is some fabric art by Amanda Triplett, a piece that should be snatched up in a second: It reminded me of Oregon Coast tide pools with their otherworldly creatures, and it was made all from recycled materials, to not add more burdens to the environment. A watercolor by Bethany Hayes caught my eye for its unsentimental elegance; and a mix of pastel, graphite, charcoal, acrylic paint, colored pencil, silkscreen and conte’ crayon on paper in three works by Kathryn Cellerini Moore was exquisite. I splurged on a whimsical oil-on-panel piece with the buy now option that allows you instant gratification. Hey, there have to be perks if you trudge out on a weekend morning to gather materials for a review. Early bird and so on …

Here is the full list of artists with works on display: Ronald Bunch, Douglas Burns, Kathryn Cellerini Moore, Tamara English, Dotty Hawthorne, Bethany Hays, Sue Jensen, Kendra Larson, Katherine McDowell, Veronica Reeves, Amanda Triplett, Elo Wobig, Natalie Wood, Beth Yazhari – you see what I meant by variety!

Tamara EnglishTree Moment XI.

Many of us bemoan the reduction in arts funding, the decreasing role that art is afforded in educational settings with tight resources, the lack of inexpensive real estate that would provide gallery space for emerging artists. Here is an opportunity to act on those concerns and support one old and one new organization that try to remedy these failings. Make it a night (or two) out in Oregon City. Check out the art, or bid from the comfort of your computer desk chair. Just get engaged with your art community – otherwise it might soon be history.

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ART MAKES HISTORY
Art Exhibition & Silent Auction

Preview party 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17
Dinner auction 6-10 p.m. Feb. 29, 2020
Museum of the Oregon Territory
Tumwater Ballroom, 211 Tumwater Drive
Oregon City

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