Newport Visual Arts Center

Sandra Roumagoux: ‘I’ve stayed in art my entire life’

The oil painter and former Newport mayor, whose work is featured at the Newport Visual Arts Center, says she can't separate politics and art

When the Newport Visual Arts Center opens its virtual Pop Up Craft Show on Wednesday, Dec. 16, it will kick off the celebration of local artists with a live-streaming talk at 6 p.m. by Sandra Roumagoux. She will unveil her new exhibit catalog, Sandra Roumagoux: Retrospective, and discuss her featured paintings in the show.

Known for her love of nature and passion for politics, Roumagoux has described her art as an “interpretation of the ever-relevant paradoxes of faith, war, and nature. Much of what I do is predicated upon a personal, fundamental acceptance of the ‘divine absurdities’ of existence, and the dualities in our existence of love/hate, violence/peace, silent/sound, night/day.”

We caught up with Roumagoux by phone to talk about her life in art. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been painting for what seems your entire life. Talk about your early inspiration to become an artist and how you’ve evolved.

Roumagoux: I grew up with sisters, all older. They were always interested in drawing. They’d be listening to the radio and drawing with charcoal and paper. As a child, I was fascinated how a two-dimensional drawing could look three dimensional. It’s using perspective space. That’s where the interest started. I also had girlfriends who liked to draw. We would get figurines and draw them. 

The other part was I was the only left-handed person in the family and that was encouraged. Even though I held the pen all wrong. That was allowed. It wasn’t even an issue. Because I’ve spent so many years training … I have become more ambidextrous now that I am old.

Sandra Roumagoux will discuss her paintings in the Pop Up Craft Show at the Newport Visual Arts Center during a live-streamed talk on Dec. 16. Photo courtesy: Newport Visual Arts Center
Sandra Roumagoux will discuss her oil paintings in the Pop Up Craft Show at the Newport Visual Arts Center during a live-streamed talk on Dec. 16. Photo courtesy: Newport Visual Arts Center

You’ve been quoted as saying you were raised in a family of avid environmentalists and gun lovers. How did that impact the artist you became?

For one thing, it was so much a part of the culture of the family for deer hunting season, pheasant season, duck season, hunting dogs. My dad had his own duck blind, he shot traps. He won several trophies in shooting traps. I remember as a child going with him on Sunday shoots. That was our church. I would go behind him and pick up shotgun shells and use them as castanets.

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Nye Beach Banner Project goes international

The 12th annual fundraiser for arts education includes work by artists in Newport's sister city of Mombetsu, Japan

Shigeru Yamai depicted the Yaquina Bay Bridge, with love from Mombetsu City, for the Nye Beach Banner Project.
Shigeru Yamai depicted the Yaquina Bay Bridge, with love from Mombetsu City, for the Nye Beach Banner Project.

Twelve years after a group of Nye Beach merchants sought to define their little neighborhood’s identity, the Nye Beach Banner Project has gone international.

This year’s banners include four from artists in Newport’s sister city of Mombetsu, Japan. After Mombetsu delegates visited Newport last year, banner project organizers were inspired to offer artists an additional option for the banner theme — traditionally meant to represent some aspect of Nye Beach.

“Many of the artists embraced that and did something representative of Mombetsu,” said Veronica Lundell, project coordinator. “Last year when the delegates came, they were given a tour and really enjoyed what we were doing.”

The banners hang from neighborhood lamp posts during the spring, summer, and early fall, before being taken down for the fall auction. The artists donate their time and talent, with auction proceeds benefiting youth arts education and public art through the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.

Former Newport City Councilor Wendy Engler, who recently visited Mombetsu, came up with the idea for a banner exchange with the sister city. So this year, project organizers sent eight blank canvasses to Japan. Four painted by Mombetsu artists were returned, the other four stayed in Mombetsu for that city’s own display, to join four chosen from among those by Oregon artists.

“The idea was that Mombetsu would start their own project,” Lundell said. “But COVID has presented some challenges we could not have anticipated. How we proceed for next year is still to be decided. We hope to continue.”

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Book ’em, Dano. (Online, of course.)

ArtsWatch Weekly: Portland Book Festival is virtually yours; art around the state; dance on film; October musical surprise; two remembrances

A BIG SLICK BROCHURE FROM LITERARY ARTS PLOPPED INTO MY MAILBOX a day or two ago, announcing the imminent arrival of this year’s Portland Book Festival (the festival formerly known as Wordstock). The good news is that what has traditionally been a one-day event cramming Taylor Swift-sized crowds into the streets of Portland’s downtown Cultural District will now spawl across two weeks, Nov. 5-21. The expected news is that, of course, all of the events will be online. Portland’s long been a hotbed of live literary celebrations, from poetry slams and open mics in bars to celebrity author talks in bookstores to this great big annual bash that lures the devotees of a solitary artistic passion – reading – into a cultural swarm of conviviality. The necessity of making this year’s festival virtual puts a new twist on the oddity of an extroverted event for introverts, which will now by an introverted event for introverts, simulating extroversion.

Intro- or extro-, it’s a good-looking festival, with more than a hundred authors, a full table of contents of classes and events, and some top-of-the-line featured speakers. Maybe the biggest current-events voice among those will belong to Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, which argues that America’s race problem is more accurately a matter of caste, to be compared with India’s caste system and Nazi Germany’s hierarchy of citizens. A key aspect of caste is that people can’t escape the caste into which they were born, meaning that in the United States, the conflation of caste and race both muddies the distinction and makes it all the more indelible. It’s a book that clearly and potently summarizes current research, and gains much of its power from Wilkerson’s impassioned observations and retellings of encounters in her own life. The featured fiction speaker will be Jess Walter, the best-selling novelist who lives in Spokane, author of Beautiful RuinsThe Financial Lives of the Poets, and the new The Cold Millions. And it’s quite wonderful and lovely that Margaret Atwood, the great Canadian writer and author of The Handmaid’s Tale, an essential novel of the 20th century that remains unnervingly pertinent in the 2020s, is being featured in conversation about her poetry. Writers’ worlds are often more complex, and therefore interesting, than their greatest hits.
 



CHARLES GRANT, MOVING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER


Charles Grant collaborates with Jessica Wallenfels to add a vivid sense of movement to his performance in his short play-turned-film “Matter.” Photo: Tamera Lyn

CHARLES GRANT’S MATTER AT HAND. The Portland actor/writer’s new version of his 2017 short play Matter (he now refers to it as Matter 2.0) takes it off the stage and into streamable movie form with the aid of videographer and editor Tamera Lyn, director James Dixon, sound designer Sharath Patel, and lighting designer Thyra Hartshorn. One other crucial collaborator – movement director Jessica Wallenfels, of co-producer (with Portland Playhouse) Many Hats Collaboration, helped Grant create a vivid sense of motion in his solo show, Jamuna Chiarini writes. Chiarini talks with Grant and Wallenfels about how the movement and the script work together to amplify Grant’s story of the constant threat of police brutality and gun violence that Black Americans face. 
 

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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.”

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Music to see otters by

Coast calendar: Cellists perform for Oregon Coast Aquarium residents; online talk about Rick Bartow; Andean music; fiber arts; and pairing words and images

If 2020 has revealed anything, it’s that strange times call for creative minds, and sea otters and the symphony are certainly that. It’s a bright spot once again born out of disappointment.

Melody Lavrakas was making final plans for a youth concert with Newport elementary school students when she learned the concert, like so much else, was canceled. A day later, Lavrakas, a volunteer at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and a member of the Newport Symphony Orchestra board, began pondering how the two nonprofits might help each other. Her idea: video a pair of musicians performing at the aquarium.

It took some time to put together, but two videos of cellists Adrienne Welsh and Vicki Strauss playing Handel’s Variations on Water Music Themes outside the sea otter pool are now available: a short one (below) and a longer version here.

Hard to tell by watching what the sea otters think of the free entertainment, but aquarium marketing director Julie Woodward assures me they soaked it up.

“The sea otters really did enjoy it,” she said. “They came up and were very curious. Our curator of marine mammals was standing right next to me when they recorded it. She could tell they were very interested.”

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Coast calendar: Getting back in the swim

The Oregon Coast Aquarium partially reopens this week and other news from the art and animal worlds

After five long, lonely months with no visitors allowed, the Oregon Coast Aquarium got the green light to open its doors to the public beginning this week.

You can visit the puffins again at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, as outdoor exhibits received the go-ahead to open to the public this week.
You can visit the puffins again at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, as outdoor exhibits received the go-ahead to open to the public this week.

“We are thrilled to welcome our guests back to the aquarium,” said Carrie Lewis, president and CEO of one of the biggest tourist draws on the coast. The experience will be different with only outside exhibits open, as well as reduced admission ($15, purchased online only), enhanced safety protocols, and no crowds.

The one-hour guided outdoor tour at the Newport aquarium includes five exhibits:

  • The Turkey Vulture Exhibit featuring siblings Olive and Ichabod, who were taken as hatchlings into a private home, then turned over to wildlife rehabilitation specialists. Acclimated to humans, they could not be released into the wild and found a home at the aquarium in 2009;
  • The Sea Otter Exhibit of northern sea otters, playful little critters known to come up to the window to engage with visitors;
  • The Seabird Aviary Exhibit, the largest in North America with two pools home to tufted puffins, horned puffins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and common murres;
  • The Rocky Habitat Exhibit featuring intertidal life normally found in the rocky shores exhibits, minus the touch pool;
  • The Seals and Sea Lion Exhibit with a recently expanded viewing area allowing visitors “to get up close and personal with the pinnipeds.”

KEEPING IN THE VEIN OF A LITTLE GOOD NEWS from the arts and animal worlds, The Secret Gallery in Astoria announced its virtual auctions have raised $1,625 for Clatsop Animal Assistance.

The Secret Gallery held six online auctions for custom pet portraits, from May 1 through July 31. Winners of each auction will receive a custom framed portrait of their pet.

“Clatsop Animal Assistance sends a huge thank you to The Secret Gallery, the participating artists and the bidders for this very creative virtual fundraiser,” Marcy Dunning, president of the group, said in a press release. “What a great way for our community to support Clatsop Animal Assistance AND local artists during the pandemic.”

Clatsop Animal Assistance, a nonprofit animal welfare organization, supports the Clatsop County Animal Shelter by paying for veterinary care and other necessities and by promoting the shelter’s adoption program.

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Arts advocate steps down

Catherine Rickbone, executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, says cutbacks caused by the pandemic make this a good time for her to retire

Catherine Rickbone had grown accustomed to people asking when she was going to retire and enjoy life. Rickbone, executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, frequently responded, “I enjoy myself now.” She planned to see to the end the final phase of the Newport Performing Arts Center’s $4.3 million capital campaign, to be completed in 2020.

Then came COVID-19. The deadline for the “Entertain the Future” campaign was pushed out to at least 2021. Rickbone, 74, knew it was time to go. She retired July 2 after 13 years at the helm of the council, where she oversaw management of the Newport Performing Arts Center and Newport Visual Arts Center. The council is also the local arts council for Lincoln County and the regional arts council for Clatsop, Tillamook, Coos, and Curry counties, as well as coastal towns in Lane and Douglas counties.

“Catherine will be really missed,” said Akia Woods, president of the council’s board of directors. “We’ll especially miss her earnestness and her love of the arts and her ready smile. Catherine was a tremendous advocate for the arts. Her advocacy hasn’t just been local, she’s been a great advocate at the state level.”

In announcing her retirement from the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, Catherine Rickbone told the board of directors that her tenure with the council “was made up of billions of moments, millions of interactions, thousands of programs, hundreds of decisions, and uncountable challenges and joys.” Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
In announcing her retirement from the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, Catherine Rickbone told the board of directors that her tenure with the council “was made up of billions of moments, millions of interactions, thousands of programs, hundreds of decisions, and uncountable challenges and joys.” Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

A search for a new executive director has begun, Woods said.

With a life rooted in the arts, Rickbone seemed destined for the leadership role.

She was raised by her grandmother in Emporia, Kansas, in a three-story home that also served as a rooming house. Rickbone was hooked on the arts from the day she found a book on her grandmother’s bookshelf titled Picture Studies. Dedicated to children and lovers of art, it was a study guide from 1928 with details of each piece pictured, followed by questions. The book fueled a hunger in the young girl for more.

“As I got a little older, I did chores for my grandmother,” Rickbone recalled. “Instead of money, I parlayed for magazine subscriptions, such as Saturday Review. Also, the Metropolitan Museum of Art put out 12 books. Inside were color plates of artwork. The books talked about great works of art. I cut my teeth on that when I did summer reading on the hanging swing or glider on my grandmother’s big Midwestern-style porch.”

Her grandmother’s home was half a block from what was then known as the Kansas State Teachers’ College.  “There was always summer theater — it was one of the longest running in the nation,” she said. “My grandmother and I would walk across the street and get on the campus and we’d go to plays.”

As host of the “Arts Talk” radio show, Catherine Rickbone (left) talked with Teresa Simmons, vice chair of the Siletz Tribal Arts and Heritage Society, about the group and its dream for a new building. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
As host of the “Arts Talk” radio show, Catherine Rickbone (left) talked with Teresa Simmons, vice chair of the Siletz Tribal Arts and Heritage Society, about the group and its dream for a new building. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

Rickbone also took advantage of the William Allen White Library across the street from her home, named for the founder of the Emporia Gazette and featuring a huge room of children’s books, where the girl would hang out for hours. Within walking distance was a Carnegie library. “I’d go to that library and read and look at things, so I had a lot of nurturing.”  

Rickbone, a poet and singer, eventually completed two bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. She married a Navy lieutenant, following him during their nearly 10-year marriage to towns along the East Coast.

She taught English, started her own mail-order business, and held positions in public relations and marketing. Eventually, the road led to Ashland, where she was an independent art consultant. The self-described “prairie woman … used to wind, wide open spaces, lightning and hail, storms and tornados,” found the town nice enough, but with mountains on both sides, a bit claustrophobic.

“There was no room to breathe, to stretch out, to vision,” she said. “Not that mountains aren’t inspiring, from a distance, just not up close and hovering.”

Searching for a new opportunity, Rickbone learned of a job opening in Newport, a town she hadn’t even known existed. Driving to the coastal town for her first interview, she recalls seeing the Performing Arts Center on her left and the glittering ocean before her. “That did it. I could vision again, breathe again, check the weather, and see it coming.”

The weather, however, did take some adjusting to — no four seasons; dreary, dark, damp, and depressing during fall, winter, and spring. She made it through to summer, coming out on the other side with the new knowledge that “drippy weather breeds creativity.”

During her time with the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, Rickbone was instrumental in establishing the Coastal Oregon Visual Artist Showcase (COVAS) in the Visual Arts Center, which highlights midcareer Oregon visual artists while making a statement on visual arts ecology. She helped save the former Jazz at Newport festival, later renamed the Oregon Coast Jazz Party, and signed the first Metropolitan Opera Live in HD contract for the Performing Arts Center, second in popularity, she notes, only to the Jazz Party. She also helped establish a public arts policy for Newport. She remains a member of that city committee and continues to serve on the board for the Oregon Cultural Advocacy Coalition.

Lincoln County Counsel Wayne Belmont, who worked with Rickbone on numerous projects and committees, recalled the enthusiasm and energy she brought to every task.

Catherine Rickbone (left) joins sculptor Mary Lewis at her piece “Mother and Child,” which was a gift to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts in 2014. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
Catherine Rickbone (left) joins sculptor Mary Lewis at her piece “Mother and Child,” which was a gift to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts in 2014. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

“The term I’ve used is boundless energy,” he said. “Exuberance. It can be very contagious. She’s not going to be quietly sitting on the sidelines. I know she will continue to be a super volunteer.”

In announcing her retirement, Rickbone said budget retraints caused by the the COVID-19 shutdown make this an “excellent opportunity and the appropriate time” for her to step down. She added she is “contemplating my next opportunities in life, where I can use my skills of leadership to further other interests and causes important to me.” She said she believes the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, which has laid off most of its staff because of COVID-19 budget constraints, will survive the pandemic, but it won’t be the same.

“When the time is right, I think our supporters will return,” she said. “Things may look different, but let’s face it, nothing takes the place of a live performance. The synergy and energy between stage and audience is magical. There are a lot of virtual tours and they are great… but there is nothing like an up close and personal look in real time at a work of art.

“I say the same thing about performing, you don’t get the buzz from online streaming … as you do when you are in that seat in the Alice Silverman Theatre. The stage has living people on it and something starts to happen. I’ve experienced it time and time again. I think those times will come back.”

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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.