Yaquina River

Remembering a ‘poet with a paintbrush’

"You have this incredible world of beauty right out your front door": Michael Gibbons, who died at 76, was a legend along the Yaquina River.

 Artist Michael Gibbons liked to share the story of a day when he was teaching a painting class by the Yaquina River. An older fellow approached and asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m painting,” Michael answered.

“An artist?” the man questioned.

 “I guess you could say that,” Michael said. The man looked at him, “Had one of them in town once; couldn’t make a living.” And he turned and walked away.

 Michael laughed when he told the story, but it was no doubt not the first time he heard a discouraging comment. Nonetheless, it deterred him not in the least. In Toledo, the Oregon mill town of less than 3,500 where he lived, the idea of creating an artist’s community may have sounded foolish to some, yet that was exactly what the self-described “poet with a paintbrush” did. At one time, some 15 artists of various mediums created their art in the town seven miles from the coast.

Michael Gibbons, “Autumn View in Salt River Canyon,” oil, 6 x 8 inches.

 Michael Gibbons died at the age of 76 on July 2 due to complications from a stroke he suffered in 2016, bringing to an end nearly four decades as the area’s leading champion of the arts. He is credited with founding Toledo’s annual Labor Day Art Walk and establishing the Yaquina River Museum of Art, and was instrumental in bringing chamber music concerts to town.