Clackamas County Art Shine Project a 'win-win-win'
Tammy Jo Wilson and her husband, Owen Premore, believe that art makes Oregon a better place to live, and so the pair founded Art in Oregon (AiO).
"We saw an opportunity to build a different kind of visual arts nonprofit, one that can inspire artists and patrons while moving around the state as change happens; focusing on communities without the restrictions of county lines," Wilson said.
She added, "We want to help Oregon embrace the wealth of artistic expression happening around the state."
Wilson and Premore are both artists living in Oregon City. Wilson is the Visual Arts & Technology program manager at Lewis & Clark College, while Premore works as directing curator for the Oregon State University Art About Agriculture art collection.
One of the first efforts AiO launched was the Art Shine Project — a grassroots venture to build relationships between Clackamas County artists and local establishments, and to facilitate placement of artwork in highly visible public spaces by providing micro-grants.
"This project increases investment in local artists and expansion of cultural assets throughout the county," Wilson said.
"With artists being priced out of Multnomah County, we feel many regions on the outskirts of Portland are underrepresented and underestimated with regard to creative output and culture-building activities," she said.
"Clackamas County, in particular, has a rich diversity of creative individuals and growing community support for the arts."
The first step in the project was to develop an online database of artists who live and work in Oregon.
"We posted a call for artists to submit images of artworks and supporting information to the Art Shine Database at artshine.org," Wilson said.
Then, a project grant from the Clackamas County Arts Alliance "incentivized Clackamas County artists to submit to Art Shine in order to make their artwork available for purchase through micro-grants awarded to Clackamas County businesses," Wilson said.
The price of the artwork was set by the artist, and artists were paid by AiO on behalf of the selected businesses, Wilson said.
"The artists are paid for their artwork, the establishment gains ownership of original art from a local artist and the community has the opportunity to experience and enjoy art by an artist from their area," she said, adding, "It's a win-win-win."
Art in Oregon awarded over $1,000 in total micro-grants for art to be displayed at three local venues: AntFarm Youth Services in Sandy; Grano Bakery & Market in Oregon City; and the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City.
"Each business (receiving a grant) was required to have been open for more than one year, be a nonprofit or socially responsible, community-focused entrepreneur, have demonstrated a positive contribution to their community, and have a public space suitable to display artwork long-term," Wilson said.
AiO also considered "physical accessibility of the space, family friendliness, and the likelihood the business might be inspired by art ownership toward further contributing to the creative ecology of Clackamas County," she added.
The Museum of the Oregon Territory was selected as a recipient because the site "encourages historic preservation and recognition of Oregon artists as part of our history," Wilson said.
Grano Bakery, another beneficiary, is a family business owned by Ava Mikolavich and Ulises Alvarez, and "the beauty of the space and the food create a place where many people gather for enrichment," she said.
The final recipient was AntFarm Youth Services, which supports "youth with art experiences that connect with them where they are," Wilson added.
The artwork selected for purchase was identified in collaboration between each business and Art in Oregon.
The artists who were chosen include Jesus Galvez, Clairissa Stephens and Elo Wobig.
A grouping of four acrylic paintings on canvas by Galvez, titled "Los Cuatro Magos," was picked by AntFarm to be on display in their community space.
"An oil painting called 'Summer Lake Waterlines,' by Stephens captivates coffee drinkers at the Grano Bakery in the up-and-coming downtown Oregon City neighborhood," Wilson said.
Finally, the Museum of the Oregon Territory acquired "Road to Timberline," an oil painting by Wobig.
"As a group, these artists speak to the diversity of voices here in Clackamas County, as well as our love for this place. All of their artwork reminds us of the beauty and value of the rivers and land beyond our backyards," Wilson said.
"Clackamas County is uniquely rich with urban, rural and wildness intersections. The critical relationship we have with the land comes through in (the artists') imagery of water, mountains, seasons," she said.
Galvez, a Happy Valley resident, says that "Los Cuatro Magos" is the personification he has given to "the harmony of seasons and the relationship we as humans have with it."
He drew inspiration from his Latinx culture and other similar cultures from around the world.
"AntFarm's philosophy with working with at-risk youth and encouraging creative ways of expression like painting is something that aligns with me and my art," Galvez said.
"Art Shine is an avenue in which artists such as myself can sell art to businesses that normally don't have access to local artists' work," he said.
Galvez added, "I would like to do mural work in Clackamas County and beyond, and I would like to reach out to my Latinx and persons of color community for collaborations."
Stephens was pleased when Grano Bakery chose her painting, "Summer Lake Waterlines," because she lives walking distance from the business in Oregon City.
"The bakery has a modern, minimal farmhouse vibe that utilizes wood tones and a minimal color palette. The piece fits in this space well because my work has a minimalism aesthetic using reductive shapes and colors," she said.
The oil and silver-leaf painting on wood is part of "a series of work that explores the value of water and its relationship to the high desert climate in Summer Lake, Oregon," Stephens said. "This artwork was inspired during an artist residency in Summer Lake. I was inspired by the shifting location of water on the dry lake bed and the bright reflections the sun made on the water at different times of day," she said.
The best thing about the Art Shine Project, Stephens says, is that it "provided an opportunity for both a local business and myself as a local artist to benefit from each other. It's fun to be able to see my artwork in my community."
Wobig, a Happy Valley resident, is a retired emergency physician who has been painting for only a little more than a year.
"Road to Timberline" was the first painting she made for the 2017 Pacific Northwest Plein Air event, which takes place every summer.
Work must be done en plein air, which means outside in the open air rather than in the studio, and Wobig chose to paint a scene from Timberline Lodge.
"What drew me into painting this scene was the layers of land in shades of blue from the distant mountain to the rocky foreground. So I was both standing in Timberline and viewing the timberline in the distance at the same time," she said.
Wobig says she was surprised that the Museum of the Oregon Territory chose her oil painting, as she thought the museum only displayed artifacts of Oregon history.
"I am greatly honored that the inclusion of my painting signifies my work as a part of Oregon history," she said.
As for the Art Shine Project, Wobig says that the model Wilson and her husband have created bridges across "the financial barrier, so that artists can be seen and compensated for their work, while the community can acquire and display real authentic artwork without cost to them."
Response to art
Jenna Barganski, manager of the Museum of the Oregon Territory, said that Clackamas County Historical Society staff were thrilled to display Wobig's painting that depicts Mt. Hood in the background.
"Aside from its distinct beauty, Mt. Hood is partially located in Clackamas County, so the painting aligns with our mission to collect, preserve and display objects that are significant to Clackamas County history," she said.
CCHS agreed to participate in the art project because the historical organization is interested in expanding its mission to support other local nonprofits and community members in their endeavors.
"This is the first step toward something greater," Barganski said. "Tammy Jo and I have some future projects in mind that involve the Clackamas County artist community."
Meanwhile, in Sandy, "Jesus' paintings are definitely a draw to our customers," said Two Foxes Singing, AntFarm's executive director.
"Some of the folks have commented about the beauty in his work, the connection to culture and the passion that comes from it," he said. "We were appreciative of his life story and how art has assisted him in establishing a positive and healthy life, although walking through many trials and difficult situations as a child and young man. We believe this is the inspiration we strive to develop for our young people. And to have a Latino man show his art in Sandy is important."
Two Foxes Singing added that one young person affected by Galvez's work shares some poetry in a Cultural Arts Poetry Slam inspired by this exhibit.
"Our cafe and bakery and Cultural Arts Center are a community hub of activity, not only for our youth participants, but also for the community and people passing through town," he said.
To learn more about Art in Oregon, visit artinoregon.org. Click on Projects to learn more about the Art Shine Project.
The organization is in the process of applying for continued grant funding for the next stage of Art Shine in Lincoln County, hoping to raise additional funding through local sponsorships and individual donations as well. Donations can be made on the website at artinoregon.org and artshine.org by clicking the Donate Now button.
AntFarm Youth Services is located at 39140 Proctor Blvd., Sandy. Its mission is to provide life-changing learning experiences for young people to create and connect a healthy, purposeful and compassionate community. Visit antfarmyouthservices.com.
Grano is a small batch neighborhood bakery and market located at 1500 Washington St., Oregon City; visit granobreads.com.
The Museum of the Oregon Territory is located at 211 Tumwater Drive, Oregon City. Visit clackamashistory.org.
To see the work of the three local artists, visit:
Jesus Galvez at oilonh2o.com; Clairissa Stephens at clairebstephens.wixsite.com/Claire; Elo Wobig at elowobig.com.
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