The Powerhouse Project art show is on display in the library until early January

by: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Jane Reid opens the door on one of Janet Ronacher's pieces inspired by a Powerhouse Project visit to North Fork dam and powerhouse in June. Reid said this red door popped up in several of the artists' pieces. Reid is chairwoman of the Estacada Area Arts Commission, which coordinates the Powerhouse Project in collaboration with Portland General Electric.The Powerhouse Project art show is in its final month of display in Estacada.

Visitors to the Estacada Public Library have probably noticed a varied collection of paintings, quilts, prints, photographs, sculpture, pottery and wood carvings displayed throughout the library.

The diverse mediums share a common inspiration: the North Fork Dam and Powerhouse.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Christopher Mooney completed this oil on canvas painting on site.In June, Portland General Electric allowed 29 regional artists to tour the normally restricted-access facilities.

Before the tour, PGE historian Bob Steele had given the artists a brief history of the North Fork hydro project, PGE’s “newest” project on the Clackamas River.

Construction on the hydroelectric plant and dam started in 1956. The project was completed and operational in 1957.

“It’s a very economical use of concrete,” Steele told the artists before their tour. “It’s just functional. There’s nothing fancy about it at all.”

“It’s so funny what people were taken by since it’s a very gray concrete building, It’s a little different from the others since it’s a little mid-century modern,” said Jane Reid, chairwoman of the Estacada Area Arts Commission.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Jeff Schnabel uses bees wax, steel, acrylic and glass in his Static Pressure piece. Schnabel was inspired by the power of the water being held back by the North Fork Dam.Jeff Schnabel, a professor of architecture at Portland State University, was one of the participating artists. Schnabel used bees wax, acrylic glass and steel to create his piece, “Static Pressure.”

“In this case I was less interested in the actual dam than the amount of water that the dam held back,” Schnabel said.

Schnabel said that while he works with wax it is melted into a liquid, so the steel in the piece is literally holding back liquid.

“The light is my way of showing how the weight of water and the pressure is converted into light energy,” Schnabel said.

A few of the pieces are interactive. For example, there’s Julius Kuziemski’s photograph on aluminum, “PGE.” The photograph shows the PGE logo, but the magnifying glass hanging next to it reveals tiny workers and structures arranged to form the larger sign.

by: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Caren Jones found a way to incorporate light and electricity in her mixed-media pieces.Caren Jones' mixed-media pieces incorporate light bulbs.

Dean Walch created a 3D View-Master from his visit to North Fork.

“I had some reservation of this powerhouse project. The utilitarian architecture of the 1950s is not an era that I am generally attracted to,” Walch wrote of the experience. “As with past powerhouse projects, this location has a personality of its own, and its pristine appearance clearly displays the passion PGE employees have for these facilities. The simple lines of the exteriors fade nicely into the surroundings and allow the natural landscape to stand out on its own.”

“It’s just fascinating to see they all went to the same place and to see what they came back with,” said Reid.

Reid noticed that a distinctive red door popped up in several of the artists’ pieces as did an osprey’s nest.

Once a year for the last four years, PGE has granted access to a hydroelectric project on the Clackamas to Powerhouse Project artists.

The artists have visited River Mill Powerhouse and Dam, Oak Grove Powerhouse and the Three Lynx community and Faraday Powerhouse and Dam in previous years.

Reid said that as the artists have already visited all of the area powerhouses, there are no plans for another art jam next year.

The Powerhouse Project art show will remain on display in the Estacada Public Library through early January.

From there it will travel to the Clackamas County Development Services building, PGE headquarters in downtown Portland and the Clackamas Community College Wilsonville training center.

For more information visit and follow the “dam project” link.

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