Mount Hood-area painters return to physical gallery space in downtown Troutdale

PMG PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Colleen Chesbrough helped usher the online art community into a physical space at Red Trillium Gallery in late 2019. In 2016, Welches resident Caryn Tilton founded Mt. Hood Art Online with the goal of creating a virtual gallery space for local artists to display and sell their art.

In late 2019, after several changes, including in leadership, the online gallery transformed back into a physical experience with the opening of Red Trillium Gallery and Learning Center at 373 E. Historic Columbia River Highway in Troutdale.

"I think giving artist the opportunity to exhibit their art to the public for the first time is my favorite part of red Trillium," said Red Trillium co-founder Colleen Chesbrough. "The other thing I love is that each artist brings something unique to the gallery. Their experiences and their background teach others. We learn from one another."

Several of the Mount Hood-area artists who utilized the digital resource followed and now display their pieces at the gallery, now coming in-person to meet art appreciators at the gallery's First Friday events.

Welches-based painter Steve Ludeman has painted landscapes and now historical scenes for more than 30 years, and while he has had art in "lots of other venues," Red Trillium is the first true gallery to have his pieces on display.

"This was an opportunity to get into a gallery dedicated to art," Ludeman said. "It's been a very good experience so far."

Because the displayed art is switched out every four months, Ludeman said he's encouraged "to create new things."

"I also love associating with the other artists," he said, pointing out that making those connections was different when the gallery was purely digital. "Associating with other artists helps you raise the level of your own work. (Being a member of the gallery) encourages me to be more connected to the community." PMG PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Pamela Smithsted is an oil painter from Mount Hood.

Oil painter Pamela Smithsted explained that the "lack of community" in the online format of the gallery was a reason she was likely going to quit displaying there until she learned about Red Trillium.

"It felt very sterile and I always like the pop-up, in-person shows the best," she said. "With the online format, you'd never know where your art was going. Now I get to sell other people's art and my own and talk with people."

She said she also appreciates getting to see other people's art and "learn new styles and techniques" from her peers.

Mount Hood resident and watercolorist Becky Jacobs had similar sentiments about joining the Troutdale gallery.

"For me it's a way to connect with the people who are looking at your art," she said. Through the meet-and-greet events hosted at Red Trillium, Jacobs said she's able to "tell a story (about her art) that you wouldn't be able to say in an online format."

Jacobs does still market her art online so that people can access custom prints of her work in the size and format they desire.

"It gives me an outlet for people who don't live in the state or want a custom size," she said.

However, she prefers the gallery for the personal and physical connections that are possible.

"If you don't have a personal or physical connection, people aren't going to find your art online," Jacobs said. She also enjoys being able to come in and talk to other artists about products and techniques they use in their own work.

"It's a very supportive environment," she said. "It's nice to have people really admire what you're doing. Everybody that's here is kind of like your biggest fan. We're inspired by each other." PMG PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Becky Jacobs appreciates socializing with and learning from fellow artists at the Troutdale-based gallery.

While in-person events have been on hiatus for the gallery for much of its time in Troutdale because of the pandemic, the members now are hosting regular First Friday events, with another coming up at 5 p.m. Friday, May 6.

"Having a space to share and see artists and their work in person is so much more impactful than on a computer screen," Chesbrough said. "In the same way that we all appreciated using virtual platforms to stay connected during COVID, most people admitted that we just want to shake each other's hands and give each other a hug. It's the same for the artists in the gallery coming out of a virtually only platform and now being able to see and experience art in person. I think this was why the gallery was successful even through the past two years."

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