ARTisSpectrum | Volume 29 | artisspectrum.com
Central Oregon, USA
by Stuart Gordon
It’s no secret that citizens of the great Pacific Northwest love their coffee and microbrewed beer. But in the small and
mid-sized communities that make up Central Oregon, residents are just as passionate and excited about their art, which is
celebrated year-round in a number of ways. One of the most popular is the city of Bend’s monthly First Friday Art Walks.
Although Bend is not a big urban center like Portland, you wouldn’t know it on the night of an Art Walk. The venues down-
town and at the swank Old Mill shopping district are packed even during Central Oregon’s harsh winter months when the
snow is flying. Galleries and other businesses stay open late into the night serving wine and hors d’oeuvres as patrons
schmooze with the local artists whose creations are on display. Bend, the largest community in the region with some 85,000
residents, also hosts one of the most prestigious juried outdoor art shows in the nation. Art in the High Desert was ranked
“in the top 25 events nationwide for sales of fine art in 2012.” Greg Lawler’s Fine Art SourceBook ranked the popular event
as the 14th best fine arts festival in the nation based on sales. “The art community in Central Oregon is very diverse,” says
Pamela Hulse Andrews, publisher of Cascade Arts & Entertainment, a monthly magazine devoted to spreading the word
about the region’s vibrant art community. The character of the artwork is reflected in the personality of the distinctive
communities that comprise Central Oregon. In Madras, you can find Native American artists and work influenced by the
presence of the Warm Springs Reservation. In Prineville, art and artists reflect the town’s Western cowboy heritage. In Bend,
Redmond and Sunriver, one can see the influence of the beautiful Deschutes River and nearby Cascade Mountain Range in
the strong penchant for producing landscapes in painting, watercolors and photography.
The area has its share of affluent residents, many of whom have summer homes in Bend, and who collect and appreciate the
arts. One major patron of the arts over the years has been Brooks-Scanlon, a former lumber company turned realty firm that
underwrote several nationally recognized sculptors to create large outdoor pieces for Bend’s largest traffic roundabouts.
Such generosity has its rewards. In Oregon, donations to the arts earn you state tax credits. Although Central Oregon boasts
36 art galleries, there still doesn’t seem to be enough wall space to accommodate all the fine artists seeking exhibit space.
Local coffeehouses, restaurants, microbreweries, libraries, golf course, clubhouses and even salons have gotten into the act
by providing wall space for artists. Andrews says the local art community seems to have rebounded from the hit it took dur-
ing the nationwide economic recession. Although several galleries went out of business during the downturn, many others
survived, and new ones have recently opened. The new model for local galleries seems to be cooperatives that exhibit the
work of several artists ranging in media, and who also financially support the gallery with membership fees. Clearly, the
community generously embraces its artists. But Central Oregon’s artists also find ways to repay that support.
Donated artwork is often the backbone of fund-raising auctions held to support art education for children, the High Desert
Museum and several local non-profit organizations. It’s safe to say that art is woven into the fabric of the Central Oregon
community for years to come.
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