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Art for Art's Sake: My Own Two Hands uses creativity in Americana Project 

Americana Project's 11th year at Sisters Folk Festival. This year's theme is My Own Two Hands.

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The Americana Project's nostalgic logo, a vintage gramophone painted red, white and blue with the iconic image of Lady Liberty, was actually created by Katie Smith, one of the project's student artists. The image symbolizes the notions of musical freedom and is an example of the creativity that's alive in Central Oregon's youth.

The educational and instructional outreach arm of the Sisters Folk Festival, the Americana Project is now forging ahead into its 11th year providing a rich array of award-winning classes, scholarships, workshops and mentorship programs in the visual and performing arts to the Sisters School District. This weekend, the festival takes a novel approach to keeping its programs alive by funding art through art with its annual My Own Two Hands fundraising event.

The festivities begin with a parade on Friday down Hood Avenue at 4 p.m., followed by a free art stroll through 38 participating galleries and businesses showcasing various artworks available during the live and silent auctions on Saturday.

This year's theme for My Own Two Hands is "In The Current," providing contributing artists with a gentle nudge across their creative thresholds to interpret as they wish. Artworks donated by over 125 artists have used the theme to conjure memorable pieces in all mediums from stone, bone and feathers to glass, concrete and canvas.

Central Oregon has long been recognized as a cultural vortex for artists and free thinkers from all backgrounds and Sisters' legacy of championing their talents - especially those of our youth - echoes through the town's Ponderosa pines. Thanks to Executive Director Brad Tisdel, the Sisters Folk Festival nurtures artistic minds in infinite ways.

"For me, I think the magic is the fact the programming and events we do are all heavily integrated," said Tisdel, who originated the Americana Project's educational program and continues to direct the annual folk festival.

"My Own Two Hands celebrates the creative arts opportunities young people have here in Sisters and provides a showcase for the manifestations of those chances," he said. "Not only are we raising money for the Americana Project, but we're highlighting their ability to be self-expressive, bringing together the visual and performing arts to keep our schools strong while building that important sense of community, and that is a real gift."

Following the art walk on Friday, there's an evening of performing arts at Bronco Billy's Ranch Grill with a chili feed. All this leads up to the crescendo of creativity on Saturday at the art auction and party held on the warehouse floor of Ponderosa Forge and Ironworks. Deemed the party of the year by some in Sisters, the event offers a full evening of art, music and entertainment.

Jim Cornelius, chairman of the Sisters Folk Festival, believes the Sisters Americana Project is the festival's way of ensuring that the torch is passed to a new generation.

"It's a way to instill an understanding of the deep roots of American music and allow young artists to have a more meaningful appreciation of it than what is generally absorbed through pop culture," said Cornelius. "Whether or not they pursue a musical career or not, this gives them skills transferable to real life - the ability to perform in front of people, to collaborate with others and provide a sense of the culture to which they belong."

Tisdel wants to build something lasting and greater than the individual event, constructing a springboard for artistic talent that fosters and nurtures individual creativity.

"We're so fortunate to have people support it in the way they do. I think people crave connections and this is a great way to feel connected in a very vibrant and vital way. The folk festival is the driving force behind it all and it's so cool to see nationally touring artists come into our town and participate in our programs. It provides a rare sense of uniqueness to everyone involved," Tisdell said.


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