Often, as this time of year rolls around, I'm filled with love and gratitude for this ever-growing city. This town gets a gold star for buying local. Yet, I look back at this year and see a major deficit, and a disconnection in how we support artists.
The first big resource lost this year was Bend Art Center. What began as Atelier 6000, renamed itself a few years ago, with the hope of filling the gap of education lost when The Art Station closed (since taken over, in part, by Bend Parks and Rec). Many artists used BAC for its large-format presses. Pat Clark has since loaned the presses to artists in Sisters, at Studio 6000. Once again, Sisters sets a great example. While it's lucky the presses found a home, it means no large presses for Bend. BAC also hosted classes from visiting master artists, and education programs for youth.
Speaking of youth, Bend also lost BaseCamp, a nonprofit offering hands-on art learning as well as verified art therapy programs—some of the only ones in Bend. Art therapy is its own practice and not something children who have experienced trauma can get from any art class.
Also detailed in a previous ArtWatch this month was the loss of Stuart Breidenstein's place, Bright Place Gallery. For the last decade, he's coordinated events promoting artists, including the epic 20-dollar sale. This year, as I helped with the event, I watched hundreds of people wait for hours in the cold to buy over 1,000 pieces of art. I walked away wondering, "How is it so many people can be excited about art in this town and yet the places that host these events cannot stay open?"
The loss of Bright Place also means artists also lost studio spaces. Spaces for artists are sacred, as many artists don't have space to work on larger pieces at home, or they work in mediums that require ventilation.
Karen Ruane, who opened a studio downtown just a year and a half ago, is closing her space as well. "From the downtown business community, and my landlords, I felt little support. I don't believe artist spaces are valued in any way by most of those outside the artist community," Ruane shared via email.
We have gained a few things, meanwhile. The High Desert Museum continues to staff the Curator of Art position, hiring Sara Siestreem to continue bringing thoughtful and insightful art exhibitions. Madras has the 5th Street Co-op, run by the Madras Downtown Association. Prineville has the new Rimrock Art Gallery and Rick Steber spaces. Redmond's public art scene is thriving.
Bend also has a new mural code, so maybe that's something. Still, two city councilors—Justin Livingston and Bill Moseley—opposed it, citing concerns about the content artists might paint, which to me, is concerning.
What is happening to artists in Bend is not unique, as it has happened in many other communities. What's next for artists in Bend? For many it means it's time to move. But what it means for the city is that we have to answer a serious question: How is it that artists feel the generosity of this city's people, but not from the city itself?