I’m not going to lie: I cried as I drove into Bend on a hot summer day in the summer of 1998. As we crept along Highway 97–which was then just Third Street–in a poky parade of bumper-to-bumper RVs and cars, I started to second-guess my decision to move to this small central Oregon town with my partner. I had not moved to Bend to get stuck in tourist traffic.
I’m glad I stopped and stayed and didn’t keep driving like I wanted to that hot afternoon, because I discovered the Bend that I still remember fondly today. I might not have found it if I hadn’t wandered into the low brick building on the corner of Georgia and Bond with my résumé and a stack of clippings in hand. I had spent the past few years writing dance and performance art reviews for “Willamette Week” in Portland (while mostly supporting myself by writing software manuals for a couple of start-ups). I figured there were at least a few community theater shows I could write about while I tried to find a full-time job.
I spoke briefly with Editor Aaron Switzer and was very surprised to be offered the position of arts & culture editor. I thought it was a bold move on his part as I was unfamiliar with the arts and music scene in Central Oregon, and had never written about music or visual art. But I learned that the paper was only a year old, so everyone else was pretty new at their jobs. I also discovered that there’s no better way to get to know a place than to write for the weekly paper.
Central Oregon was a smaller, quieter place when I started writing for the Source. In the late 1990s, the Old Mill District was under development and the Les Schwab Amphitheater, now the Hayden Homes Amphitheater, wasn’t yet open. Seeing big-name music acts generally involved a drive to Portland or Eugene. Bend has always been about local talent, then mostly of the folk, folk-rock and country variety, and Bend was on the tribute band circuit (Helles Belles, anyone?). Munch & Music was a focal point of the summer. You could still smoke in the D&D.
Bend was in a sweet spot of its growth. It still had that small-town feel and had a lot of scrappy creative energy. Ideas could come to fruition without a lot of money. Small coffee houses and bars, bands, dance/theater/literary events and performance spaces popped up and people showed up for them. The Source Weekly arose during that moment, appearing just when such an enterprise might take hold and thrive.
(Working for the Source back then was sort of like being marooned with the cast of Gilligan’s Island, only the “island” was a hot-in-the summer, freezing-in-the winter brick building that I was sure was going to collapse on us with the next earthquake. “Getting off the island” meant getting the paper done and to the printers every single week. Aaron played a cunning version of The Captain. A rotating cast of characters vied for the best Gilligan award (if you wonder if you might have been a Gilligan, you probably were), Paul was the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Howell who appeared like Santa Claus once a year or so to bequeath of us with new computers or his benevolent presence. Every single sales person was a Ginger. All of us played The Professor at various point points. I might have been Maryann.)
As much fun as it was to write about the bigger and bigger acts that were starting to perform in the newer larger venues (Bob Dylan, Modest Mouse, The Pixies), writing about local musicians, artists, writers and theater events was what I loved best. They are the heart of a local arts scene. In this small community, I felt the obligation to be critical, but not unkind in my reviews. I think I mostly succeeded.
As Bend and Central Oregon changed, so did I. Putting out a paper week after week is hard. I got tired of the grind. I had a baby and life pulled me in a different direction. In 2006, we moved to Portland so I could go back to school. I’m now a nurse-midwife in Fairbanks, Alaska. Fairbanks has similarities to the Bend of the late 1990s and early-aughts, which is why I think I have stayed. (It doesn’t have a weekly paper though, but probably could use one.)
—Tanya Ignacio was Arts and Culture editor, then Managing Editor of the Source Weekly from 1998-2006. For a year or so, she also laid out the paper. In 2006, she left journalism and went back to school and is now a nurse-midwife in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she has lived with her son since 2010.