BEND OREGON ART CITY FOCUS
Known by many as the gem of central Oregon, Bend is a healthy mix of small-town rustic charm and vibrant urban energy. The yearround resort community is Oregon’s playground, attracting city-dwellers who find respite in Bend’s striking natural beauty and world-class outdoor recreation. Bisected by the active Deschutes River and shadowed by the Cascade Mountain Range, Bend boasts some of the Pacific Northwest’s most alluring outdoor amenities. The high quality of life responsible
for Bend’s ever-increasing tourism is now drawing an influx of new residents; affluent second-homeowners and energized young professionals are seeping into the area and bringing with them the creative urban energy of Portland, San Francisco and other large cultural hubs of the West. So far Bend is maintaining its quaint, mountain-town feel, just with an added cosmopolitan overlay. Along with creative eateries, high-end retailers and a legendary “ale trail,” the most exciting outcome of Bend’s recent growth is its emerging arts and culture community.
“We came to Bend solely based on reputation
and rumors,” says Jim Peterson, who owns Mockingbird Gallery in downtown Bend with his wife Natalie Peterson. “Once we got a feel for it, we recognized the potential for this to develop into a thriving art market.” Peterson, who has a 20-year history as a dealer in the Scottsdale art world, purchased Mockingbird in 2007 and has been growing the fine art gallery’s footprint ever since with a widening client base and esteemed artist roster. The gallery’s success is in part due to the city’s growth and subsequent increased arts initiatives, which Peterson foresaw more than 10 years ago. “We wanted to benefit from an
up-and-coming marketplace,” he says on the decision to move to Bend. “The Pacific Northwest doesn’t really have its destination market, and I don’t see any reason why Bend can’t fill that need.”
Mockingbird’s aesthetic is traditional yet relevant; notable exhibiting artists include Liz Wolf, Sandra Pratt and John DeMott, among other regional and national painters and sculptors. On December 7, Mockingbird opens their annually anticipated exhibition for Montana palette knife painter Troy Collins.
While Peterson’s expertise is representational fine art, he recognized Bend’s need
for a modern art outlet. In 2016, Peterson teamed up with one of Mockingbird’s more contemporary painters, Ken Roth, to open Peterson Roth Gallery just a few blocks away. Peterson Roth is an intimate and contemporary space filled with highquality modern artists that include painters Rebecca Haines and Sandy Ostrau, sculptors Christian Burchard and Geoffrey Gorman, and more. Roth directs the gallery, which also features his abstracted landscapes.
Just last November, At Liberty Arts Collaborative opened in the Historic Liberty Theater giving Bend its second contemporary art hub in the downtown
district. At Liberty hosts rotating exhibitions for cutting-edge artists whose work is intellectually innovative. The latter is a good descriptor of the organization itself, which is a full-time gallery but also caters to creative nonprofits by giving them a storefront, so to speak, in downtown Bend. Over the past year, At Liberty has become a cultural community center in hosting music performances, film screenings, artist talks and more. During October’s Tenth Month, Bend’s 30-day celebration of art, tech, film and business, At Liberty turns over their stone and brick gallery space to Bend Film Festival, Bend Design
Conference, Bend Venture Conference and other organizations that participate in the month’s stream of independent events. “We really just want to boost the arts and culture presence here in Bend,” says co-founder Kaari Vaughn. Dedicated to collaboration, exploration and innovation when it comes to the arts, At Liberty is increasing Bend’s relevance as an art town.
Another vibrant sector of Bend is the Old Mill District, where art, architecture, riverside dining and live entertainment contribute to a lively atmosphere along the banks of the Deschutes. This historic site was the heart of Bend’s logging era before architect Bill Smith, inspired by
San Antonio’s River Walk, developed the district into what is now the revitalized home of more than 60 businesses. Galleries of note in the Old Mill District are Tumalo Art Co., a high-quality art cooperative featuring 14 locally based artists of varied mediums; DeWilde Art Glass, a stained glass studio housed in the “little red shed” historic building; and the Lubbesmeyer Studio & Gallery. Working in fiber or paint, identical twin sisters Lori and Lisa Lubbesmeyer respond to each other’s sensibilities to co-create layered landscapes that stitch Lori’s abstract visions with Lisa’s realist framework. The trained printmaker and oil painter settled their established studio in Bend for the budding art community and enticing natural beauty. Now, their gallery overlooks the Old Mill District from its second story location with views of nearby mountain ranges and wide blue skies. Visitors can watch the artists’ work while perusing their “fiber paintings” in the showroom.
Worth the 10-minute drive south of town is the High Desert Museum, a living history and wildlife museum celebrating the region’s culture through history, science, wildlife and art. The Smithsonian affiliate has a large collection of Plateau Native American artifacts and a dedicated Western art collection, which includes
photographs by Edward S. Curtis, paintings by Charles M. Russell, Edward B. Quigley and Rick Bartow, whose traveling retrospective is slated for February 2019.
The High Desert Museum’s mission as an interdisciplinary institution is taken seriously; dedicated art curator Andries Fourie inserts collected or borrowed artworks into nearly all the Museum’s exhibits. “My job is to look at an exhibit and identify how art would fit within that vision,” says Fourie, who also serves on the board of Central Oregon’s Art and Culture Alliance. As a curator and artist, Fourie envisions an encouraging future for Bend’s “art town” reputation. “It’s one of those rare moments where government organizations, private industries and cultural groups all have the same goal—to raise the profile of the arts,” he says. One struggle the art community faces is that with Bend’s increased allure also comes the rise of real estate prices. This doesn’t bode well for artists and young creatives moving to the area; however, local art-influencers are initiating solutions. Collaborative studio and retail spaces like The Workhouse, Bright Place Gallery and Willow Lane Artist’s Creative Space provide opportunities for artists to work and sell in a supportive and affordable environment. Director of The Workhouse is Christian Brown, a contemporary local artist from New York City who appreciates the camaraderie of Bend’s “small town” art community as well as the city’s push to support an arts infrastructure. “Some of the needs are starting to be met for what people want—and not just from an artist’s standpoint,” he says, referencing the rise in contemporary art outlets and the community’s desire to experience unexpected, varied art forms.
The creative current that ripples through Bend is gaining strength; now, the collective effort must draw in more commercial galleries and art spaces to increase artist and collector opportunities. Mockingbird Gallery laid this foundation and owner Peterson is committed to Bend’s imminent art market flourish. “Bring your galleries here,” he says, “let’s do this together.”