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The Source

Tammy Jo Wilson Co-Founds Visual Arts Nonprofit

March 18, 2019

  • Pictured left to right: Tammy Jo Wilson, Jenna Barganski of Clackamas County Historical Society, and Elo Wobig Artist with painting Road to Timberline.
  • Tammy Jo Wilson (photo by Aaron Johanson)

Lewis & Clark’s Visual Arts and Technology Program Manager Tammy Jo Wilson, along with her husband Owen, has founded a nonprofit called Art in Oregon (AiO).

When Tammy Jo and Owen purchased their first home in 2014 in Oregon City, they sought to connect with their neighborhood’s creative community of artists, galleries, and cultural happenings. As they got to know the area in a deeper way through volunteer work with the Clackamas County Arts Alliance and the McLoughlin Neighborhood Association, the potential towards fostering new cultural opportunities and growth in the visual arts spurred their initial research into arts nonprofits.

“The Willamette Falls Legacy Project certainly gave us positive inspiration, but the closure of Roxanne Colyer’s In Bocca al Luppo Fine Art Gallery in Downtown Oregon City in early 2017 got us truly fixated on community building,” Wilson said. “We asked ourselves: How can we make sure art is included in the future planning of our community? Who will speak up to ensure arts and culture are valued and supported? How can we inspire new arts patrons through accessibility, while championing and fortifying the unique cultural character of Oregon’s places? We saw an opportunity to build a different kind of visual arts nonprofit, one that can inspire artists and patrons while moving around the State as change happens; focusing on communities without the restrictions of county lines. We want to help Oregon embrace the wealth of artistic expression happening around the State. Oregon’s visual art scene is greater than the Portland Metro area. Art makes Oregon a better place to live.”

AiO is now a statewide arts nonprofit organization working to build bridges between artists and communities. AiO developed an online database of Oregon artists called Art Shine. County by county, AiO is engaging with local artists and their communities to establish collaborative relationships with the goal of increased visibility and access to art across the state.

“I have worked in the art department at Lewis & Clark for 10 years now, and I see young people go through the art program and evolve into exceptional artists,” Wilson said. “I often consider the nature of the art world they are graduating into. As an artist myself I feel the everyday challenges of embracing an artist’s life. I have found that like so many other things art is better experienced with others. Artists need each other and the support of their community. Choosing to be an artist is not about fame or fortune; it’s about communicating in your unique way. Art is a visual language that asks questions, makes statements, and speaks in ways words cannot. Art in Oregon is my contribution to this and future generations of artists; to listen to and support their voices.”

Supported by a grant from Clackamas County Arts Alliance Cultural Coalition Project Grant Program, AiO’s focused attention on Clackamas County in 2018.

AiO’s Art Shine Project has two key objectives: building a database of Oregon Artists and inspiring new and returning arts patrons to explore and connect with their creative community. This project increases investment in local artists and expansion of cultural assets throughout the county by facilitating placement of artwork in highly visible, public spaces.

“With artists being priced out of Multnomah County, we feel many regions on the outskirts of Portland are underrepresented and underestimated with regards to creative output and culture building activities,” Wilson said. “Clackamas County in particular has a rich diversity of creative individuals and growing community support for the arts.”

In May of 2018, an open call for art submissions to Art Shine was posted and dozens of artists throughout Clackamas County submitted their artwork. With the goal of making new community connections, the submission process included an opportunity for artists to identify places in their community they would like to see more art. The information gathered from artists played a crucial role in shaping AiO’s research and direction for the second phase of Art Shine 2018; offering micro-grants to businesses towards the purchase of art by artists in the Art Shine database.

In phase two of the project, AiO awarded three micro-grants to Clackamas County Businesses: AntFarm Youth Services (Sandy), Grano Market & Bakery (Oregon City), and the Museum of the Oregon Territory (Oregon City). These small, one time grants where provided to each business specifically to purchase artwork from the artists that submitted to Art Shine. Each business was required to have been open for more than one year, be a nonprofit or socially responsible community focused entrapenteur, have demonstrated a positive contribution to their community, and have a public space suitable to display artwork long term. Additionally AiO considered physical accessibility of the space, family friendliness, and the likelihood the business might be inspired by art ownership towards further contributing to the creative ecology of Clackamas County. The final artwork selected for purchase was identified in collaboration between the business and AiO.

The selected artists include Jesus Galvez, Clairissa Stephens, and Elo Wobig. A grouping of 4 paintings by Galvez titled, Los Cuatro Magos was selected by Antfarm to be on display in their community space. A delicate oil painting called Summer Lake Waterlines | Summer by Stephens captivates coffee drinkers at the Grano bakery in the up and coming downtown Oregon City neighborhood. The Museum of the Oregon Territory acquisitioned it’s very first painting titled Road to Timberline by Wobig.

After completing the first year, the Art Shine Project database is nearing 100 participants with 35 more counties to go.

“AiO is a distinct organization with big plans to reach across the state in an effort to bring together artists and invest in the cultural richness of our communities,” Tammy Jo said.