When we got married in 1999, my husband’s uncle gave us a watercolor painting of our beloved town by local artist Sally Bills Bailey. It was, and remains, one of my favorite wedding gifts. I love it because it’s cheery and colorful. Its dimensions are whimsically out of proportion, yet everything important is there: the river, the windsurfers, our hillside town, the orchards, the mountain.
I also love it because it feels like a snapshot from that time. In the painting, there are only windsurfers on the river, because that’s all there was back then. The waterfront looks different, too — there was no sandbar, no waterfront park, no development at all where the restaurants and breweries are now.
Of course, the art scene in the Gorge also has changed dramatically since Bailey painted that watercolor. There were artists here to be sure — some long-time residents and others who were newly discovering that the Gorge and its breathtaking landscapes provided endless inspiration for their work. But galleries and other outlets for local art were few and far between, and arts events rare.
Not anymore. This year marks the 14th annual Gorge Artists Open Studios Tour, which has become one of the most-anticipated regional arts events of the year. Begun in 2006 with the goal of promoting a handful of local artists and their work, the tour has grown to include dozens of artists up and down the Gorge, and from Parkdale, Ore., to Husum, Wash. This year’s tour, April 24-26, features 44 artists. (Bailey, by the way, is one of them.) It’s fun and inspiring to meet the artists, see their studios and learn how they create their work. We highlight the tour and five of this year’s artists, beginning on page 52.
We have several other stories in this issue featuring art and creativity in the Gorge — of which there is so much. We profile Kristie Strasen, who has had a fascinating career in textile design and is also a talented weaver (page 12), and Donn Hopkins, a native of Hood River who recently returned to his home town and is finding success as a woodturner (page 32). We also take a look at the mural in Odell, painted on the side of a Diamond Fruit Company warehouse, that celebrates the cultural history of farming in the Hood River Valley (page 76).
Other good reads in this issue include a story about the rise of public transportation for recreationists (page 66); a profile of Tofurky, Hood River’s best-known purveyor of plant-based foods (page 28); and a list of fun activities to help you get the kids outside, rain or shine (page 72). We hope you enjoy this issue. Have a great spring.
—Janet Cook, Editor