Celebrating Lane County’s Artists and Traditions

Alina Mansfield

In the Winter and Spring of 2018, I attended many of Lane County’s regional cultural events, festivals, and fairs to scout out tradition keepers for the Willamette Valley Folklife Survey.

The Willamette Valley is homeland to the Kalapuya Tribes, with the Molalla calling the foothills of the Cascades home. More recently, a significant Scandinavian population settled Junction City, where the annual Scandinavian Festival attracts attendees from far and wide to try a taste of Danish aebelskiver (apple pastry), participate in Swedish folk dancing, or watch a Norwegian artist demonstrate Hardanger embroidery (usually white on white embroidery with cutwork to create a lacy effect). Eugene’s Sons of Norway Sonja Lodge (Lane County) participate in the festival, and I had the pleasure of getting to know many of their members at their annual Lutefisk dinner in January. Before the dinner, I watched lodge members peel potatoes for the lefse (potato flatbread) and bake traditional Norwegian desserts and cookies. And I got to have my first taste ever of lutefisk (cod preserved in lye, rinsed and boiled, then served hot with butter). As someone of Norwegian descent myself, this notorious cultural delicacy was on my bucket list, and I was not disappointed. Lodge members did assure me, however, that their lutefisk used to be much stronger!

I also attended a lodge-sponsored Norwegian Sweater Night for which members donned their Norwegian-style knitted sweaters and shared stories about the talented needlewomen who made them. I discovered that Norwegian knitters make their purl stitches without moving the yarn to the front of the needle. There was a palpable celebration of their heritage in such stories, and a sense of humor and pride in the discussion that detailed how this unique style differs from standard knitting.

Through these activities, I was able to meet and interview some very special traditional artists, including PattiJo Meshnick, a Norwegian Rosemåler. Rosemåling is a traditional Norwegian decorative art that involves painting objects with stylized flower motifs. With a focus on symmetry, brightness, and depth of color, Meshnik decorates pots, clocks, hangers, cards, and more. Meshnik’s eye for design is key for her rosemåling; she uses a combination of traditional design elements, techniques and materials to achieve the right effect. She always starts with a root at the center; loading brushes with various thicknesses, she paints S strokes and C strokes, adding color, shading, and then fine lines for depth. According to Meshnik, regional styles developed as a result of the distance between the deep Norwegian valleys; traveling artists would stay with a family all winter, cheering up their houses and soot-covered furniture with brightly colored designs. Like others who learned the techniques of rosemåling from master artists, Meshnik also continues to study with master teachers to learn various regional styles. She notes that traditional rosemåling became an endangered art form in Norway; teaching is essential for its survival. “Folk art is a hard thing to keep alive in modern days; you need to find someone who wants to teach, and someone who wants to learn.”

In February, I celebrated the Asian Lunar New Year of the Dog in Eugene at the “Bark to the New Year” festival. There I met Kathy Hoy, a traditional Chinese ink brush painter. Before moving to Eugene to attend college, Kathy learned to paint by apprenticing with Huang Jun Pin, a famous traditional Chinese brush painter in Taipei, Taiwan. She creates traditional Chinese ink wash and watercolor on rice paper. Many of her paintings have traditional symbols of nature such as water, fish, birds, and mountain landscapes as well as Chinese characters.

In April, I headed out to Vida, Oregon, for the McKenzie Drift Boat Festival, where I met river guides and a conch mushroom artist, learned about wooden drift boats, and watched fly fishers demonstrate how to make fly ties. Along the way, I marveled at the chainsaw art along the McKenzie Highway, which celebrates these roadside sculptures each year in July at the McKenzie River Chainsaw & Arts Festival in Blue River.

Lane County also hosted the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational in March, which prompted me to speak with local tattoo artist, Suzen Tattoozen, co-owner of Whiteaker Tattoo Collective in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. She is known for her unique custom designs, and ornate, embellished, illustrative watercolor styles. Tattoozen has high standards and is very passionate about representing the industry with the highest of integrity. She says no to tattoos she believes will not be good art, and she asks a lot of questions before agreeing to do a tattoo. But she also believes in never judging a client’s ideas. She thinks of tattoos and body art as the “freedom of owning yourself.” She is slow to start when she begins her work because she wants to get to know her client’s skin. Tattoozen also runs Transformation Ink, a tattoo-based charity; she believes that tattoos are empowering and transformative and that receiving a good tattoo is treating one’s self to self-care and self-love.

Tattoos, rosemåling, and fly fishing may seem very different from each other, but these culture keepers all share a love for detail in artistry, symmetry, design; an attention to story and heritage; and a commitment to passing on their skills and knowledge to others. Folk and traditional artists like these continue to enrich Lane County’s diverse cultural and regional heritage.

 

 

OREGON TRADITIONAL ARTS APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM (TAAP) – APPLICATIONS DUE APRIL 1st, 2019

The Oregon Folklife Network (OFN) is now accepting applications for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP) for 2019-20. This cornerstone program offers traditional/folk master artists and culture keepers a $4,000 stipend to teach their art form to apprentices from their own communities—cultural, religious, or occupational groups, or tribes. The stipend supports master artists to pass on their knowledge, skills, and expertise to an apprentice of great promise, who is empowered through these lessons to continue carrying on and strengthening Oregon’s diverse cultural traditions.

We are thrilled to announce the 2018-19 TAAP awardees: traditional Irish singer, Brian Hart of Portland; hip-hop emcee, Michael “Mic” Crenshaw of Portland; traditional saddle-maker, Steve McKay of Burns; West African drummer and dancer, Alseny Yansane of Eugene; Zapotec Weaver, Francisco Bautista-Lopez of Sandy; Classical Bharatha Natyam Indian dancer, Jayanthi Raman of Portland; Indian Carnatic musician, Sreevidhya Chandramouli of Portland; and Cayuse/Nez Perce applique beadworker, Marjorie Kalama of Warm Springs.

Other examples of Oregon’s many traditional/folk arts include McKenzie River Drift Boat building, Southeast Asian dance, Norwegian cooking and baking, Northwest logger poetry, Native American basket weaving, Middle Eastern embroidery, Irish or old time fiddling, African-American gospel singing, rawhide braiding, Iranian storytelling, Andean instrument building, and more.

OFN encourages applications from Oregonians engaged in living cultural traditions emerging from their heritage or tribes. This program does not fund historic re-enactments, DIY revival crafts, or those who practice traditions that are not part of their own cultural heritage or community.   CONTACT US: Please contact us if you interested in applying or know someone that you want to recommend. Visit our website, ofn.uoregon.edu, or contact Latham Wood (ofn@uoregon.edu, 541-346-3820) for more information about your eligibility in the program. APPLICATIONS: TAAP guidelines and the TAAP application can be downloaded at the OFN website. Staff members are available to advise applicants about the application process. If you send us your draft application 2 weeks before the deadline, we can provide helpful feedback before your final submission.

DEADLINE: Applications are due at the OFN office by 5 pm, APRIL 1, 2019. Send your complete application package to Oregon Folklife Network, 242 Knight Library, 6204 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-6204.

This program is funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Oregon Arts Commission.  OFN is administered by the Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) and is supported in part by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Cultural Trust, and the NEA. The Oregon Folklife Network works to increase public investment in cultural traditions and those who practice them.

About Oregon Folklife Network

Oregon Folklife Network (OFN) is administered by the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon and is the state’s designated Folk and Traditional Arts Program. OFN is supported in part by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Cultural Trust, and National Endowment for the Arts. OFN works to increase public investment in cultural traditions and those who practice them.

About the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History enhances knowledge of Earth’s environments and cultures, inspiring stewardship of our collective past, present, and future. With collections representing millions of years and all of Earth’s continents, the museum is a center for international research on topics in natural history and anthropology. Museum exhibitions are open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youths and seniors, and $10 for families (two adults and up to four youths). Reduced admission is available for visitors presenting Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Admission is free to members and UO ID card holders. For general information call 541-346-3024.

Media Contact:

Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History, kstromme@uoregon.edu, 541-346-5083

Links:

Oregon Folklife Network: https://ofn.uoregon.edu/

TAAP Program: https://ofn.uoregon.edu/programs/traditional_arts_apprenticeship_program.php

Museum of Natural and Cultural History: http://natural-history.uoregon.edu

Museum on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/oregonnaturalhistory

Oregon Folklife Network awarded $55,000 by the National Endowment for the Arts

EUGENE, Ore. – (Dec. 28, 2018) – The University of Oregon’s Oregon Folklife Network is set to receive a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Announced as part of the endowment’s $27 million funding package for fiscal year 2019, the Oregon grant will support a folklife survey on Oregon’s north and central coast.

“OFN is so pleased to have another year of NEA support for our documentation of Oregon’s living cultural heritage,” said Riki Saltzman, Oregon Folklife Networks’s executive director.

Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,605 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking and will award 972 grants in this category.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

With support from the grant, the Oregon Folklife Network will work with veteran folklorist Douglas Manger to identify folk and traditional artists in the Northwest and Central Oregon Coast counties of Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln, as well as the coastal sections of Lane and Douglas counties. Manger will also mentor emerging folklorists as they document regional and ethnic folklore from a range of heritage groups including but not limited to Asian and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Latinos, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Europeans as well as occupational folklife such as chainsaw carving, hunting, dairy farming, commercial fishing, clamming, oystering, shrimping, and other waterways traditions. Folklorists will also document foodways, music, storytelling, and other relevant folk expressions.

OFN’s statewide survey has so far identified over 355 folk and traditional artists in 28 counties as well as at the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, the Burns Paiute, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. OFN partners with local and state organizations and Tribes to refer tradition bearers and folk artists for programs in parks, arts organizations, libraries, or festivals. We also preserve this documentation in our archives.

OFN invites recommendations for individuals who should be documented as part of the project. Recommendations can be submitted to by email to Riki Saltzman, riki@uoregon.edu, or Emily West, eafanado@uoregon.edu, or by phone to 541-346-3820.

For more information on the National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

Folklore Fieldwork in Wheeler County

by Vanessa Cutz (OFN intern and Folklore MA ’16) and Josh Ehlers (OFN Assistant Folklorist and Folklore BA ’13)

Riki Saltzman, Josh Ehlers, and Vanessa Cutz joined folklorist Joseph O’Connell in his survey of Wheeler County over the first weekend of May. We drove through the Ochoco National Forest to get to Mitchell, a small town along Highway 26 that once thrived through the logging industry. While the town now sits quietly amidst the rim rock, juniper, and sagebrush, it anticipates a potential tourist boom now that Travel Oregon has named the nearby Painted Hills one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.

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Folklore Fieldwork in Deschutes and Crook Counties

by Brad McMullen, OFN GSA and Folklore graduate student

Riki Saltzman and OFN’s Brad McMullen joined folklorist Douglas Manger in Deschutes and Crook Counties to do fieldwork between May 20th and 22nd. Over the weekend, we were able to meet several different tradition bearers and visit a few different cultural sites to give us a deeper appreciation and understanding of the area’s history and culture.

First, we visited master bespoke bootmaker D.W. Frommer at his studio in Redmond. Mr. Frommer has been making handcrafted boots for over 20 years. He started out as a saddlemaker, but after his teacher gave him a pair of handmade boots, he was inspired to change his craft. Mr. Frommer demonstrated his boot-making process, showing us the tricks and tools of his trade, one that goes back hundreds of years. Whenever he makes a boot, Mr. Frommer feels the presence of all those bootmakers who have come before him. He stressed the importance of training others, and he strives to pass on that legacy to all of his students.

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