by: David Gilmore, ARTIST’S REFUGE — Surrounded by vintage finds and the craftsmanship of local artists, Sherwood painter Darla Boljat uses the Art Barn as a studio in late November. The Art Barn, which houses more than 30 regional artists, reopens this month after a brief winter hiatus.

Tucked away on a winding road that takes you from Sherwood's Old Town up and around Parrett Mountain, the Art Barn is one of this area's best kept secrets.

From the road, you wouldn't guess that this old, red-washed barn is home to the work of more than 30 regional artists - not to mention an impressive collection of vintage clothes and accessories, the passion of Art Barn owner and founder Jane Keohane.

'This used to be a chicken barn,' Keohane explains after giving a visitor 'the tour' of her restored barn. 'It still feels like a barn in the winter, that's why I close for a few months.'

The Art Barn reopens this months from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and will showcase a wide range of mediums, including watercolors, oils, pastels, acrylics, photography, mixed-media, pottery, jewelry and textile arts.

Because she's operating the Art Barn in a rural area, Keohane still offers farm products - like the basket of sumptuous wool from locally raised alpacas - and wants to add herbs and flowers to the medley of art and vintage clothing.

Darla Boljat and David Gilmore are two artists that show their work - paintings and photography, respectively - at the Art Barn, and say Keohane is easy to work with and offers a unique venue.

'I like being here,' Boljat says. 'It's more casual than places in Portland and Jane is very accommodating.'

On a recent winter day - before the Art Barn reopened to the public - Boljat set up her easel and worked on a painting of a winding road while Gilmore snapped photographs of the artist at work.

'There's such a variety here,' Gilmore says. 'When you walk in, you sort of expect to see antiques, so this is a pleasant surprise.'

The art inside the Art Barn ranges in price from a few dollars to several hundred dollars, but nearly all of it was created by regional artists.

Keohane, a staunch Christian and advocate for helping children throughout the world, reserves one section of the barn for products made by cooperatives in other parts of the world. For instance, last year, Keohane featured purses and other goods made by Thai survivors of the devastating 2004 tsunami. Seventy-five percent of each sale goes directly to the artists, Keohane says.

It was Keohane's spirit of helping that led to the Art Barn's creation in the first place.

After visiting orphans in Uganda, Keohane and her husband, Brian, decided to raise money to buy the children art supplies - mainly watercolors and watercolor paper. They hosted a 'barn sale' and sold some of the antiques Keohane had stashed in the old chicken barn. But the idea of turning the barn into a business - and of combining her love of local art and community with her dedication to ministerial work around the world - appealed to Keohane.

'That was the seed and now this is my vision,' Keohane says.

When she's not organizing a show or finding farm items to sell in the Art Barn, Keohane is probably at home with her family, which includes her husband and their four children - who range in age from 11 to 24.

With the emergence of the Second Saturday Art Walk in Old Town Sherwood and the new artists' cooperative gallery in Odge Gribble's former Odge Podge shop, Keohane says she feels there's something grand happening on the local art scene.

'I feel like we're on the crest of an art wave here,' Keohane says. 'As our community gets younger, people are seeing the importance of teaching our children the value of art ... and there's definitely a shift in Old Town. This is just the beginning.'

The Art Barn is located up Murdock Road, which turns into Baker Road at 24271 S.W. Baker Road. Look for the signs just before you get to the intersection of Morgan and Baker roads. The Art Barn will be on your right-hand side if you're coming from Old Town Sherwood.

For more information, call Keohane at 503-625-5207.

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