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Nature nurtures artists

Mount Hood Cultural Center's art cabins offer solace, inspiration for crafters
by: Garth Guibord, Blacksmith Andy Blakeney hammers a piece of heated iron into place during a workshop in an art cabin.

Michelangelo didn't create his masterpieces with hordes of visitors walking through his studio. Now, artists and students who go to the Mount Hood Museum and Cultural Center in Government Camp to perfect their craft won't have to, either.

The museum acquired two cabins that were deemed surplus by the forest service and transformed them into 'art cabins' for professional artists and arts classes. Classes already have started at the upper cabin, which features two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, classroom space and a blacksmith's shop. Most importantly, the classes no longer have to share their space with the Cultural Center.

'It became evident that it was much better for the students to have off-site buildings for arts and crafts,' said Betsy Valian, arts programming director at the center. 'People don't want to pay for the quality classes and have the public walking through the class.'

For the past two years, classes have been offered at the center, and the museum and Valian did their best to balance the needs of the two. Meanwhile, Valian looked for alternative spaces that would offer a better solution.

'I'd been looking at those cabins for many, many years,' Valian said. 'I heard through the grapevine that the forest service wanted to scale down as far as surplus buildings. It took almost two years, it doesn't happen overnight. There were a lot of times I didn't think it would happen.'

The new spaces have expanded the museum's offerings, now including blacksmithing, painting/drawing, glass torch work and small fusing, fiber arts and jewelry making. Classes are open to everyone, and the cabins include private studio spaces for professional artists. Amateurs and professionals alike will appreciate how inspiring it can be to work in such a location.

'People usually travel to the mountain, set up for the day or work from a photo,' Valian said. 'The cabins are right there, so you can go out five minutes from the cabin and find the best spot. You're working right in the space you're trying to interpret.'

Instructors come from throughout the Northwest region and represent some of the top artists and artisans. Darryl Nelson, owner of the Meridian Forge in Eatonville, Wash., has more than 30 years of blacksmithing experience and has created pieces for Timberline Lodge for the past 26 years. He is one of the blacksmiths offering classes this summer at the cabins.

'I think it's a great addition to the Government Camp community,' Nelson said. 'It's pretty unique. I don't know of any other communities that have nice park cabins like this.'

The center is working on the lower cabin before it can offer classes, but Valian is already working on what classes will be offered in the future.

'We'd like to do more with the jewelry, and glass and iron collaborations,' Valian said. 'This is unique (to have) a blacksmith's studio adjacent a glass/torch-works studio. We can really have some great collaborations going there.'

The new cabins, coupled with the museum's gallery, now offer the community of Government Camp the best of both worlds. Artists can collaborate, teach classes or work in private studios, and the museum can continue to present high-quality exhibitions to visitors, including pieces crafted at the cabins.

'The work that's created at the cabins then comes to the gallery and we have a beautiful, right on the street display area,' Valian said. 'It's a neat synergy.'

ART CABINS CLASSES

BLACKSMITHING

Classes are two hours; $60 per class. Limited to four students per day. Classes can be scheduled from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. You are welcome to observe the blacksmiths as they work. Students must wear 100-percent cotton clothing, and leather boots or shoes with socks. Class dates are June 21, 22, 23; July 22 and 23; and Aug. 14-20. A special display of items for sale during the week of Aug. 14-20.

PAINTING

Artist members of the Watercolor Society of Oregon will teach a week long Beginners Watercolor Workshop Aug. 7,8,9,10 and 11; $225 for the weeklong class, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Plein Air Landscape in Oil Workshop - July 28, 29, 30, 31; $200 for four-day workshop. Small class size, so register early.

JEWELRY MAKING

July 11 and Aug. 22. Tools provided; $25 class fee, $15 materials fee, 10 a.m. to noon.

Beginning Wire Jewelry - July 12 and Aug. 23. Tools provided; 10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 3 p.m.; $50 class fee, $15 materials fee.

Sterling Silver Wire Pendant - Pre-requisite: beginning wire jewelry. July 13, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tools provided; $50 class fee, $15 materials fee.

SOCKS, SOCKS, SOCKS

July 15 and 16, two-day workshop, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day; $85 class fee, $15 materials fee.

SPINNING WORKSHOP

June 27 and 28; $85 class fee for two days.

RECYCLING FOR DECOR AND COUTURE

July 17 and 18, two-day workshop; $85 class fee.

BEGINNING BOOK MAKING AND BINDING

July 22; $45 class fee, $25 materials fee.

FAMILY CAMP: 'TRADITIONS IN COMMUNICATIONS'

July 23; $25 each family member, $15 materials fee per family.