Festival celebrates town murals

Nestled in the forested hills just far away enough from the city, Estacada has long been a draw for artists and art lovers.

Jane Reid, founder of the Estacada Summer Celebration, said artists starting moving to Estacada back in the 1970s. Their influence continues to this day with more than 20 murals throughout the town, the annual festival and a downtown art gallery.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO; BEVERLY CORBELL - Artist Kolieha Bush is planning to bring her paper mache zebra, on display at the Spiral Gallery, to the Estacada Summer Festival.It all started when Artback Artists was formed, a group of artists who decided to spend an entire weekend painting a mural on a downtown wall. A rotating lead artist came up with a design and preliminary sketch, and then others would join in and work from practically from dawn to dusk to complete the piece over one weekend.

The Estacada Area Arts Commission recounts on its website how it all got started:

“The Artback Artists Cooperative was formed in 1994 by nine professional artists who joined together for a local exhibition. Overwhelmed by the tremendous support for their first show, they realized they had the opportunity to play a major role in shaping the future of visual artis in our community while increasing civic pride.”

The annual weekend mural painting drew crowds and started a popular tradition that grew to include art shows and occasional music and brought the whole town together. Jane Reid was there in 2000 with her friend Katinka Bryck, and they decided right then and there to formalize the event and start an annual festival around the mural painting. It helped that they are both grant writers, she said.

“She and I watched the mural being painted and thought we should celebrate that,” she said.”It was low key the first couple of years and it's grown ever since. One thing that helped was a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Artback Artists also eventually opened The Spiral Gallery on Broadway Street to showcase their work and that of other local artists. It was Kolieha Bush's turn to mind the cooperative gallery last week and she pointed out the wide variety of media, from oils, to sculpture, glass art, jewelry and much more.

Bush, one of the founders of Artback Artists, first came to Estacada back in 1977.

“I moved into a teepee on Eagle Creek,” she said.

Then she met her husband, Joe Cotter, who died a couple of years ago, she said, leaving a big hole in her life. Both Bush and Cotter have been lead artists on several murals, and she said it gratifies her that last year, instead of painting a new mural, Artists Artback restored Cotter's mural “The Cycle of Wood” on Southeast Main Street, first painted in 1996. One of Bush's murals, “Bird Party” painted in 2007 on the side of Y&E Market, was saved by firefighters when the building burned down and the mural was moved to Wade Creek Park.

Bush paints and sculpts in bronze and said she may bring some of her menagerie of paper maché animals to the festival, like the 3-foot zebra on display at the gallery.

Most of the artists displaying at the gallery are from Estacada, Bush said, but also come from West Linn, Sandy and Colton, and more artists are welcome to join.

“Everyone at the coop gets along really well and we have 21 or 22 artists and we all share the load,” she said. “But we would like to have 25 so more are welcome.”

Bush said she's looking forward to this year's celebration.

“I think it's great and all the decorations are handmade,” she said. “There is some really good art in this town and I like the celebration because it includes music and is great for the kids. The stuff is not tacky but all fun and beautiful.”

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