At Liberty Arts Collaborative, which for the past three years has served as an arts events hub and contemporary art exhibit space in the Liberty Theater in downtown Bend, is undergoing some major changes.
Co-founded by René Mitchell, Jenny Green and Kaari Vaughn, At Liberty has gifted its gallery assets, artist relationships and the business itself to the arts nonprofit Scalehouse, one of the three partner organizations that called it home.
Scalehouse, which puts on the annual Bend Design Conference and other events, is now Scalehouse Arts Collaborative, operating Scalehouse Gallery in the space formerly known as At Liberty, located at 849 NW Wall St. in downtown Bend. Moreover, the At Liberty team is serving on the Scalehouse board.
“Scalehouse and At Liberty coming together allows us to expand our mission to unite the community through art, creativity and design. And, this moves us one step closer to fulfilling our original vision of building a contemporary arts center,” said Mitchell, executive director of Scalehouse.
If those weren’t enough developments, Scalehouse Gallery will soon be moving out of Liberty Theater, which is undergoing renovations. That means Scalehouse Gallery is now tracking down a new home but will continue to organize exhibitions in alternative spaces while it hunts for a suitable space that will allow for exhibits and events.
Scalehouse will host an exhibit by Nashville multidisciplinary artist and activist Shabazz Larkin in November and December, and in early 2021, a joint show by Seattle-based conceptual artists Sam Stubblefield and Joshua Borsman, whose works of late look at birth, death and suicide rates.
Even as Scalehouse searches for temporary space to host those exhibits, it’s also in contact with other artists to map out the rest of 2021.
“Now, we need a new home,” Mitchell said.
Before it becomes homeless and temporarily reliant on other spaces, Scalehouse is holding a final show in the Liberty Theater space, “Gradients and Gatherings: An Exhibition of New Drawings by Bill Hoppe,” for which he created four large-scale drawings specifically for the Liberty Theater space. Hoppe had a previous show at At Liberty in 2018, a career-spanning show of his abstract works; his current exhibit displays through Sept. 26, and you can meet the artist this Friday or next, as Hoppe mans the gallery from 1 to 6 p.m.
“The story starts two years ago when I did a show in the space and showed these drawings from the ’70s, these 160-foot-long, 30-, 40-foot-long drawings,” Hoppe said. “In order to show them, I needed to create these supports to place them on. … I made all of these supports with the idea that these would eventually become paintings or drawings for another show. So I’m sort of reusing the canvases and supports I had in the first show to create these images for the second show.”
Hoppe, 74, retired in December after nearly two decades of teaching at Central Oregon Community College. The process of departing, and his activities after retiring, contributed to his solo exhibit’s themes.
“Whenever I approach a show, it’s always interesting to see what’s going to emerge,” Hoppe said. “The work has sort of developed along with the times, and in some ways it reflects, for me personally anyway, some of the things that are going on in our world right now. But little did I know that it would be … (the) kind of exhibition where people had to come in with masks and so forth. I didn’t account for that.”
The “gradients” of the show’s title comes from his longtime fascination with mountains, which dates back to Hoppe’s Midwestern youth in largely flat Wisconsin. The “gatherings” of the name can be traced to the years of strata that came with cleaning out his cluttered COCC office.
“Cleaning my office was a real experience,” he said. “Eighteen years of accumulation.”
One of the items he unearthed was a text on mountains that he’d handed to his art pupils frequently over the years.
“And cleaning out my office, it landed in my hands again.”
“There’s a quote in it: ‘Mountains are the elixir of love.’ I’ve always felt that way since I moved from the Midwest, where we have little hills and little else in terms of height — rock piles left by the glaciers. … I grew up wanting to live near mountains.”
Obviously, he accomplished that during his years in Portland, where he was a renowned artist whose work is part of public collections at the Seattle Art Museum and Portland Art Museum. After retiring from teaching, he began climbing Pilot Butte in the mornings to watch the sunrise, which further cemented his ideas for the show.
“I was dealing with these inclines and the strange shapes the clouds create in the sky, and it just became a part of my idea for the work,” he said. “So I had the title for the show in January. … The gathering part is a statement of where I am in life. It has this resonance now, of us NOT being able to gather.”
Hoppe said he’s honored to have the last exhibit in Scalehouse’s present form in the former movie theater, built in 1917 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in the late ’90s.
“This is the last picture show. I love the idea of putting work in this really amazing space,” Hoppe said. “It’s quite wonderful to be able to add these pictures to the history of that space.
“For me, the opportunity to be asked to do and be given a venue like that, because there are so few good venues for visual art … concerns me because every artist working needs to know that no matter where their work is in development, they need to know that eventually there’s a place that will receive it,” Hoppe said. “Because the work isn’t really finished until people experience it, whatever it is, whether it’s a song someone’s written or an installation someone’s created. You need an audience.”
To that end, Scalehouse board chair Kiel Fletcher said they’re working hard on finding a new home for Scalehouse Gallery, a space that would also be suitable for small events.
“We’re looking for something pretty specific,” Fletcher said. “The more barren of a white cube we can find, it’s almost the better. But (we’re) also trying to find those locations where we’ll get plenty of foot traffic and be able to participate in the downtown arts scene on First Friday and things like that is obviously ideal. We’re trying not to leave any stones unturned.”