News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Art connects Sisters and Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund

Artists Mel Archer and Terri Dill-Simpson share a love for the Santiam Canyon and the people attempting to rebuild their lives after the devastating, deadly September fires last year. Their current art show is focused on helping raise and renew awareness of the on-going needs of the canyon community.

Archer and Dill-Simpson are donating 50 percent of the proceeds from two art pieces inspired by the Santiam Canyon and now on display in the Cindy and Duncan Campbell Gallery to wildfire relief. The show includes a pleasing array of watercolor and fused-glass paintings that celebrate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

The artists are hosting a fundraising reception on Friday, August 6 where a representative from the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund (SCWRF) will discuss ongoing efforts and needs in the affected areas. The art show and reception is at the Campbell Gallery, located in the Sisters Art Works building at 204 W. Adams Ave. The reception will feature a jazz guitarist, wine, and appetizers from 5 to 7 p.m. The art show will also be part of the Fourth Friday Art Walk on August 27.

The Relief Fund was established September 11, 2020, with a mission to support Santiam Canyon residents affected by the Lionshead and Beachie Creek wildfires. Funds are used to provide for recovery, cleanup, and assistance in the rebuilding of communities including Idanha, Breitenbush, Detroit, Niagara, Gates, Mill City, Lyons, and Mehama.

Archer explained their reason for making the August art show a fundraiser.

“We were both very touched by the catastrophe that happened in the Santiam Canyon last year. I had just finished a fused-glass painting entitled ‘Niagara Waterwheel’ when the fire took everything except the wheel.”

Along with some springtime daffodils in front of the structure, the historic waterwheel is one of the few things remaining along Highway 22 in the badly burned area of Niagara. Archer was grateful he’d captured the beauty and charm of the waterwheel.

Dill-Simpson’s painting, “Hope in the Fall,” envisions a rebirth of the forest. The deer in her painting represents hope and coming back.

“It’s a Detroit-area scene done in a traditional, loose style,” she explained.

“As a kid I used to play in the water at Niagara. In the 1950s our family loaded up the station wagon and my dad drove us all along the Santiam River from Mill City, Idanha, and Detroit Lake. Later as an adult, we stopped there for our fishing licenses. Now they’re bittersweet memories, knowing it’s all gone,” said Dell-Simpson. “The fires happened last September, but the need’s still there.”

Dill-Simpson says when she’s painting an animal, she always begins with the eyes.

“That’s where the connection starts. When I feel that, I know I’m on the right track. I fell in love with capturing the essence of animals with watercolor. I like both loose and tight techniques,” she said.

Dill-Simpson is intrigued by landscapes, on the ground and in the sky. Her painting “Thunderhead” was inspired by days sitting in the wine country, watching the clouds build up with a pristine blue sky behind them.

Archer is captivated by Central Oregon scenery.

“I love trying to express it. Glass is an incredible medium to try and do that. My work is really inspired by impressionistic paintings. That style forces the viewer to be involved in interpreting the image,” he said. “Doing images in glass art takes multiple firings and layers. I love the challenge of trying to re-create what I’ve photographed in the glass.”

He’s pleased when viewers notice that his pieces can have a feel of watercolor and the edges resemble torn paper.

“Like hundreds of others, I donated to the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund last year but I see they are a ways from their goal,” said Archer.

The devastation in the area is heartbreaking and rebuilding structures and lives, along with the reestablishment of wildlife and trees, will take years to achieve.

“This is just a drop in the bucket, but we hope to focus attention and light on the needs in the area,” said Archer.

The art show will be available for viewing Monday through Friday throughout August. Archer and Dill-Simpson invite people to come by Sisters Art Works and see Central Oregon through their eyes and creations. The gallery is a cool place to find refuge from the heat and step into places loved and cherished by so many in Central Oregon.

Whether viewers are touched by the Santiam Canyon story because they recreate there, travel through, or just want to help, Archer and Dill-Simpson hope their efforts will let Santiam Canyon residents know they have not been forgotten by their Sisters neighbors to the east.

To learn more about the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund visit https:// href="" target="_blank"> To learn more about Mel Archer’s work visit his website, Terri Dill-Simpson’s website is


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