News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Music takes center stage at 4th Friday Artwalk

"What a brilliant idea! That's taking art in Sisters to a new level."

Those were the words of Naomi Lieberman of Portland describing the marriage last Friday night of the visual and performing arts in Sisters.

Lieberman was talking about the inclusion of musicians into the monthly art walks put on every fourth Friday of the month by the Sisters Arts Association, a confederation of 10 galleries and 64 artists.

When asked how it all came about, Helen Schmidling, owner of Sisters Gallery & Frame, said it was "pretty organic. It just grew out of conversation and brainstorming, a lot of it with Dennis." "Dennis" is Dennis McGregor, both an artist and a musician. He is best known for the iconic and beloved Sisters Folk Festival posters and is represented by Schmidling's gallery.

He's a songwriter and author, illustrator and plays guitar. He's had a long relationship with the Festival and the arts community. But he's not taking any credit for bringing the two together. The consensus is that whenever talent like exists in Sisters get together, good things happen," Schmidling said.

Her gallery like all the others were packed that night. Schmidling figures there were three to four times the usual numbers. She stamped 108 "Big Ponderoo Passports." Those were the little booklets that browsers carried gallery- to-gallery for a stamping. Get 10 "visas" in your passport and you got a free hand-made, fused-glass sun catcher art piece.

The musicians, supplied by Big Ponderoo, were key to the huge turnout. In some cases, the gallery was so filled with patrons that the music moved outside, such as when Beth Wood, award-winning songwriter and poet with 15 albums, and McGregor, made an impromptu stage under the Paulina Springs Books awning in the grass courtyard between the store and the gallery.

"This was a very generous gift to the community," said Bill Thomas at member gallery Toriizaka Gallery who, like the other galleries, feted visitors with wine and hors d'oeuvres.

Throughout the walk praise was heaped upon Sisters Folk Festival for combining the art experience, which they dubbed "A free celebration of creativity and community."

Rose and Dave Rock of Sisters, regular 4th Friday walkers, found themselves explaining what was happening to the many curious tourists. They found the passport incentive creative, causing locals to spend more time and take in more galleries than usual.

Irene Liden, a renowned professional singer and Sisters resident, was effusive: "Love the friendliness of our still- small town and it's super to see many tourists, or newbies, mingling with old and new friends. Wonderful to have all the excellent artworks from our local artists and their willingness to share ideas, interests, and expertise."

The SweetEasy ice cream shop on Cascade was constantly full with gallery hoppers until its 9 p.m. closing.

"The trickle-down benefit from Big Ponderoo cannot be overstated," owner Kara Lappe said.


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