Art installation moved for roundabout


Last updated 1/30/2024 at 9:42am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

School and Sisters Folk Festival personnel removed an art display that has been a feature of Sisters' eastern entry since 2016. The installation has to be moved to make way for roundabout construction.

Drivers leaving and entering Sisters Friday afternoon at the east gateway were momentarily stunned to see some 200 feet of art removed from the fence at the Sisters Elementary School.

The fence stands in the way of the new Locust Street roundabout scheduled to start construction this spring. There was no way the community was going to just allow the art to be dismantled with no future.

Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) in keeping with their long standing commitment to Sisters schools and the arts has once again partnered with the School District, and will facilitate the storage and reimagination of the art.

Elementary School Principal Joan Warburg and SFF Facilities Manager Ty King led a group of more than a dozen adult volunteers - some parents - who braved the rain Friday to remove each piece, several hundred, and place them in plastic totes.

Several drivers parked their cars and rushed to the fence to get a first-hand explanation. "I was panicked that we were going to lose the art," Jolene Gary said. Her husband, Bryan, sighed in relief: "Thank goodness. This is essential to Sisters. It has to be saved and put up again."

Warburg says it's possible some of it can be used again at the east portal once the roundabout is completed, and its known what the display possibilities are.

The art will be stored at the school bus barn on the high school grounds.

"It's in amazingly good shape," King said. "Considering all the sun and wet weather it's endured I'm amazed at how well it has held up."

It's uncertain how much of the collection will have to be refurbished or touched up. Nor is it certain yet where its new placement will be. There is the possibility of combining restoration with planned Festival events such as Big Ponderoo, scheduled for June 29-30.

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The art will be ready for relocation to the school district campus in time for the opening of the new elementary school in the fall.

Warburg isn't certain of all the locations where the art can be exhibited and thinks it could even be shared across all three schools.

"This is such an important part of Sisters," she said, as she systematically detached pieces from the chain link fence. "We've gotten calls from other schools all over asking about the project."

"Brad Tisdel, Festival creative director, will be taking the helm on the project," said Curt Scholl, school superintendent. "We can't think of anybody more qualified than the Festival to lead such an important part of Sisters culture."

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Tisdel and Scholl hope that there will be widespread community involvement in seeing the art repurposed. Tisdel, in discussing the original project, said, "Sisters Folk Festival was instrumental in garnering community support through their partnership with the school district to create a welcoming artist installation as people enter our town and to celebrate Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River watershed."

The iconic collection, a landmark and signature visual of Sisters, was first installed in 2016.

Writing in the March 29, 2016, edition of The Nugget Erin Borla reported: "During art classes at Sisters Elementary School (SES), artist in residence Laura Campbell has been working alongside art teacher Karen Williams with students in kindergarten through fourth grade developing a mural for the school's fence along Highway 20.

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"The artist in residence program, funded by the Studio to School grant through Sisters Folk Festival in partnership with the Sisters School District, has been working on integrated arts curriculum in grades K-8.

"Over the two weeks before spring break students at SES painted wooden fish, rocks, and other riparian items found in Whychus Creek. The fish ranged in sizes from six to 36 inches. All students were able to paint a fish; some of the younger students painted fish together, along with help from Williams or Campbell.

"This is an incredibly integrated project," said Campbell. "We were able to talk about rivers and fish - the students were very excited about steelhead. Talking about Whychus Creek and steelhead opened the door to talk about different things that make rivers work."

SFF Presents: Big Ponderoo June 29 and 30, 2024

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