Joseph art now has centerpiece

By Observer editorial December 14, 2012 08:47 am

Joseph has been an arts mecca for years. When the town lost timber as its economic driver, it came up with a new paradigm. First, under the vision of Mayor Shelley Curtiss, it added cobblestone sidewalks and removed power lines to enhance the beauty of Main Street. Then, about a decade ago, the town added seven monumental bronze sculptures to display on Main Street. 

Today, at least five galleries display locally created art — and art from around the Northwest. People flock to the Northeast Oregon town from across the region and around the world to enjoy the art amidst the backdrop of the spectacular Mount Joseph reaching to nearly 10,000 feet.

 Now the community has an art centerpiece — the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture. The handsome log building on Main Street, formerly a bank, is being transformed into “a gathering place for the arts.”

The burgeoning arts culture has put Wallowa County on the Oregon cultural map. Driving forces are organizations like Fishtrap, the county’s literary nonprofit, the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance and the Wallowa Valley Arts Council.

Here’s how the bank became an art center. A grant helped fund a feasibility study of a shared space facility. This fall Anne Stephens purchased the bank with the intent to sell it to the center once it gets on its feet. Volunteers and contractors brought considerable energy to the project to spruce up the building, inside and out.

The schedule is filling up for the coming year. In January the center’s first exhibit, “Rivers,” will complement Fishtrap’s Community Read of “A River Runs Through It.”

A private art collection will be shown in February, and this summer art classes will be held intended to attract not only locals but visitors from out of the area.

The center is designed to be a place to showcase art and for visitors to experience the art culture.

The Josephy Center for Arts and Culture has ample performance space on the ground floor. Upstairs the Josephy Library is coming together under the watchful eye of Director Rich Wandschneider.

Sure, the center is still in its formative stage. But with the full energies of the art community behind this worthy challenge, the possibilities of what the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture can become is cause for boundless optimism.