The state capital may not be the first place Oregonians think of for viewing art. But if you stroll through the halls and offices of the legislature building in Salem, you’ll discover a remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures and photographs that offer a portrait of Oregon through the eyes of its artists. The collection is also a testament to the state’s legacy for creating one of the first statewide public art programs in the country.
The Capitol Art Collection was established as part of a major expansion of the capital building in the mid 1970s. Lawmakers created a program known as Percent for Art, which mandated that at least one percent of total construction dollars for a given project had to go towards art. The first project was the Capital Wings construction. Over the next couple of years, a selection committee acquired 170 paintings and sculptures, most of them contemporary works by living Oregon artists. A separate committee created a collection of photographs called “Oregon in the 20th Century.”
In 2008, the collection got an update as part of a large-scale renovation. Most of the works of art in the collections were taken down to protect them from damage during construction and a new committee was formed to consider how to update and add to the collection. After the remodel was complete, the commission charged Meagan Atiyeh, visual arts coordinator for the Oregon Arts Commission, with the task of rehanging the works. Atiyeh has painstakenly reorganized the collection in an attempt to bring new life to the works of art, many of which have been hanging in the same spots since 1975. The commission also took the opportunity to clean and restore the works as well as purchase 14 new pieces for the collection.
The story of the Capitol Art Collection is told in a great catalog (pdf) that was put together recently by the Oregon Arts Commission. The collection can be viewed by the public any day that the Capitol Building is open.
- The Capitol Art Collection Think Out Loud