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Eclipse Of The Arts: 'State Of Wonder' Travels The Path Of Totality

"State of Wonder" is traveling across the solar eclipse's path of totality, from Newport to the Ochoco National Forest and many places in-between. Follow the team on this once in a lifetime artistic and cosmic journey.  

Photo: Elayna Yussen/OPB

Day 5: Suttle Lodge

We might have found our eclipse happy place. Friday, we checked in from the historic Suttle Lodge near Sisters, sitting dockside and looking out at Suttle Lake. It’s gorgeous — the skies pure blue despite several fires burning nearby (the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office issued a Level 3 evacuation order for an area west of Sisters due to the nearby Milli Fire).

The peace and tranquility here are despite the fact that staff are preparing for potentially 5,000 day trippers coming in for the Lodge’s free eclipse music festival this weekend, delightfully titled Funk’s Obscuration Celebration. The Funk in the celebration is Chris Funk of The Decemberists, who curated a lineup that’s a who’s who of Portland indie rock bands, from garage rocker Sallie Ford to the alt-folk band Y La Bamba to the great soul singer Ural Thomas.

Suttle Lodge has been holding all its rooms for over a year, but it’s only been in the last few months that Funk and the Suttle team started planning a celebration they wanted to be quintessentially Oregon. “It wouldn’t be our style to do a crazy EDM music festival,” general manager Connie Wohn said. “We just like to go with what we call ‘lake vibes’ around here.”

We’re taping our show from the lodge this weekend! Tune in Saturday at noon or Sunday at 10 a.m. for performances by Johanna Warren and the Builders the Butchers, as well as a full-on recap of our week on the road. Or sign up for our podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your audio.

Guests lounge on the back patio at The Suttle Lodge in Sisters, Oregon.

Guests lounge on the back patio at The Suttle Lodge in Sisters, Oregon.

Elayna Yussen/OPB


Day 4: Big Summit Prairie

We weren’t sure we’d make it to Big Summit Prairie, the site of the Oregon Eclipse Festival in the Ochoco Mountains. On Wednesday, we hit a giant wall of stalled cars outside Prineville, moving about a quarter mile every hour. Festival-goers kept up pretty high spirits, biking around and throwing frisbees; basically, bringing the party to the highway. But, we broke out a map and found a back road to camp. It’s a good thing we did — Thursday morning, a Crook County press release confirmed that traffic was backed up for more than 35 miles.

Inside the festival gates, though, the wait seemed worth it. We explored what felt like a sprawling magical wonderland, with lanterns and light installations hanging from the trees, plus huge structures built just for the festival, like a big-top circus tent and a colorful yoga space that looked like a riff off the Sydney Opera House. And we followed a few visitors as they engaged with the many interactive art exhibits on display: polygonal gnome huts with periscopes, colorful walls of sound-making LED lights and a laser harp light-show, to start.

We also spoke with Chief Delbert Black Fox Pomani of the Dakota Sioux Tribe, from the Crow Creek Agency in South Dakota. Pomani was stationed at the 1Nation Earth campsite, where indigenous people from all over North and South America are gathering. He told us he and other leaders from indigenous nations have been strategizing how to maintain momentum from Standing Rock. “We want to try and bring unity and keep that fire lit,” Pomani said.

And it’s time to hit the road again. We’re a little sad to be leaving the Oregon Eclipse Festival before it even gets started, but we’re headed somewhere just as exciting: Suttle Lodge, where big-name Oregon artists are planning on a two-day music festival just past the Cascades.

A man does tai chi as hot air balloons lift off over the lake at Big Summit Prairie in Central Oregon.

A man does tai chi as hot air balloons lift off over the lake at Big Summit Prairie in Central Oregon.

Elayna Yussen/OPB


Day 3: Madras

We made it to ground zero! On the third day of our trip, we visited the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras, where food trucks were rolling in and the high school football team was setting up tents for Solarfest, a weekend-long eclipse event complete with live music, on-site NASA exhibits, roaming buskers, and more.

Sandy Forman of the Jefferson County Tourism Group, along with two friends, is coordinating an almost exclusively volunteer army to run this week’s show. Forman was born and raised in Madras and draws her festival experience from managing the local county fair. Even though Solarfest will host much larger crowds (people from 39 countries and all 50 states have acquired tickets), Forman was calm, collected and pretty positive. “We love what we have, and we want to put our community on the map,” she told us.

We also stopped by the Museum at Warm Springs to check out an exhibit called “Celestial Visions,” which features work by some Oregon greats like Lillian Pitt. This weekend, the museum grounds will also be filled with artists and craftspeople. We got to hang out with one of them, Marge Kalama, who told us about eclipse festivities at Warms Springs and shared some stories behind the beadwork she’s showing in the exhibit.

And we’re hitting the highway — fast. Next stop: the giant Oregon Eclipse Festival in the Ochoco National Forest. All day we’ve seen colorfully painted RVs loaded with gear and bikes and hula hoops heading down Highway 26. We’re going to tuck into the stream and follow the festival goers!

The Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras, Oregon, hosts Solarfest, a weekend-long celebration of all-things eclipse. 

The Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras, Oregon, hosts Solarfest, a weekend-long celebration of all-things eclipse. 

Elayna Yussen/OPB


Day 2: Corvallis

On our second day of eclipse adventures, we hopped over the Coast Range to Oregon State University in Corvallis, where eclipse art posters are plastered everywhere. OSU hosts an extensive schedule of free celestial activities starting Saturday; visitors can interact with a Mars Rover replica, handle meteorites and attend free performances.

We started with a dazzling exhibit at OSU’s Fairbanks Gallery called “Totality.” Curator, professor and photographer Julia Bradshaw gave us a briefing on the influential history of eclipse photography — turns out eclipses have influenced everything from Aristotle’s theory of light to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which was proven by an eclipse pic in 1919 — who knew?

“Totality” includes a number of works that explore our relationship to the skies and space, from an animated video about the Russian space dog Laika to a work looking at the crazy number of satellites soaring over us in any given day. With us at the exhibition: poet and professor Quo-Li Driskill, who’s leading a workshop called “Northstar: Poetics of the Spheres to Write Ourselves Home,” which centers people of color and LGBTQ voices and connects celestial events and storytelling across cultures and traditions.

We also spoke with one of Oregon’s premier astro-photographers, Tom Carrico, about the dazzling images he contributed to the “Totality” exhibit.

And we’re off! Tomorrow, we’ll check in from Madras, where some 30,000 campers and RV visitors are expected to mix in the center of totality.

Watch: How an eclipse proved Einstein right and why eclipses have always fascinated us.

Curator Julia Bradshaw describes artwork in the eclipse-inspired "Totality" exhibit at the Fairbanks Gallery of Art to OPB's Aaron Scott in Corvallis, Oregon.

Curator Julia Bradshaw describes artwork in the eclipse-inspired "Totality" exhibit at the Fairbanks Gallery of Art to OPB's Aaron Scott in Corvallis, Oregon.

Elayna Yussen/OPB


Day 1: Newport

After a 6:30 a.m. roll call, we headed for the coast, where the shadow of the moon will make its first landfall. That is, if it’s even visible.

In Newport, where clouds are not exactly uncommon, people are scouring the weather reports. So far, things are looking hopeful: predictions call for a mostly sunny Monday. If the eclipse were today, though, viewers would be watching through a thin coat of morning fog.

Meanwhile, officials in Lincoln County have been delivering a steady drumbeat of messages urging people to get ready for the influx of tourists and any emergency that might happen while visitors are in town.

Many people are charging large amounts of money for things such as parking during the Oregon eclipse.

Many people are charging large amounts of money for things such as parking during the Oregon eclipse.

Elayna Yussen/OPB

The county’s Emergency Manager, Virginia “Jenny” Demaris, told us the eclipse is a big dress rehearsal for something truly catastrophic, like an earthquake. Demaris has run twice her usual number of emergency drills to prepare.

The county’s Emergency Manager, Virginia “Jenny” Demaris, told us the eclipse is a big dress rehearsal for something truly catastrophic, like an earthquake. Demaris has run twice her usual number of emergency drills to prepare.

But Eclipse 2017 is not just about disaster preparedness. Kay Wyatt, a seismologist and amateur astronomer eclipse educator, chose Otis, Oregon, 15 years ago, as the place to build her retirement home — complete with a personal observatory because she wanted to be in the path of totality (and we thought we were good planners!). Wyatt witnessed her first eclipse as a kid in 1965, and she told us not to worry: the hype is worth it.

Map: Watch Oregon react to the coming solar eclipse

As of Monday, the thousands of extra visitors had yet to arrive, but some business owners, like Larry Ciuffo of Ciuffo’s Coffee Shop & Things, were ready to receive, offering eclipse parking at $100-per-day as well as drinks and snacks for daytrippers.

Big thanks to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts for letting us phone into OPB from their fine, beachfront facilities at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Make sure to stop in for “Hawks on the Highway: Prints from the Crow’s Shadow Institute,” with works by artists such as Rick Bartow and Wendy Red Star that practically vibrate off the walls with color and energy, on view through Sep. 5.

Photos from "State of Wonder's" journey along the 2017 solar eclipse's path of totality.

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