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Crow's Shadow Institute Of The Arts Gets A New Executive Director

OPB | Aug. 1, 2014 9:26 a.m. | Updated: Aug. 1, 2014 11:19 a.m.

The printmaking studio at Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts

The printmaking studio at Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts

Dave Blanchard / OPB

Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts, after a long period going without, has a new Executive Director. Karl Davis landed the job this spring and he starts at the institute next week. He says what's exciting to him about Crow's Shadow is "the intersection that it's building between contemporary printmaking and Native American art, but presented in a way that doesn't put one over another, they're both fairly equal and it's a kind of collaboration or a dialogue that those things create that's really interesting to me."

Davis has worked in Portland galleries that show contemporary Native art, and as a student his focus was the influence of Northwest Native art on surrealism. He arrives at an interesting time for the organization. The artist James Lavadour founded Crow's Shadow. James talked to us about how he feels it needs to grow: "We've kind of gone from a kitchen-table local non-profit organization to an organization with a national identity and now we've built up our board and our capacity so we can start operating on a larger scale than we have in the past."

Crow's Shadow initial mission was to make opportunities for local Native artists. Then the institution raised money for its state-of-the-art printmaking studio and hired master printmaker Frank Janzen. That allowed Crow's Shadow to make high-quality prints on site.  Now Crow's Shadow is bringing Native and non-Native artists to stay and soak up the quiet of Umatilla County for two week residencies. Lavadour sees this as a great way to increase the public profile of the institute and the artists.

The entrance to Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts

The entrance to Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts

Dave Blanchard / OPB

"One artist, hopefully, is like a light bulb, it illumines a large area. So once we give artists the opportunity to develop and find opportunities, that's how it kind of blossoms right there."

Crow's Shadow has had a few executive directors here and there, but for most of the past decade it's gone without one. Pat Walters is Secretary of the Crow's Shadow board. She says after an eight year lapse the organization  secured funding for a position, but that was in 2009, "just as the economy started to turn." So that made it even more difficult on us. Donations dropped off, our print sales dropped off. It was just a matter of not having the funding to do it."

Walters notes two executive directors started during the recession but both only stayed on about a year.

"It's always a matter of an executive director supplying their own paycheck by writing grants and making sure the funding sources are there to pay for their salary."

So how will Davis, do that? He's hoping to bring more attention to Crow's Shadow from other parts of the region.

"I think it's a matter of getting the artwork in front of people and letting them see what's happening at Crow's Shadow. Whether through exhibitions, whether it's through pop-up galleries, or more artist talks or more collaboration going on between Crow's Shadow and other art's institutions."

We'll have more from Crow's Shadow in the coming months on State of Wonder.

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