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Art Makers

OPB | May 22, 2009 8 p.m. | Updated: July 25, 2013 10:15 a.m.

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Today, active and diverse art scenes flourish throughout Oregon. Our state’s art-friendly reputation extends nationally and beyond. But all this has been a long time in the making. “The Art Makers,” a new episode of OPB’s Oregon Experience series, explores the art and the artists that paved the way.

Modern art is an old story in Oregon — about 100 years old, by some accounts. Today, the arts are alive and seemingly everywhere. The state boasts thousands of accomplished artists and hundreds of art galleries — about 80 in Portland alone. Publications tout the big city’s “exploding” art scene, and even small towns now have their own gallery walks, studio-tour weekends and seasonal art fairs.

But not too many years ago, touring Portland’s art galleries on “First Thursdays” would have been unimaginable. For starters, Portland had few – if any – galleries. Few artists were able to sell their work. And most of the best-known artists in the state were a small group affiliated with the Portland Museum Art School.

“The Art Makers” presents a story rich with wonderful paintings and colorful characters. These include: Harry Wentz, who encouraged countless students to paint traditional subjects with fresh, modernistic techniques; C.S. Price, who evolved his painting into uncharted expressionist and abstract territory; and Louis Bunce, whose bold mural for the Portland Airport opened a hornet’s nest of public opinion.

“The Art Makers” also features interviews with painters Lucinda Parker, George Johanson, Jack McLarty and the late Mike Russo. Dozens of archival photos and nearly 150 older paintings help tell their stories. And it all leads up to the arts in present-day Oregon, which surely owe much of their vitality to those “oldtimers” and the art they made.

The producers of “The Art Makers” are especially grateful to The Portland Art Museum and The Hallie Ford Museum of Art, whose generous help made this program possible.

Boradcast Date: May, 22, 2008

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OREGON EXPERIENCE is a co-production of Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Oregon Historical Society.