Jay Backstrand, Examination Part 2, 1980, oil on canvas, Collection of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University
One of the many features that make the Salem Convention Center stand out is the extraordinary collection of sculptures and paintings we have in our permanent collection. The beautiful art that you see throughout our facility and around the downtown area did not happen by accident, it is part of a carefully curated collection of public art that is here as a result of the City of Salem’s unique partnership with the Oregon Artists Series Foundation (OASF), a non-profit organization dedicated to benefiting our community by placing art in public places.
You may ask, why does public art matter? “Art in public spaces plays a distinguishing role in our country’s history and culture. It reflects and reveals our society, enhances meaning in our civic spaces, and adds uniqueness to our communities,” states Americans for the Arts in an abstract from Why Public Art Matters (2018). “Public art humanizes the built environment. It provides an intersection between past, present, and future between disciplines and ideas.”
We chose to spotlight the OASF this month because we also believe that public art has the ability to truly elevate a community and set it apart by offering it’s citizens free access to a rich and diverse selection of work. The collection of public art in our courtyard and on our walls introduces works by talented Oregon artists to tens of thousands of hotel guests, conference attendees, Salem residents and many others who might otherwise not be familiar with the art of our region. Not only does art inspire and engage the public’s interest, it encourages people to explore downtown Salem and local businesses.
OASF came to fruition in 2007 due to the efforts of forward-thinking business leaders, community activists, and artists who came together with the common goal of bringing public art to the downtown Salem area. “Our partnership with the Oregon Artists Series Foundation helps us identify artists and works for our facility,” says Salem Convention Center General Manager, Chrissie Bertsch.
OASF pioneered the installation of public sculptures in the Salem Convention Center Courtyard in 2011 through the combined efforts of the Salem Convention Center and The City of Salem Public Art Commission. The purpose of this plaza is to provide enjoyment for Salem’s residents and visitors and to inform the public, through written descriptions displayed inside about the processes making the sculptures. Some of the unique works include “Breathing Post”, a 14-foot-tall kinetic sculpture by Pete Beeman, “The Cube,” by Bruce West, “The Drummer” and “The Skull,” by Robert Hess, and “The Unicyclist” by Frederick Heidel. Last summer, “Entwined” an 11-foot tall stainless steel sculpture by Hood River artists C.J. Rench, became the latest piece to join our growing collection. Other notable works that can be enjoyed by the public include
- An untitled, rare mid-20th century stone sculpture by Oregon artist Leroy Setziol installed at the southeast corner of Liberty and Ferry streets in downtown Salem.
- “Distant Horizon”- a large landscape painting by Jon Jay Cruson installed on the west end of the first floor of the Salem Convention Center.
- “Receptacle” a vibrant painted aluminum sculpture by Oregon artist Mel Katz that is installed on the southwest corner of Chemeketa and Liberty Streets in downtown Salem.
We are exceptionally proud of the relationship we have with the Oregon Artists Series Foundation and we look forward to working with them for years to come to enrich our community and help to add vitality with the presence of public art. To learn more about the Oregon Artists Series Foundation and their mission, please visit www.oregonartistsseries.com.