What's Tony Thinking

Festival of the Arts


The Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts opened on Friday evening. It’s an amazing exhibit of 105 different works — paintings, photography, sculpture. There are a lot of very talented artists working here in Wallowa Country. I am honored that one of my paintings made it into the juried exhibit.

That painting (right) is titled “Kneeland Place,” after the ranch lands in the Snake River Valley that it depicts. It is based on a photo (used with permission) by local and part-time ranger, Rick Bombaci. I’m feeling a little badly that I chose not to have that painting framed. I think it’s the only one in the exhibit that isn’t framed. Oh well.

I also had fun during the week doing a couple sketches for the En Plein Air portion of the exhibit. That means you draw or paint outside and on location. Quite a few painters had their easels up at various locations this past week.

These two are pen/ink drawings with watercolor. The first is the Hurricane Creek Grange, with Ruby Peak in the background. The Grange continues to be a vital association out here in the Wallowas, both hosting community events and meeting as well its own farming related activities.

My second sketch for the Plein Air program is of the gravesite of Old Chief Joseph. His son is the more well-known Chief Joseph, famous for leading the long retreat of non-treaty Nez Perce in the face of the pursuing U.S. Army, under the command of General O. O. Howard. The gravesite of the younger Joseph is on the Colville Reservation in Eastern Washington, where one group of Nez Perce live today.

The elder Chief Joseph’s remains were brought here to the edge of Wallowa Lake in an enormous procession in 1924. The younger Joseph sought to return to the Wallowas before his death, but was prevented from doing so by the U.S. Government.

Linda and I helped out in preparing for the exhibit. She volunteers as a docent regularly at the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph. If you’re wondering about the “Josephy” part of the Center’s name . . . it is named not for the town where it is located, but for the journalist and author, Alvin Josephy, who was one of the earliest and best writers on the Nez Perce.

Though a Connecticut native, Alvin Josephy had a home here in the Wallowas. His papers are at the Center’s library which is stewarded by longtime resident, Rich Wandschneider. Rich and Alvin Josephy were two of the three founders of “Fishtrap,” which fosters “Good writing and thinking about the West,” and which holds annual gatherings of writers here. The other founder was Kim Stafford, former poet laureate of Oregon.

So it’s a rich area for culture and the arts, made so by people like Rich Wandschneider, Alvin Josephy and many, many more.

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