Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald


For the Baker City Herald

Ginger Savage wasn't really paying attention to the conference call about traveling art exhibitions.

This was in January 2009 and she'd just gotten word that morning about the call.

She figured, having heard that big-name universities and art galleries were on the line as well, that an art center in Baker City didn't stand a chance.

Then she heard a comment about rural, under-served communities, and the opportunity for a grant from the Western States Art Federation (WESTAF).

"I started listening and taking notes," she said.

The opportunity was to bring a show titled "Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana" to Crossroads Carnegie Art Center.

She expressed her interest during the call, and two days later she received a phone call.

She had 48 hours to take photographs of the gallery space, and provide square footage, the center's mission statement and a list of the board of directors.

The work was worth it - Crossroads was chosen as one of only three locations to host the show.

"It's a big deal," Savage said.

The show debuted in 2011 at the Missoula Art Museum to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, a public, nonprofit, educational institution founded in 1951 by brickmaker Archie Bray.

"It's contemporary ceramics honoring what Archie Bray stood for," Savage said.

The show features 40 pieces from 19 Montana artists. It will be on display at Crossroads during July and August.

"For us to get this, and to provide it free, is a monumentally big deal," she said. "This is something you'd pay big money to see at the Portland Art Museum or Boise Art Museum."

To bring in a show of this size, Savage has applied for grants to support improvements to the gallery and publicize the show.

"We are on track to invest in Crossroads for this show - and in turn our community - over $62,000," Savage said.

Grant money is funding new pedestals, an outdoor gas kiln, lighting and a new website.

Improvements to the Carnegie aren't the only perk of this show - it's also provided an opportunity to bring big-name ceramic artists to Baker City for workshops.

"We're so fortunate these people are willing to come to Baker City," Savage said.

The show has brought collaboration opportunities within the community as well for those two months - art talks at Short Term Gallery and Peterson's Gallery and historic tours on foot and by bicycle - to provide more activities for visitors.

"We hope we'll engage a whole new group of people to come to Baker City," Savage said.

The show opens July 6, during First Friday. From then until the end of August, there will be tours daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., where trained volunteers can talk about the artwork.

One way they are promoting the show is to publish a brochure with news about "Persistence in Clay" as well as a schedule of pottery classes and Baker County events in July and August.

Savage will help hand out thousands of these during the Oregon Potter's Association's Ceramic Showcase May 4-6 in Portland. An average of 17,000 attend that event.

"We'll be right by the door where they walk in, and put one in every hand," Savage said.

She's also distributing the brochures through regional newspapers, hotels, motels and chambers of commerce. Advertising space has also been purchased in local visitors guides, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's program, Ceramics Monthly magazine, Walla Walla Lifestyle and Spokane Monthly.

"If we do this right, if we do this well, we will have the opportunity to bring more traveling shows," Savage said. "Last year it was Wally Byam, this year it's 'Persistence in Clay.' Who knows about next year?"

Leading up to the event, local artists will work to make 100 pots, and Savage will blog about the progress on Crossroads' website, www.crossroads-arts.org.

More information is also available by calling Crossroads at 541-523-5369 or stopping by 2020 Auburn Ave.

Total grants that Crossroads has received so far for "Persistence in Clay":

andbull; Ford Family Foundation in 2011 for $7,381 - new pedestals in the Gallery and to have the floor refinished.

andbull; Oregon Cultural Trust, $4,000 for additional lighting for the gallery

andbull; Leo Adler Foundation, $11,240 for a new gas kiln in the courtyard

andbull; Baker County Cultural Coalition, $1,000 for marketing of the show

andbull; Ford Family Foundation in 2012 for $12,298 for lighting and conversion to LED gallery lights

andbull; OTECC (via Bonneville Power Administration) Energy Rebate for Lighting, $1,900

andbull; Oregon Arts Commission-Cultural Tourism Grant, $5,500 for marketing

andbull; Corporate sponsors for July and August are Clarke and Clarke Insurance and Triple C Redi Mix.