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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 3, 2016

4/16/2013 1:35:00 PM
Event celebrates the arts in Sisters
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Sisters has gained a national reputation as a community that supports the arts. That support was on display in two days of celebration and fundraising known as My Own Two Hands.

In its 10th year (with two years of precursor events), the event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through an art auction to support arts in schools and the various programs of Sisters Folk Festival, including its educational outreach programs. The Americana Project and the Sisters High School luthier program receive significant support from the event, which grossed over $100,000 this year.

While the fundraising is, of course, critical to the ongoing success of the local programs, the focus is largely on celebration -particularly on Friday night. Festivities kicked off with a community parade, featuring kids wearing or carrying art projects (this year, it was crafty guitars).

"The parade was better than ever," said Sisters Folk Festival Executive Director Brad Tisdel. "We really appreciated the participation of the Sisters High School Marching Band."

The parade was followed by an art stroll, where folks could get a look at the art that would be auctioned Saturday night. Many of the venues also featured live music by local musicians.

The evening culminated with dinner and music at FivePine Conference Center, featuring performances by Americana Project students.

Tisdel noted that the less-experienced performers stepped up to the occasion and the more-experienced were "exceptional."

"There were moments that evening that were touching, beautiful and very impressive," he said.

The Saturday night auction is conducted every year at Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks, where Jeff Wester creates his own art in iron. Reconfiguring the facility, decorating it and setting up the art for auction is a mammoth undertaking, requiring some 100 volunteers.

"Every year we figure out a little bit more and we dial it in even tighter," said SFF Development Director Katy Yoder. "And it's really all because of the amazing volunteers who come back year after year. Some have been here every year."

Susan Johnson is regarded by the folk festival staff as a kind of "super-volunteer."

She kept a bevy of volunteers focused on the decoration of the forge that creates a party atmosphere.

Johnson recalled that she connected with the folk festival when she came in to the folk festival office to sign up as a Folk Arts Circle member. She told Katy Yoder, "if there's anything you need me to do..."

Those are inspiring words to any non-profit organization, and Yoder took her seriously.

"She started throwing jobs at me," Johnson said. "Every year for the past seven years my job has grown."

So has her affection for the festival and its staff.

"I care about them," she said. "It was easy to become involved. It's become a big part of my life since I moved here."

Fire marshal guidelines and an effort to make the event comfortable for patrons led to a cutback in tickets to the event this year.

"We never like to say no when people want to come to our events," Yoder told The Nugget. "But this year to make the event safe, comfortable and honor the art donations, we had to make some changes to the capacity."

Bumping up against capacity is a sign of success. Kathy Deggendorfer, who launched the event with two precursor events at her home a dozen years ago, identified another, deeper one.

"I think what's the best part is seeing the kids who have learned about philanthropy and creating their own sense of community," she said. "That's the legacy."

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