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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment August 16, 2017

6/13/2017 11:48:00 AM
Is a visual arts center in the cards for Sisters?

Since the 1990s Frank and Kathy Deggendorfer have been dedicated to growing the creative economy of the Sisters area. Through The Roundhouse Foundation they make many grants to strengthen arts organizations throughout Central Oregon. The Deggendorfers personally own and operate the Sisters Art Works building on Adams Avenue, and continuously advocate for working artists and cultural organizations.

Now The Roundhouse Foundation is exploring opportunities to build a Visual Arts Center that would reinforce the local arts culture and could help Sisters become a more recognized arts destination.

Two research projects, focused on how to enhance the local creative economy, were conducted in 2011 and 2016. They point to the benefits of an arts facility and find that now may be the time to begin the process of developing such a program.

"We looked at nationally and internationally recognized arts programs and have identified key indicators of success," said Kathy Deggendorfer, trustee of The Roundhouse Foundation. "The most successful, such as Penland School of Crafts near Asheville, North Carolina, and Anderson Ranch at Snowmass, Colorado, have a wonderful synergy between the program and community that results in a stronger economy. A 2000 study of Penland, for example, found that the school contributed between $6 million and $8 million to the local community and the annual contribution to the regional economy exceed $40 million."

Earlier this year nearly 40 artists and community leaders met to hear about the latest research project, including reports from the first of several local artists who visited national programs. Participants identified program traits and characteristics they found most interesting and potentially a good fit for Sisters. These include a "campus-style" facility in a natural, inspiring setting close to town so that attendees can stay, eat, shop and use local services. They embraced the idea of building on Sisters' reputation as an arts destination, and of collaboration with other organizations in town and in the region.

A sub-group met a month later to further envision what a Sisters program might look like. They built on the themes of collaboration, including increased local cooperation and regional partnerships; and of Sisters as an arts destination. They imagined the kinds of Americana crafts that could be the focus of a program, from painting and drawing, to ceramics, metals and woodworking.

Education is also a focus of the emerging vision and preliminary conversations about collaborative opportunities are being held with OSU Cascades Campus, University of Oregon School of Art and Architecture, and the Sisters School District.

Additional discussions are taking place with the Sisters Arts Association which represents the for-profit business sector in Sisters; the Chamber of Commerce; the City of Sisters; EDCO; and Regional Solutions, the Governor's community and economic development department.

With the input of these groups, artists and local leaders, The Roundhouse Foundation is considering the process that would lead to a new arts center. This includes identifying prospective sites and assessing building requirements. Research into the most successful national and international programs also continues.

"Frank and I love living in Sisters and we want to use the opportunity we have as trustees of The Roundhouse Foundation to do something that will have low environmental impact and high economic potential. Our daughter is also a trustee of the foundation and our grandchildren attend Sisters schools. We see cultural tourism as a way to build something that will benefit the entire community without spoiling what is so special about it."

Reports and information about the project can be found at www.round On the revolving photos at the top of the home page, click on "Find out about the Sisters Center for the Visual Arts Project." Questions or comments may be left on the site or directed to research project consultant, Jan McGowan at

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