Youngsters enjoyed hands-on art projects at the My Own Two Hands community celebration on Friday evening.  Photo by Jarod Gatley
Youngsters enjoyed hands-on art projects at the My Own Two Hands community celebration on Friday evening. Photo by Jarod Gatley
The Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) brought the arts community back together in person for a celebration of local artists and a fundraiser for art programs in Sisters schools last weekend.

On Friday, April 29, the Community Arts Celebration held at the Sisters Artworks Building celebrated and honored students’ work and kicked off the weekend’s My Own Two Hands (MOTH) auction event. Bidding for the auction items began online on April 22 and went on for a week, ending at the auction party event Saturday evening.

Due to the pandemic, the My Own Two Hands auction event was held virtually for two years, but this year, they decided on a hybrid event format — bidding online, with a celebration of the arts in person. This was the first time the My Own Two Hands weekend festivities were held at the Folk Festival’s headquarters building.

“It’s special to have the event held at our building this year. Now that we own it, there is no cap on attendance, so we can really reach out to the entire community for at the free Friday event,” said SFF Executive Director Crista Munro.

Holding the event at the Sisters Art Works building also provided a sense of excitement at being fully back after the pandemic and seeing everyone in person, without masks.

“This is what people need, and it’s great to see everyone’s smiling faces together in this space,” Munro said. “We can really emphasize the connection with SFF, and the schools, and the programs we help facilitate within them, in a safe manner in person in this space.”

The art pieces up for auction were on display throughout art galleries in town as well as inside the Art Works Building on both Friday and Saturday evenings, for viewing and placing bids online.

Brad Tisdel, creative director of SFF, described the evening as “a showcase of talents of the students the programming serves and a time to really allow the community to see the collaboration with the school district and SFF.”

Programs such as the fiddle club, the Americana Project, the luthier program, guest artists, and residencies in schools are funded by SFF, and the funding also helps with programs in the summer.

Tisdel noted the impact significance of students being back in person for the event.

“It’s a big deal for the youth to be out in the community showcasing their art,” he said.

The theme for this year’s My Own Two Hands was “Moving Beyond,” representing moving beyond the pandemic times.

“It’s representing moving beyond, into a new normal. And for the kids to be able to showcase the work they’ve done from their bedrooms for the past two years during school in the pandemic is really special,” said Tisdel.

The celebration began with West African drummer Fodé Sylla welcoming people outside the building with a group of students from the Americana Project and instructors participating in a drum circle. Patrons and spectators spilled across the sidewalk to take it all in. Several spectators expressed similar sentiments: “It’s so great to be back, seeing everyone’s smiling faces.”

After the drum circle, a group of fiddle students from the fiddle club, led by Steven Livingston and Melissa Stolasz, performed some tunes on the front porch of the Art Works building, showcasing one of the programs SFF facilitates within the schools.

That led into the dedication of the new art sculpture put together by art students from Sisters Middle School with the help of local artist Susie Zeitner. Students in the middle school art classes worked with Zeitner and art teacher Judy Fuentes to create several multi-colored fused-glass three-by-six-inch tiles. Students could choose whatever colors and whatever patterns they wanted to put on the glass.

“We helped the students understand how to do it, but really just let them be expressive in what colors and patterns they wanted to add to them,” said Zeitner.

Some 230 students took part in creating the tiles, which were then fused together in a pattern on steel posts. Those steel posts are now permanently concreted into the ground at the entrance to the Art Works building.

“We really just wanted the kids to be expressive with color and patterns, with no real matching, and each piece could be unique to that student,” said Zeitner.

There was a ribbon cutting, with Zeitner and Fuentes alongside some of their students, to allow the public to officially experience the permanent installation.

“We really saw this as the students’ pieces representing morsels within the larger morsel of the Sisters community,” said Fuentes.

The evening continued with Sylla welcoming spectators into the performance tent set up behind the building. On stage, students from the Americana Project performed original songs, spoken word poetry, and cover songs as the community entered the large tent. During that time, young kids and students could express their own creativity by drawing on an art wall, writing wishes on the wishing tree, and connecting with one another in person. The words that kept being spoken by spectators, parents, and SFF staff championed the idea of becoming connected by creativity, a mantra SFF adopted a few years ago.

Many patrons said things like, “It’s just so great to be in person again and connected at an event like this.”

Students from the high school jazz band led by Tyler Cranor had an unexpected treat during their opening performance Friday evening. The drummer and one of the horn players from popular Seattle-based band The True Loves sat in on their performances of some songs. Sylla also sat in on some songs.

“We didn’t know they were going to play with us, but they just walked up on stage and started playing,” said Cranor.

The True Loves took the stage for the rest of the evening as people mingled, celebrated students’ art and being connected through creativity. The band brought out the dancers in the crowd with their funky, jazzy, soulful tunes.

The items up for auction in the official fundraiser were being displayed on a digital screen all evening.

Curt Scholl, superintendent of Sisters schools, spoke of the importance of the relationship with SFF over the years and how it impacts the students.

“It’s always fantastic to have strong partnerships and allow students to engage in their community in meaningful ways,” he said. “An event like this crystalizes that engagement and relationship.”

Scholl has been with the school district for over seven years, and the relationship with SFF has allowed for encouragement and provides an opportunity for students.

“It allows them to be expressive and lets them know that they could make a living at it if they wanted to,” he said.

“The evening overall was an intergenerational celebration of the Sisters community together to create a welcoming environment for its students and to support the programming of SFF within the schools,” said Tisdel.

The MOTH weekend continued on Saturday evening with the ticketed art auction and party. Bidding was concluded and contributing artists celebrated. The award-winning artists were presented their awards at the event, which featured a catered dinner, drinks, a ring toss game for prizes, and another performance by The True Loves Band.