Events continue through July 15
By Morgan Rothborne, Rogue Valley Times
Art Beyond is back for the second time as a new tradition offering a kind of fine arts scavenger hunt in and around Ashland through the first half of summer.
Through July 15, works from 14 artists and four special events will be spread across nine locations stretching from downtown Ashland’s Lithia Park to the Willow Witt Ranch near Grizzly Peak.
The event is planned to coincide with the first flush of warm weather in the spring — melting snow in high elevation places like Willow Witt Ranch — and coming to a close before fire season comes to its peak.
Artists and locations were matched carefully, to create a sense of wonder and an excuse to explore home like a tourist.
“It reminds me of my time in New York,” said Scott Malbaurn, executive director of the Schneider Museum of Art at Southern Oregon University. “People would come visit me and say, ‘You ever been to the top of the Empire State Building?’ and I’d say, ‘No, but I can do it anytime,’ and then you never do. Like Willow Witt Ranch, people are aware that it’s there, but how many people have actually been up there?”
The sculpture installed at the ranch, “Reaching to Reap” by Anna Kruse, is designed to be interactive and placed at the head of one of several public trails on the property. The ranch is also across the road from the entrance to the Grizzly Peak trailhead, Malbaurn said, further highlighting the hope that by seeking out novel art pieces, participants can deepen their appreciation for a sense of home.
“You go seek the pieces out. You find them and feel accomplished, ‘Yes I found it, I’m engaging with it,’ then you check out your surroundings, ‘Where am I?” he said.
He hopes parents and teachers in particular would take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy art outside.
Outside of the outdoor art exhibitions, Art Beyond’s events offer an opportunity to create art in the outdoors. At the first event, on Saturday, June 10, Juan Miguel Santiago led an introduction to harvesting and processing clay at Emigrant Lake.
Malbaurn highlighted the plein air painting event at Lithia Park on Saturday, June 17, as an example of the hands-on aspect of the festival.
“Whenever you see someone painting in a park, it’s easy to want to peek over their shoulder, ask them some questions, but it’s always like, ‘Shhhh, don’t bother them.’ Well this event gives people license. You can ask questions; they’re there and you can participate,” he said.
He offered a secretive hint for the sculpture pieces to be housed at Hither Market in Ashland.
“For anyone going to see the piece at Hither — look inside the tub. I think people may sit and just enjoy the sound of the water without realizing there’s this really loaded piece sitting there,” he said.
Inside the tub are aspects of the sculpture that can’t be seen without deliberately looking inside it, and there is a QR code to scan for the meaning and history of the piece.
Malbaurn said Art Beyond was originally inspired by two other art festivals — Desert X in Coachella Valley, California, and Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Art Prize began as a local philanthropist’s effort to revitalize a struggling Rust Belt city, he said, but over the years, the festival became a magnet for artists around the world, and its grand prize is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Malbaurn envisioned a similar festival building on Ashland’s position as a tourist economy and an arts destination, using grants to support something as grand as Art Prize. He believes that will come in time.
“Still no big grants in our pockets. We applied to some, but those dollars haven’t come in yet,” he said.
Desert X provided the inspiration for a traveling and hunting aspect to Art Beyond.
“For that festival, you use GPS coordinates to hunt around and find the art, and I thought that was really cool. Art Beyond is a chance to go on an outdoor art adventure here, and our region is just beautiful,” he said.
Art Beyond had been in his mind a long time, he said, when he finally marshaled support from local artists and launched it in 2021.
“It was kind of a COVID response. People were looking for safe things to do, ways to be outside,” he said.
The success of the inaugural event was encouraging enough that the Schneider Museum decided to make Art Beyond a biannual event with the hope that someday the event will be as large and successful as its models.
The event is free and open to the public, but some events require registration.
For a complete list of events, artists, registration, and a map of locations see sma.sou.edu/exhibitions/art-beyond-2023.