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FEATURES

DOWNTOWN: Energy and Passion Drive Astoria’s ADHDA

astoria 1970
Astoria before the big box era, a busy blue collar town on a sunny July afternoon 1970

If you ask Astoria Downtown Historic District Association President Dulcye Taylor, something big is definitely afoot in downtown.

“There’s a vibe lurking around Astoria,” Taylor said. “If you talk to people who’ve been here a long time, they’ll say it feels different.”

Before she relocated in 2006 and purchased a downtown business of her own – the Old Town Framing Company – Taylor thought of Astoria as a just-passing-through kind of place. “I drove through Astoria for 20 years without stopping, except to get a cup of coffee on my way out of town,” she recalled.

She wasn’t the only one. After two hard-knock economic decades, downtown Astoria was looking rather shabby, with vacant storefronts, peeling paint and seedy bars dotting the urban landscape.

Taylor, like many other would-be visitors, shoppers and business owners, stayed away.

Today, she can’t imagine living anywhere else, and things in the city center are different indeed: historic renovations are under way, verdant planters blossom along the sidewalks, new small businesses are hanging shingles and the tourists are arriving in droves.

This newfound vibrancy is no stroke of luck. It’s the result of several years of concentrated efforts by ADHDA, the City of Astoria and other local entities to revitalize a down-on-its-luck urban center.

The ADHDA was originally formed in 1985 to promote and preserve downtown Astoria, but the organization has waxed and waned since its inception. When Taylor arrived on the scene, she recalls, meetings were attended by perhaps a dozen people. She joined the board in 2009, and soon became president. When Taylor took the helm, the association had just $87 in the bank, she says, but it also had a new and enthusiastic board ready to get to work.

Today she’s president of a thriving association with a laundry list of recent successes under its belt, from downtown cleanup days to a host of popular local events, including the Second Saturday Art Walk, the Jane Barnes Revue, and the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup.

The new ADHDA has a hand in everything from preservation to promotions, from trash cleanup to small-business advocacy. It also functions as a mouthpiece for the local business community, enabling those with a stake in downtown to better communicate and collaborate with the City of Astoria, according to City Manager Paul Benoit.

“As we work on initiatives that affect downtown we do it with and through them,” he said. “We really use association as a touchstone for vetting or reviewing any proposals we may have.”

City employees including Community Development Director/Assistant City Manager Brett Estes sit on ADHDA committees to ensure the communication flows both ways.

The result? Local initiatives such as last spring’s streetscape improvement plan, which added benches, bike racks, bus shelters, planters and “Salmon Can” trash receptacles to the downtown area.

Downtown merchants wanted to spruce things up, Estes says, so the city, the Astoria Sunday Market and ADHDA worked together to apply for an Oregon Department of Transportation Grant to fund the endeavor. ADHDA has even coordinated sponsors to maintain the new landscaping.

“That’s something we wouldn’t have had the capacity to take on, but through this partnership, we were able to get greater things accomplished,” Estes said.

ADHDA is additionally guiding Astoria through its participation in the Oregon Main Street Program, a state-sponsored effort to revitalize historic commercial districts across Oregon.

An effort to synthesize all these undertakings into a larger, more cohesive vision is also gaining steam.

Under the guidance of Urban Strategist and Principal Michele Reeves, the ADHDA has embarked on a multi-month downtown assessment and identity program called Building Blocks for a Successful Downtown.

The process aims to provide a blueprint for revitalization informed by input from a broad swathe of the community, says Reeves, who likes what she’s seeing so far.

“Revitalization comes from people and people’s passions and where they direct their energy and efforts and resources,” she said. “One thing I judge when I go into a community is how much excitement there is … What’s exciting in Astoria is people get mad if they’re not included in conversation. You have a lot of people who want to be engaged.”

Reeves will work closely with Oregon Main Street Coordinator Sheri Stuart to guide Astoria through the Building Blocks program. Together, they’ll gather and synthesize plenty of stakeholder input, and they’ll teach local entrepreneurs how to market and promote their businesses based on a shared vision for Astoria’s future.

It’s an exciting time to live and work in Astoria, says Astoria native and ADHDA Business Development Committee Chair Susan Trabucco.

When she was a kid, downtown Astoria was the region’s shopping hub, with all sorts of shoe stores, hardware stores and dress shops.

“It wasn’t glitzy,” she recalled. “It was catering to a crowd of people who were loggers, fishermen and everyday folk … But there were a lot of living-wage jobs.”

After high school, Trabucco moved away, and when she returned in 1992 to raise a family of her own, downtown was on the definite decline.

The shoppers had retreated to Warrenton, where big-box stores were sprouting up like weeds. There were no tourists. And many local businesses had shut their doors.

Gimre’s Shoes co-owner Peter Gimre, a former ADHDA president who recently rejoined the board, has had a front-row seat for all the ups and downs.

His shoe store, in its third generation of family ownership, has been a mainstay in downtown Astoria through the decades. He’s excited about the new energy in town, and the new visitors it’s drawing.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, downtown was more or less like a shopping center where you could buy everything you needed,” he said. “It’s more individualized now … there are more coffee shops and more art shops, which drives people to downtown.”

A thriving city center creates a rising tide that helps businesses stay afloat for the long haul, according to Gimre, but revitalization requires patience.

“I think downtown is really on a resurgence,” he said. “But nothing happens overnight.”

In a sense, Astoria is returning to its roots as a polestar for transplants of all stripes, says long-time resident Susie McLerie.

In the ‘70s, McLerie was one of a number of artistic types who relocated to Astoria. They were potters, tailors, weavers and painters, and they lived off of the land and relied on each other for everything else as they worked to build an artistic community. They were eventually welcomed into the local fold, and many of them are still here, and still creating art.

Back in the ‘70s, Astoria wasn’t much to look at, McLerie recalled: “The downtown was pretty depressing and slow,” she said. “You didn’t really need town for much. You’d go for groceries to the Safeway or Hauke’s Market.”

Today, Astoria is drawing trailblazers of a new breed.

Baked Alaska restaurant owners Chris and Jennifer Holen see Astoria as a burgeoning foodie hub with an impressive array of dining experiences for a town its size.

Nurturing the growth of the larger downtown as lovingly as you nurture your own small business is something of a no-brainer, says Jennifer Holen: “People off the cruise ships always say to us, ‘You’re all so friendly!’ Well, we’re all so invested.”

There’s a lot to like about Astoria if you’re a small-business owner, says Taylor. Affordable rental and real estate makes it easier get a foot in the door, while a minimal corporate presence ensures visitors a novel, can’t-get-it-anywhere-else shopping and dining experience.

It’s an irresistible formula, agrees Patsy Oser, who recently relocated to Astoria from the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, David. They came for David Oser’s job, but Patsy Oser has quickly found her own niche.

She’s working as a volunteer librarian at Astor Elementary, she’s joined several boards, and she sits on the ADHDA’s Promotions Committee.

Awhile back, The Osers took a boat out onto the river with a visiting friend, and Patsy Oser was struck by the view of Astoria from out on the water.

“It looks like a storybook village,” she said. “It’s charming. It’d be nice to have that when you’re walking around, too. For Astoria to be as charming as the people who live here.”

The modern iteration of the ADHDA is capitalizing on just that asset – people power.

It boasts a board of nine business owners and workers, four active committees and two-dozen regular volunteers.

Last year, 85 of Astoria’s 225 businesses were members, Taylor says, and 40-plus citizens regularly attend meetings.

What might the final blueprint for Astoria’s future look like?

Attractive, walkable streets, enticing storefronts, ongoing historic restorations and the elimination of vacant lots are all part of the equation.

In January 2013, Reeves will take community members on a tour of another downtown tackling similar challenges. An identity-building and marketing workshop is set for February, and a public forum will follow in early spring.

In the meantime, there are shoes to sell, photos to frame, crabs to shell and an entire community to mobilize.

Taylor is also out to pique the interest of those who might just be passing through, like she once was.

“If downtown thrives, everybody thrives,” she said. “If you don’t have a downtown that people want to come to, they’ll come, get a cup of coffee and a scone, and they’ll leave.”

And as locals and newcomers alike continue to invest in Astoria, says Benoit, thrive it will.

“I can’t put my finger on it but there’s an optimism and a cooperative spirit between downtown businesses that’s keeping things move forward,” he said.

Gimre hopes the new momentum will carry downtown Astoria far into the future. “There seems to be this energy going,” he said. “I feel we’re in the second or third inning of a nine-inning game, and it’s just going to get better and better as time goes on.”

Patsy and David Oser are embarking on their very own historic restoration – they’re rehabbing an old house with river views. And they’re even trying to entice a few friends to join them in their new community, which has quickly come to feel like home.

McLerie is thrilled to see a fresh wave of transplants, tourists and entrepreneurs arriving, drawn as she was by the area’s natural beauty and its emphasis on history, preservation and tradition.

“This is home,” she said. “This is the place … One old-timer said to me when I first moved here: ‘It rains a lot here, but you grown good roots.’ I never forgot that. You can grow good roots here.”

ASTORIA’S SPARKLING DEALS
Check out Astoria Downtown Business Holiday Shopping Specials at www.astoriadowntown.com.

To learn more about ADHDA, visit http://www.astoriadowntown.com. To weigh in on the future of downtown Astoria, e-mail Building Blocks Principal Michele Reeves at Michele@civiliusconsultants.com.

One hundred and twenty years ago, Sven Gimre began his shoe business. 120 years later, Gimre’s Shoes is still going strong, as a family-owned downtown business, the oldest in the Western Untied States. Third generation owner and ADHDA board member Peter Gimre sees a cooperative spirit between business owners that’s keeping things moving forward, building a strong new core to carry long into the future.

ADHDA President Dulcye Taylor steps out in downtown Astoria. ADHDA recently partnered with the City of Astoria and Astoria Sunday Market on a streetscape improvement project that included the installation of ‘Salmon Cans’ throughout the city center.

Forty year Astoria/Alderbrook resident Susie McClerie was one of a number of artist folk that relocated to Astoria in the 70’s, who sought to build a close-knit cultural community in a place of natural beauty, in a city on the edge of the map. In addition to the art and craft potters, painters and weavers, folk musicians too began to light up the night in pubs and alternative locations in the city, adding to a cultural mix that bears seed to the new direction and roots of Astoria’s downtown redevelopment. One of those musicians and longtime folk programmer on KMUN, McClerie has many stories to tell of the peoples that make up the spirit of a downtown. Another story. – d. urell

ADHDA Accomplishments 2010-2012

  • Entered the Oregon Main Street Program in early 2010 and advanced to the Transforming Downtown level later the same year
  • Raised more than $20,000 and submitted a successful application to participate in the RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) Program, providing fulltime support for ADHDA for 11 months (2010, 2011 and 2012)
  • Secured donated office space and furniture
  • Applied for and received a $10,000 RBEG (Rural Business Enterprise Grant) and a $2,000 US Bank grant to complete a downtown inventory project and implement the inventory online
  • Presented an annual Fourth of July event (2010, 2011, 2012)
  • Presented the “Downtown Sparkles” holiday lighting event, including a free children’s movie, visits with Santa, and caroling at the Liberty Theater the Saturday after Thanksgiving (2010, 2011, 2012)
  • Coordinated the annual downtown clean-up day and expanded volunteer participation (2010, 2011, 2012)
  • Represented downtown during Planning Commission work sessions that led to the recently adopted Derelict Building Ordinance
  • Built an e-mail database and manage regular communications regarding ADHDA activities
  • Developed and maintain social media tools for ADHDA including a Facebook page
  • Elevated the visibility of ADHDA through regular media releases
  • Assumed coordination of Second Saturday Art Walk
  • Held regular monthly meetings and increased average attendance to 35-40 people
  • Have developed productive partnerships with the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, City of Astoria, Astoria Sunday Market and other organizations
  • Adopted the administrative and committee structure supporting the “4-point approach” prescribed by the Main Street Program and continue to build upon that structure
  • Conducted a consumer survey through the Business Development Committee
  • Volunteered at Chamber events, including the Crab Festival and Columbia Crossing, to raise funds for ADHDA
  • Presented the wildly successful Astoria Bicentennial Revue, raising $4,000 to $5,000 per year for the organization (2011 and 2012)
  • Facilitated information dissemination via online blog after the fire that destroyed #10 6th Street and Cannery Café, helping displaced tenants locate new space, connect with community members offering equipment, supplies and other relief, and connect with customers and clients
  • Launched an ADHDA website to provide news, events, and other organization information to the public
  • Partnered with the City and ODOT to develop, design, install and maintain a new streetscape improvement project consisting of new “salmon can” trash receptacles, benches, bike racks and lockers, bus shelters, planters and plants
  • Completed phase I of Building Blocks for a Successful Downtown — a presentation and forum with citizens, property owners and business owners — at the Bankers Suite in May
  • Secured additional funding from the City of Astoria, Astoria Sunday Market and Pacific Power to continue with phase II of Building Blocks for a Successful Downtown — a more comprehensive analysis and assessment during the winter of 2012/spring of 2013
  • Organized the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup, bringing brewers and beer lovers from all over the Northwest and raising more than $25,000 for the organization in September 2012
  • Secured over $10,000 annually in membership dues from over 80 businesses, organizations and individuals in the community (2011 and 2012)
  • Won Oregon Main Street Awards for:
  • Outstanding Promotional Event for the Passport Program at the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup
  • Honorable Mention for participation in the Downtown Astoria Streetscape Improvement Project
  • Outstanding Organizational Event for the Jane Barnes Revue
Categories
CULTURE KALA THEATER

In the Mix

KALA CAFÉ to showcase eclectic regional acts.
First up? Performance poet John Kulm and hip-hop funsters, Showladies.

Showladies, Andrea Mazzarella (l) and Teresa Barnes (r).

Some of history’s great performers have found success by combining the unexpected: funk and soul plus African oral traditions begot hip-hop. Opera plus rock ‘n’ roll gave rise to the rock opera.

It’s a concept that also has strong foothold right here in Astoria, thanks to a long tradition of regional creative eclecticism. This month, KALA is gearing up to unveil a new performance medium that offers a vehicle for its continued expression.

The nascent showcase is called KALA CAFÉ, and its inaugural presentation will feature the multiform stylings of two regional acts: performance poet/humorist John Kulm and music funsters Showladies, featuring performers Teresa Barnes and Andrea Mazzarella.

KALA founder and HIPFiSHmonthly Editor and Publisher Dinah Urell is the evening’s emcee, lending a song, ‘here and there’ and in addition some sneak preview of acts to come to the KALA stage.

The KALA CAFÉ concept draws on traditional vintage variety floorshows, with a little camp, cabaret and commentary thrown in, says Urell, who has been reinventing the showcase concept through her years as a performing creative artist.

“My first entertainment inspiration was Ricky Ricardo,” she said. “And my alter ego Lucy, always conspiring to get on stage. I loved watching the Dean Martin Show with my father, I mean who the heck wants to play with dolls when the Gold Diggers are on the screen.”

It’s an ideal format for showcasing regional talent, she says, and she couldn’t be more thrilled with the opening lineup.

Both acts have a demonstrated taste for the eclectic: Showladies rap about a constellation of topics, from wolves and wizarding to club-hopping, while Kulm waxes poetic on Jungian archetypes, midlife crises and bucolic life.

John Kulm Performance Poet

Kulm is well known for his open-mic stints at the now-closed River Theatre, but he’s been working with spoken words in many forms for most of his life.

Kulm carved out a niche at poetry slams in Seattle’s heady grunge days two decades back, billing himself as a “cowboy poet” and was booked on tour, in the early days with the Lollapalooza festival.

“They liked me because it’s so odd to see a cowboy coming into that scene,“ Kulm recalled. “I picked up on a lot of the style they were using, real aggressive, free verse.”

Since, he’s tried out many creative and practical pursuits, including stand-up comedy, book writing, fatherhood, farming and postal work.

The goal is to get closer to who he really is with each incarnation.

During his two sets at KALA CAFÉ, he’ll share poetry, but he’s also got some brand new material brewing.

Lately, Kulm has been playing with archetypes – universal symbols and prototypes. He likens then to “modern fairy tales,” and he’s recently spent time teasing a few into prose.

“Archetypal work is like dreaming while you’re awake,” he said of this new process. “It’s like a storyline starts to unfold and you’re just experiencing it.”

Kulm is eager to share this more personal writing, but he remains committed to entertaining.

“I worked so many years in stand-up that I just won’t allow myself to be boring,” he said. Urell offers, “John Kulm is a unique humor experience. He utilizes the poetic form, as a vehicle to philosophize on the contradictions in life, coming in sideways, and giving us (the audience) an opportunity to laugh at our own absurdities.”

Showladies, too, is audience-centric, Barnes says. The act has gained notoriety for its off-the-wall performances, colorful costumes and colorful lyrics.

Barnes took her first stabs at songwriting a few years back, and Showladies was born when Mazzarella began performing with Barnes at venues such as the Voodoo Room, with Barnes on guitar and lead vocals and Mazzarella on bass and accompanying vocals. (A keyboard stands in as drummer.)

They’d noted a lack of what Barnes calls “rock starry, glammy” musical acts in Astoria.

“We wanted to fill more of a lady Gaga-ish place in town, bringing that element of crazy fun ridiculous danceable performance,” Barnes said.

Moving the audience – literally as well as cerebrally – is key.

Showladies draws inspiration from all over the place: ‘90s R&B and rap, YouTube videos, rhyming dictionaries.

They’ll also be performing two sets at KALA CAFÉ – a high-energy set and an acoustic set.

Heartbreaky guitar chords may seem an unexpected departure from glitzy gonzo rap, but that’s just the idea.

This is another artistic endeavor that is constantly reinventing itself, right down to the genre (hip-pop? Glam rap?) and name, which changes regularly.

The two say they don’t know what’s coming next – only that it’d better be good for a laugh.

“We really hope people have fun, and if they feel like dancing, dance,” Mazzarella said. “Hopefully people have half as good a time as we’re having.”

Urell hopes this mashup performance is the start of an exciting chapter for KALA – and for the creative-spirited community surrounding it.

It’s a concept that’s still developing, thanks to the hard work of a few additional key players, including KALA visual arts curator Agnes Field and sound stage man Les Kanekuni.

“As a presentation space, KALA is focusing on performance, visual art, and whatever delightfully falls under the category,” Urell said. “We’re having fun with diversity in art, and how we can shine the stage lights on the creative forces this coastal region inspires.”

KALA CAFÉ
Fri/Sat – AUG 17 • 18
Show @ 9pm – doors open 8:30
$10
advance tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com
advance tickets suggested

Beer/Wine and Cocktails available.

KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive.
For more info call: 503.338.4878

Categories
CULTURE KALA MUSIC WORD

Necessary poisons – Performer Mindy Dillard debuts her one-woman show in Astoria

mindyapplegreenhouseIt’s taken some doing, but Mindy Dillard has learned to get comfortable with diving deep.

These days, she often finds herself plumbing the depths of the human psyche as she searches for inspiration for her performance art.
It’s murky down there to be sure, and some strange and unexpected things are apt to bubble up, but for, Dillard, exploring those fathoms can also be a life-saving act.

Dillard’s latest theatrical venture, a one-woman show titled  “How to Survive a Poison Apple,” debuts in Astoria this July.

Part magic realist musical, part neo-feminist performance art and part fractured fairy tale, Poison Apple tells the tale of an abandoned princess struggling with anorexia. As her self image evolves, she cavorts with other princesses and wise dwarves, climbs aboard submarines, and faces down one very forbidden piece of fruit.

It’s a little bit funny, a little bit tragic, and it’s definitely the most personal thing Dillard has ever written or performed.

“I call it a storyscape because I’m telling stories in the form of narration and storytelling and also in the form of the song,” Dillard said. “I switch characters. I feel that I’m a form bender.”

Dillard started writing the songs and stories that would come to comprise “Poison Apple” three years ago. Bits would come to her in odd moments, often late at night, often in dreams.

She felt compelled to tease out the bits, to understand the messages that were bubbling up from her own depths.

Dillard was teaching children’s theater classes at the time, and she’d grown dismayed by her female students’ abiding obsession with pretty princesses. She was also making her way through her own failed fairy tale ending, having recently split with a boyfriend who turned out to be less than princely, and she found herself pondering the subconscious messages society was sending to girls and women.

She thought about Snow White, and the way a bite from an enchanted apple had sent her into a sleep befitting the dead.

She thought back to a time when, in the grips of her own struggle with anorexia, she could eat nothing but apples.

She also thought about alchemy, how seemingly incompatible elements can combine in unexpected ways, and how they can be transformed by that combining, even when the pressure seems too great to bear.

“I feel I’m kind of an alchemist because I try to expose things that are hard,” Dillard said. “They’re hard for me to say and sometimes I think they’re hard for people to hear, but before a diamond gets turned into a diamond, it’s a rock. It has to be compressed.”

Someday, Dillard would love to take “Poison Apple” on the road to high schools and colleges across the country.

In the meantime, her own self-conception is evolving along with her art. She’ll still blanch at insensitive comments people make about her appearance (a man at a recent show looked her up and down and said, “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder now.”) or cringe when she sees a young girl complimented solely for her looks, but she’s learning to speak up about how she’s feeling, to say the things that are difficult to say, to share her story, over and over. (Indeed, a happy ending for her own story looks rather promising: if you catch her show, don’t forget to look for her artistic and life-partner, Eric McEuen, accompanying her musically.)

In the end, it’s a longer journey of growth and discovery Dillard is committed to – and committed to sharing with others.

“Experience is really the only thing that can grow someone,” Dillard said. “Hard things are hard but sometimes they’re necessary for transformation … All the stuff I’ve experienced has been necessary poison … So I’m going to make it into the poison that turns into medicine.”

How To Survive a Poison Apple
an electric one-woman musical storyscape
Saturday, July 7 @ KALA
Doors open 8pm, show at 8:30pm
Tickets are $10 at the door. To retain a seat for the show, advised to arrive when doors open.
Refreshments available
• Audience Suggestion: This show is created for young and old to enjoy and experience. Suggested age 10 years and up please.
• Approx. 1 hour running time.
KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria
View a video clip of “Poison Apple”.

 

Categories
ART HAPPENS CULTURE FEATURES KALA

Shadowboxing: Printmakers Roxanne Turner and Marcy Baker found and foraged treasures

mbaker_shimmer
Marcy Baker, Box Assemblage, Shimmer

Impermanent. Imperfect. Unburnished.

These might not be terms typically associated with the creation of fine art, but for Pacific Northwest-based artists Roxanne Turner and Marcy Baker, the world’s vast store of fragmented, forgotten and scattered objects is replete with creative possibility.

Both artists will exhibit the fruits of their artistic foraging at KALA this month in a show titled “In the Box.”

The show will feature almost 40 assemblages, each a multi-dimensional amalgamation of found objects and items from the natural world contained within its own repurposed box.

The seed for a two-woman show was planted when Turner and Baker began to take note of the common threads running through their work: botanical imagery and materials, refuse foraged from the modern world. And, of course, the format of the timeworn boxes themselves.

“It occurred to us that, while our assemblages – composed within the structure of reclaimed wooden boxes – share a similar aesthetic, they are developed in individual and complementary ways,” Baker said.

The Portland-based Baker began exploring the concept of art in a box when she found herself in possession of several old cigar boxes some years back. She quickly became intrigued with the artistic challenges and possibilities a box presented.

midori
Roxanne Turner, Box Assemblage, Midori

At the time, she was living in New Mexico and experimenting with ways to combine the rusty treasures she gathered on her long rambles through the high desert with wax rubbings, block prints, old letters and sheet music.

She began to create collages within the cigar boxes and fell in love with both the process and the larger concept it seemed to reference – finding beauty in the imperfect: a forgotten page of sheet music, an old ceramic insulator cap, and especially the rusted metal scraps lying forgotten in the sand.

“They’re beautiful little treasures,” she said. “I love how they can relate to something brightly colored, like a monotype, that pop of color and how that plays off the worn surface of the metal piece.”

The task of arranging the disparate objects into a coherent whole is by nature imprecise, and requires a bit of spontaneity.

She’ll sit down before an empty, hinged box and consider its shape, its edges, its sides, even its smell. Then, she’ll begin to arrange and rearrange, to bring in and take out pieces, to consider relationships.

“For me, it’s thinking about two sides and how they relate, what they’re saying,” she said. “They could be closed, they could be open, and you can see how they’re talking back and forth, the relationships between those two sides and almost the sense of a book being read, one side to the other and back again.”

The Astoria-based Turner began creating her own boxed art pieces in 2010. She’d spent 14 years focused on capturing tree and plant imagery in two-dimensional formats before she began to explore the box format.

Turner admits to being a “compulsive forager,” especially when it comes to plant materials, and her work incorporates seed pods, branches and blossoms brought home from locations both near and far-flung: Manzanita from California, seed pods from Australia and Japan.

Why the fascination with nature’s castoffs?

“It’s the forms,” Turner said. “They’re very sculptural, they’re as beautiful as animal bones; they’re simple and they’re just gorgeous forms. They’re sort of architectural and there’s so much variety.”

She also makes use of plenty of found and handmade materials: Japanese rice papers, collograph, textured monoprints, silkscreens.

Turner uses these objects in combination to riff on themes of life and its inevitable cycles: growth, ripening and eventual decay.

atelierdemo_1
Marcy Baker instructs in printmaking at Atelier Meridian studio in Portland.

She also draws inspiration from the Japanese concept of “wabi sabi,” which holds up the imperfect and the impermanent as beautiful within their own right and worthy of admiration.

As it is with nature, these assemblages will no doubt fall prey to the ravages of time, moldering, crumbling, changing irretrievably, and Baker is just fine with that.

“These plant materials will be affected by light and heat and humidity, and so they’re impermanent,” Turner said. “They’re not going to last, they’re going to change gradually over time, they’re probably already changing. So what you see today, the colors may change in a year or two. It’s kind of like performance art.”

IN THE BOX Opens Saturday, June 9, 5-9pm, in conjunction with the Astoria 2nd Saturday Art Walk.

The exhibit runs through July 8. KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria. Summer Gallery viewing hours beginning June 10, Sat-Sun noon to 5pm, and by appt. 503.338.4878 or 503.440.3007.