Blue Flower

About Art Works

The arts are an essential human pursuit and an integral element of community. Art creates opportunity and enriches the lives of individuals and families. Drawing and sculpture are more than elaborate decoration. Music and drama are not mindless diversion. Each is the meaningful expression of the free spirit, creative minds, and practiced skills.

Creating Jobs

Rogue Comminity College's Art Works initiative is developing partnerships and cooperative projects to create more arts-related opportunities and activities, on campus, downtown and throughout the area. In time these will expand the economic, cultural and civic life of the community, as well as attract more visitors to longer stays year around in the Grants Pass area.

Building Community

Our community embraces its growing tradition of art with a passion. Artists and everyday people, civic groups and public bodies, and significantly, businesses and industry share a spirit and a willingness to come together to do the hard work. Through Art Works, our community takes the next step in economic development, in cultural enhancement, in civic improvement, and in improving our overall quality of life.

Realizing Dreams

Art celebrates the human spirit and the work of the human hand. It begins with imagination and achieves success through support and enduring effort, as does every creative endeavor, be it in art, business, one's livelihood, or a community undertaking as comprehensive and laden with possibilities as the Art Works initiative.

Janet Higgins - Local Artist

Hello, I'm Janet Higgins and I've been doing my art and creating things most of my life. That means that I respond to the world around me and communicate my ideas about it visually. I give you something to look at that will tell you what I think and what I see.

I started drawing as a child, which suited my nature well because it allowed me to be by myself. I was kind of shy as a kid. When I went to college my parents were nice enough to let me major in fine art at UC Berkeley, although I did take one business course to make my Dad happy and help round out my education. I dropped the business class after two weeks - that was about all the rounding out I could stand.

Now I live in a city and community that seem to be increasing its embrace of the arts. I've painted most of my life and here in Grants Pass I've been able to explore the world of sculpture in clay and steel by taking some wonderful classes in the ceramics and welding departments of Rogue Community College. The large steel grasshopper playing a cello, which will have a permanent home next to the Post Office later this month, was done with help of the wonderful welding instructors at RCC. My thanks to them for teaching me how get tough with steel.

When I first moved here from Hong Kong 11years ago I referred to Grants Pass as having a wonderful artistic "underground". The artists were here but not a really important part of the community. So now. 11 years later Grants Pass is the kind of place where people look forward to going to First Friday Art Nights. Their numbers rivaled only by cities like Portland. I've participated in Bearfest, Chalk street painting, fire hydrant painting, done sets for plays and designed a house for Imagination Village. Our city has really blossomed in its love of the arts and I'm so pleased to be living in a city and having my kids attend school where art and artists thrive.

Hyla Lipson - Founding Member

I’m Hyla Lipson.

The phone rang and it was my daughter telling me she had tickets to a National Geographic lecture series in Seattle. Wow – a lecture series. What fun!

The next week I sat next to Rick Levine at Rotary and we talked about the possibility of engaging speakers and charging more than the actual cost and spilling out the proceeds to RCC to help their development. He put me in touch with Kathy Burkey, who was the dean of students at that time. A few months later we had lunch – and talked for hours. Ruth McGregor had joined us. We talked about our dreams – mine for more arts and cultural events in Grants Pass, Ruth’s for enhancing our down town’s sense of place, and Kathy’s for creating an Art Quadrangle at RCC near their manufacturing and welding departments.

At the exact same time – Al Devine was engaged in conversations with people interested in foundries. Then Phil Hart and Carolyn Kohn came on board and we began working on Artworks – you know – the idea that “Art Works” – to create jobs, build communities and realize dreams.

Bear with me hear – no pun intended – next I heard through the grapevine that Bears were coming to town for an event – I called Brady and begged to do a fiber optic bear. He liked the idea and we sent for our very own bear that came all by herself in a truck all the way from Maine. We had 3 weeks to complete Celeste L. Bear – but we did! We created the first ever fiber optic bear. Brady saw her at night and from that came the idea for the Magical Holiday fiber optic panels – which obviously kept Fiberoptic Lighting very busy during the summer and fall of last year.

And I was fortunate to meet and blend with lots of the bear artists. Linda Killion Smith was (is) one of them. She approached me one day about a project she was working on (she’ll tell you about it in a minute) and my thought was – 1. I liked the idea and 2. my own daughter is an artist – maybe if I participate in a project for an artist – someday someone will help my daughter.

So now we come to the “share our ideas with more people” part of the story – which is why you are all here tonight. We think we have some good ideas – and we hope you will too. This is a grow as you go organization – it’s fresh and malleable. I’m loving my part in it – I hope you will get involved and grow some of your own dreams with us!

Linda Killion Smith - Local Artist

For over two decades I’ve worked part-time as a professional artist, painting the life and scenery of Southern Oregon. In early 2003, I felt I’d reached a plateau in my work, and needed a way to get to the next level. My dream was to paint our rivers in a readily recognizable way, and to have the time to study the water movement to bring honesty and drama to the work.

You know that artists often have to “suffer” for their craft, hence the term “starving artist”. Since we still had a daughter in college, starving wasn’t an option. In order to realize my dream of time to study our rivers, I needed a way to replace my previous part-time non-profit jobs with an income source allowing me time to concentrate on the creative process.

During the Renaissance, the great European families became patrons of the arts, financially supporting artists, making the creation of our greatest and most enduring works of art possible. I thought “Wow! Where in Southern Oregon am I going to find a Medici family?”

The answer was, maybe there were several “small Medici’s”; Individuals and businesses that would be willing to support my study, in return for a finished painting. Since Grants Pass had become more and more focused on the River as a centerpiece of our community identity, the time for a project seemed right.

I needed an idea that people would see as a benefit, and a way to promote this idea.
My idea was called the “Patron Participation Project”, and its elements included:

- The Patron could choose a favorite river, location, season, even time of day, and would be invited to view progress at any time. Personalization of their vision would be a key element.

- A community education piece would be included. Maybe that’s what this is.

- A contract was created, offering several payment options.

- The multiple finished pieces would have a community debut in a local gallery show.

- Since artists almost always retain full reproduction rights, I took the unusual step of including these rights to the Patron. To me it was about the process, rather than the finished product. With these rights, the Patron would be free to use it for promotional purposes, or just be assured I would not reproduce it.

I began promoting the project early in the spring of 2003. This consisted of lots of telephone work trying for appointments, arranging appointments, and talking, talking, and more talking.

By early summer, I had enough contracts to make the project a reality, and began the hard work. I did on-site work and studio work throughout the fall and winter of 2003, and the show became a reality in February of 2004.

For 2004 and 2005, I’ve changed some elements of the project. Most notably, the exposure created by the 2003 project has made promotion of the 2004 / 2005 project difficult. This is a good thing, since it means commissions and sales have kept me busy.

Dan Johnson- Local Artist

How art can become a business

I grew up on a farm in the Illinois Valley. On the farm, kids are expected to help with the chores and we learn young how to do lots of different things. I learned to weld at age 7 and have done it all my life. By the time I was in high school, I was good enough that my Vo-Ag teacher would send me off to the shop to work on my projects while he lectured the other students about handling equipment, or workplace safety, or laying out a project for fabrication.

After high school and five years in the Army seeing the world, I had the opportunity to work for many years doing welding and fabrication on large structures around the country. I fabricated structural support pieces and architectural details for Disney World and Epcot Center, for shopping malls, museums, and other high profile projects. In the early ‘80s I came back to the Rogue Valley and went to work as a fabricator for Crater Iron. I calculated the dimensions, cut the steel, fabricated and welded all of the balcony and stair railings in the Rogue Valley Mall.

I enjoy fabricating things from metal that make other people’s lives better or easier. But I also like being able to add some artistic value, too. By adding a little artistic touch to gates or fences or railings, I can add value to the customer’s product and provide them with something that’s unique and very individual. Doing wildlife, river scenes, or forest landscapes as part of railings or gates opened up the opportunity for me to create some specialized pieces with similar themes. For example, towel bars for the bath accented with a moose and trees, a granite-topped coffee table with a squirrel silhouetted on its base, clocks, mirrors, mail boxes, all with the added value of birds, bears or fish. And I love to make wind sculptures and weather vanes. One featuring a stainless steel dragon with a six-foot wingspan stands in front of my shop. I now offer them all for sale at my shop and on-line at

But success calls for more than technical skill and artistic desire. I went into business for myself in 1986 and within six months or so, I knew I needed more knowledge and skill, not in welding or design, but in managing my business. I enrolled in a new program RCC offered through its Small Business Development Center. Roger Harding would sign on to help several small businesses in a year-long program that included group meetings, but more importantly, individual consultation each month with each member of the group. The more time I spent with Roger the better I understood the things that are necessary for a small business to succeed. I got so much from his instruction, I re-enrolled and was in the program for three years.

For me, Art Works because I have been able to take my lifelong skill of working metal and my love of artistry and nature and combine them with the proven techniques of good business management. Art Works for me because I am able to earn my livelihood by being creative, by helping others get what they need and want, and by providing something unique in the market place. I guess that’s the way Art Works for all of us.

Charlie Mitchell: Words from the City of Grants Pass

It is a difficult task at best to determine the economic benefit of the arts to our economy. This is in part due to the fact that as an industry and an activity, it is still yet relatively new and difficult to define and quantify. At this stage, most of the arts’ benefits tend to be somewhat intangible and tertiary. This does not mean, however, the benefits are insignificant. It just means that we need to begin doing a better job of quantifying the benefits and the impacts of the arts on our community and our economy.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, I offer the following as a short and non-exhaustive list of the importance and benefits of the arts locally.

Question: What business-sponsored event draws droves of locals and others to our downtown monthly, and is still increasing in popularity, even after over 10 years of existence?
Answer: First Friday Art Night.

Question: In an attempt to draw more tourists into the community in the “shoulder” fall season, what activity did the City’s Tourism Advisory Committee choose to center its new fall festival around when it formed the event in 2003?
Answer: the arts; as in Art Along the Rogue. (now the largest event of its kind in the Northwest)

Question: What event has propelled the popularity, respect, credibility and name recognition of local artists to unprecedented levels?
Answer: Bear Fest.

Question: What vision has been bringing community leaders together who normally “don’t run in the same circles?”
Answer: The commercial bronze foundry project and the RCC Art Works and Arts Quad campaigns.

Question: What fledgling youth-oriented performing arts movement has risen up from obscurity to local fame in a few short years?
Answer: Connect-The-Dots.

Richard Florida, in his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” defines a recipe for the economic success of communities, based on cities’ abilities to grow and attract “creative” professionals, a somewhat broadly defined subset of workers. The arts are by nature a creative industry, but the arts are really more of a means than an end, more of a catalyst of community change than an independent industry. The arts can change the way a community looks at itself and can change the way outsiders view the community. Florida asserts that a city’s creative quotient equates to economic success. He says, “Certain things will always attract creative people: strong music and film scenes, good architecture, a high quality of life in general.”

Tommi Drake - Local Artist

Passions and dreams. . . my passion is art. My dream is more art to enhance our lives.

Art can be so many things. . . that is part of the beauty of art in our lives. Through many meetings I have heard artists speak of having a job through their art, of people wanting our economy in Jo Co to improve, of art lovers wanting public art in our town, galleries to visit and enjoy, lecture series to attend, poetry readings to listen, plays to see and music to hear. It is with all of these things in mind that Art Works grew from the idea of a commercial foundry to include an art quad on RCC’s main campus for workshops and increased classroom space for our lifelong learners, and then to our community and what is wanted in our county, A group of community members and college staff came together to move the ideas forward.

We have such a great base to grow more with including the grants pass museum of art. Eileen bowie recently started an artist’s lecture series on the third Tuesday of the month in the musuem, our First Fridays have grown in popularity through the experitise of Ruth McGregor, Marshal McDaniels dreamed of an art studio in town – he has that now in aisle G. Craig and Timori Cox recently returned and opened the Southern Oreagon Art School and an Art Supply store. Evergreen continues from the bears to illustrate how Art Works. Our new hospital is an Art Work. We have the Gratns Pass Arts Advisory of the city, the Jo Co Cutlrual Coalition both working to increased art opporutnites for our children and public art. Art Along the Rogue Chalk Painting festival. Concerts in the Park in our beautiful Riverside Park. So many wonderful things happening in our town and community.

Art and business can work well together. Our dreams can become our town. Our passions can become a strong economic factor. What do you want? What are you dreams. . . your passions??

Let’s do it!!