Woodburn Art Center Steps Up in the Face of Fire

The May 11 fire at Woodburn High School stunned the entire state. The subsequent arson charges against three minor students have polarized whole segments of the population.

But within the conversations of grief, loss, indignation, and gratitude (for the fact that no one was injured), there exists a silver lining of overwhelming, cohesive community response. One such response was that of the Woodburn Art Center (WAC), a grantee of the Marion Cultural Development Corporation, one of 36 countywide cultural coalitions funded by Oregon Cultural Trust.

A pillar of the community since 1966, the WAC jumped into the recovery feet-first, offering space in which students could finish their academic year, assisting with a yard sale benefit and helping the seniors prepare for their May 19 prom.

On April 26, the WAC had exhibited an extensive collection of student artwork from Woodburn High. On May 10, that exhibit was transferred back to the high school for an art show there. That next day, most of it was damaged beyond repair by smoke, flames and water.

However, the Woodburn Art Center had again risen to the occasion. Like any smart gallery, they had curated the student exhibit with photos of the art. Little did they know that these photos would be the only record, a documentation of the artwork’s existence after it was destroyed. The dollars spent by the Cultural Trust filter into communities throughout the state through its competitive grants process and the work of the 36 county cultural coalitions and nine tribal coalitions statewide.

The grant projects are often proactive, offering after school programming, summer reading programs, theater camp scholarships and writing workshops for students; putting on concerts for returning veterans; mentoring at-risk youth from middle school through high school; providing access to the Oregon poet laureate, and making sure that endangered buildings and heritage sites are preserved. But once in awhile they are reactive, like Woodburn Art Center, part of the strong fabric that pulls a community together to overcome a crisis. This is your tax dollars and private donations at work.

Meryl Lipman, Trust Communications Manager

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