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‘RIVERMILE Project,’ a panoramic tile mosaic at Hood River Middle School installed in 2018, is a work that encompasses Big River. See it on the west wall of the school library, with additions planned as early as this summer: Scan codes connecting mobile devices to musical videos created by HRMS students about salmon, fruit, and other Gorge natural phenomena depicted in the mural. More tile sections will be added on campus at locations to be determined.

Maryhill Museum of Art has announced a collaborative printmaking project featuring 11 artists working with communities along a 220-mile stretch of the Columbia River from the Willamette River confluence to the Snake River confluence. The Exquisite Gorge Project will connect artists and communities to create a massive 66-foot steamrolled print.

The project takes inspiration from the Surrealist art practice known as “exquisite corpse.” In the most well-known exquisite corpse drawing game, participants took turns creating sections of a body on a piece of paper folded to hide each successive contribution, said a press release. When unfolded, the whole body is revealed.

In the case of The Exquisite Gorge Project, the Columbia River will become the “body” that unifies the collaboration between artists and communities, revealing a flowing 66-foot work that tells 10 conceptual stories of the Columbia River and its people.

Artists will work with community members from their assigned stretch of river and carve images on four-by-six foot wood panels. Each completed panel will then be connected end-to-end and printed using a steamroller. The big steamroller print event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 24, on the grounds of Maryhill Museum of Art and the public is invited to participate.

The resulting print will be on view in Maryhilll’s M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Education Center from Sept. 3-25, with the possibility of other venues added in the future.

Partners involved are Maryhill Museum of Art, Lewis & Clark College, Arts in Education of the Gorge, The Dalles-Wasco County Library, The Gorge Veterans Museum, The Dalles Art Center, Goldendale-Fort Vancouver Library System, Whitman College, and White Salmon Arts Council. Information on how the public can connect with artists will be disseminated by each of the participating partners.

“The Columbia River weaves lives together in the most amazing ways,” said Louise Palermo, curator of education at Maryhill Museum of Art. “The Exquisite Gorge Project brings communities together with artists to share their experience of home in the form of a woodblock print, metaphorically as big as the river itself. We envision residents becoming involved by meeting with an artist in their community, helping carve a piece of their story into a woodblock, or being part of the steamroller print event at Maryhill Museum of Art on Aug. 24.”

Portland artist Roger Peet, who will create Section Seven of the print, said, “I value collaboration greatly, and it is a big part of what I do in my work. Incorporating the stories, ideas, and efforts of community members into work that is narrative and explicatory is the best way to ensure a broadly effective message. The stories, symbols and characters that communities contribute to projects like this provide their depth.”

Participating artists, selected through a national call for artists, and respective sections of the Columbia River are as follows:

Greg Archuleta, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Section One (Willamette River Confluence to River Mile 110)

Michael Namkung/Lewis & Clark College, Portland,  Section Two (River Mile 110 to McGowans Light)

 Molly Gaston Johnson, Lake Cuomo, N.J., Section Three (McGowans Light to 13 Mile Point)

Jane Pagliarulo, Portland, Section Four (13 Mile Point to Rowena)

Neal Harrington, Russellville, Ark., Section Five (Rowena to Browns Island)

Steven Muñoz, Washington, D.C., Section Six (Browns Island to Miller Island)

Roger Peet, Portland, Section Seven (Miller Island to John Day River)

Mike McGovern, Portland, Section Eight (John Day River to Roosevelt)

Combat Paper/Drew F. Cameron, Section Nine (Roosevelt to Hat Rock)

Nicole Pietrantoni/Whitman College, Walla Walla, Section Ten (Hat Rock to Snake River Confluence)

Ken Spiering, Valleyford, Wash., Frontispiece

To date, sponsors of The Exquisite Gorge Project include Klickitat County, Department of Economic Development, Lodging Tax Award, with additional support provided by Vonda Chandler, Gunkel Orchards, Maryhill Winery, Jo Dean and Juris Sarins, and many of the museum’s partners on this project.  For opportunities to support this great project, contact Colleen Schafroth 509-773-3733 x 23 or email development@maryhillmuseum.org.

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