By Louise Palermo, Curator of Education

Ideas cannot blossom without support, imagination, positive energy, partnerships and talent. In December of 2018, Maryhill Museum of Art called its first meeting of potential partners for a big idea…in fact, an idea that would grow to 66-feet and 220 miles of community partnerships — the Exquisite Gorge Project.

Community in Action: View From a Steamroller - Maryhill Museum - Columbia GorgeThe genesis for the idea was prompted by pondering a way to bring understanding to the art of woodblock printmaking prior to Maryhill’s upcoming exhibition, West Coast Woodcut: Contemporary Relief Prints by Regional Artists (on exhibition at Maryhill until November 15). Driving over The Dalles Bridge on my way to work, the view was, as always, exquisite. As I observed this glorious river, my own stream of consciousness brought the Surrealist Exquisite Corpse parlor game to mind. The connection was instant and the rest is now…history.

Crow’s Shadow, Dylan McManus of Little Bear Hill, LLC, and Nicole Pietrantoni of Whitman College were called to see how this idea could be made into a reality. Our Executive Director was supportive, connections and suggestions were made, and our first meeting was lively.  Thirteen attendees took this germ of an idea, connected it to their amazing expertise and community, and nine months later we celebrated the birth of a unique multi-community collaboration which will hang in the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Education Center until September 25, 2019.

On Print Day, August 24, as I climbed onto the steamroller to begin the first pass over the artistically carved, beautifully jigged, professionally inked, papered, and covered images, tears welled up. From dream to reality wonderful things can happen when communities of people take a leap of faith, believe in each other, and get to work. Not all our dreams become reality, but this one did.

As Curator of Education at Maryhill, I could not be prouder of the staff at my museum, of each Community Partner and their communities, of sponsors, supporters, volunteers, and especially of the woodblock printmakers who participated. Thank you, all of you, for being part of the dream and part of the reality. There is hope that when we work together, wonderful things happen.


Artists, Partners and Sponsors (along with a slide show of images) can be found at https://www.maryhillmuseum.org/exquisite-gorge-project