Central Oregon’s cultural assets are numerous from the historical presence of the rim rock ridge of the Warm Springs Reservation to the lava bed volcanic remnants of the Sunriver / La Pine area. The rivers, lakes, mountain peaks and high desert landscapes make immense fodder for painters, sculptors and storytellers. Commentary by Pamela Hulse Andrews
However the landscape is only the forum for the stomping ground as it’s the people — from the artists, musicians and architects to the caretakers, politicians and volunteers — who set the stage for our culture.
The western and timber-based past of Central Oregon remains long after the towns of our small communities embraced cyberspace, shopping malls and high tech industries. Cowboy boots and jeans, especially jeans, are still the norm and suits and ties are just for a few. We seem to be casual in nature, yet intent on a solid structure.
I found some longing for our high desert culture when I was visiting Dallas, Texas recently. Sitting on a stool in a bar in Fort Worth I noticed that all the ‘cowboys’ were wearing what I call designer jeans without the design – not the type of jeans typically found on the high desert. We observed patiently but not a 501 in the crowd. When I returned to the Redmond airport, I found it comforting that ours is a ‘501’ culture.
Central Oregon’s diversity is not measured in terms of ethnicity. Although the Native American tribes who have vigilantly preserved their heritage at the Warm Spring Museum and the burgeoning Hispanic community offer diverse traditions, we are mostly a Caucasian-based community, hopefully not by design. Perhaps the fact that we’re still isolated and Central Oregon isn’t the hottest job market in the state has kept us from become ethically more diverse.
But diverse we are becoming. The exemplary work of the Latino Community Association is helping to ‘empower our Latino families to thrive in Central Oregon, creating opportunities for advancement and building bridges that unite and strengthen us all.’
Although once the community squabbled about basic rights, most no longer see this as a stumbling block to our diversity. We can see a political merging and opening of hearts and minds. Discrimination is not welcome in Central Oregon. We embrace the Humane Dignity Coalition and honor its work in protecting people from all walks of life.
We have long embraced our environment and the fruits of those labors can be seen in the numerous protected forests, rivers and open space along with parks and hiking and biking trails. We think nothing of using solar power, recycling and preserving energy.
Central Oregon loves its dogs and rather than admonishing strict rules about their allotted zones, we’ve opened up parks, trails and river access to our beloved friends becoming nationally recognized as DogTown USA.
Central Oregonians, from long time residents to newcomers, are a very generous group. When there’s a need, we find a way. Our nonprofits are plentiful and we volunteer and give support to them at abundant levels.
Central to our culture is a trophy of art highlighted brilliantly with the continuous drumbeat of Art in Pubic Places featured so majestically at our numerous roundabouts. Through the Tower Theatre, Les Schwab Amphitheatre, Redmond Expo Center and the rodeo grounds of adjoining cities we are not wanting for first rate entertainment.
Standing across the river from the Les Schwab Amphitheatre last month I noticed that the back of the stage was blank and thought a mural should certainly embrace such a redeeming icon along the river. Like minds were having the same reflection because when I called Bill and Marney Smith at the Old Mill District they had already contacted a muralist, Erin Sayer ofMinneapolis, who will be here the first of May to begin plans for a mural at the back of the stage. This is what happens in Central Oregon…a thought, a dream, a discussion and another piece of our culture immerges.
Our future is changing. This is an exciting time for our community as Bend steadily becomes a university town. How will this new opportunity impact our current cultural framework?
We like to think we control our destiny, but we’re unclear of the cumulative result of the changes in our economic base from timber to tourism and now to technology and education. While blessed with a very high standard of living in our region, we by no means live in ‘la la’ land. Our challenges are like many growing areas that want to maintain that quality of life and yet expand it to make it a viable and sustainable place to live.
We can do that by communicating, listening, collaborating, accepting differences and embracing change. We can thrive and prosper by preserving and highlighting our cultural capital.