(Mockingbird Gallery | Photo by Alex Jordan)
Serendipity, along with a quest for a new beginning, seem to be the catalysts for the two proprietors’ success of Mockingbird Gallery in downtown Bend.
Both founding owner Pamela Claflin and current owners Jim and Nathalie Peterson had reached a pivotal moment in their lives when they decided they needed to take a risk to pursue their goals. For both Claflin and the Petersons, that meant leaving one life behind to begin another, where they could dedicate their careers to providing a pathway for fine artists and art collectors to meet while also having a balance in their personal lives.
As the Mockingbird Gallery celebrates its 30th anniversary on July 11, Claflin and Jim Peterson shared their individual journeys and their dedication to have a place where everyone is welcome to enjoy the beauty of fine art.
Mockingbird Gallery’s 30th Anniversary Celebration is 5-7pm Saturday, July 11.
There will be 50 artists participating in a purchase-by-draw group exhibition and sale.
(Double check website due to COVID-19 requirements at the time.)
Location: 869 NW Wall St., downtown Bend
The Blank Canvas
More than 30 years ago, Claflin found herself becoming increasingly unhappy working as a graphics coordinator for an economic development agency in Washington. After five years at the job, she wanted to do something that would allow her to use her studies of fine art from Russian trained master Delbert Gish. “I pulled a piece of paper in front of me and wrote my goals with goal number one being that I wanted to have an art gallery,” she said.
The next work day, Claflin gave her notice and proceeded to relocate to Bend, where she worked and saved for five years to purchase The Art Merchant Gallery.
Desiring a meaningful name and consulting with her mother, she decided on Mockingbird Gallery. “It’s named after the song, Mockingbird Hill, that my mother and I sang while doing our chores,” she said.
She spent four years growing the gallery in Sisters before relocating it to Bend. After managing Mockingbird Gallery for almost 18 years, she wanted to paint full time. “I didn’t offer the gallery for sale, but I did start watching for just the right person to appear,” she said.
She was attending an art show in Montana when her son, Craig, called her to say he thought the person she was looking for was at the gallery.
She knew the moment she met Jim and Nathalie they were the perfect match. “I am proud that the gallery has grown to such a great level of artists and pleased that I had a part in it,” she said.
Claflin now owns Rimrock Gallery in Prineville. “Our galleries offer different venues and artists, and I believe it’s healthy to have more galleries in the area for visitors and residents to explore,” she said “Mockingbird Gallery will always be the finest gallery Bend has to offer, and I wish Jim and Nathalie years of continued success.”
A Balanced Life
Jim was in his early 20s when he accepted the job at the art gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his mom worked. He planned to work there for a few years as a registrar and then move on.
Twenty years later, his move was to Bend with his wife, Nathalie and their two children to purchase or start his own art gallery. “Everything I learned at the gallery in Arizona shaped my passion for art and the gallery business,” he said. “I had a phenomenal hands-on education that was absolutely perfect for me.”
Jim said luck and destiny played a role in him meeting Claflin at the perfect time, when she was ready to retire to paint full-time, and he was ready to purchase a gallery in 2007. “I am so fortunate it happened the way it did because we came into the community where we knew no one,” he said. “Pamela is a real pioneer in fine art and what she did helped us with continuing to grow the business.”
Jim genuinely loves everything about the art world, from the more than 50 amazing artists from throughout the United States he feels fortunate to represent to the art collectors. “I love the beauty of art, and I am passionate about the art and the people who create the art. Being an artist is an unorthodox career choice and artists cannot survive unless they find allies.”
Jim said it’s a symbiotic relationship between the gallery owner, artist and art collector, “We love the role we play to bring the collector and the artist on a path towards each other so they can learn from each other
James and Elizabeth Potter stopped by the art gallery in early June to see the newest exhibit. They shared they were a bit intimidated the first time they visited Mockingbird Gallery until they began chatting with Jim. “My background is in engineering, so I really didn’t know anything about art until I met Jim,” said James.
“This is my favorite gallery,” Elizabeth added. “It’s uplifting for me to come here and see Jim. He’s so personable and has helped both of us learn more about collecting art.”
Jim feels fortunate to be able to share fine art with the Bend and Central Oregon community. “We see people every month who have never purchased art. We enjoy seeing them because we know they are here to enjoy the beauty of the work. We want to continue to be a place to inspire people”
Four years ago, the Petersons opened Peterson Contemporary Art, or PCA, in downtown Bend. “Owning a gallery is a challenge because it’s unconventional business,” Jim said. “We have seen galleries come and go especially when the economy is unstable. The challenge is making sure to look at it as a business and run it as a business.”
Jim only represents artists who he is passionate about their work and who bring something unique to the gallery. “We are here working for the artists, and I give them my word we will do the best we can for them.
“Celebrating 30 years is an amazing milestone for Mockingbird Gallery,” he continued. “We humbly acknowledge the wonderful things done by Pamela to create Mockingbird Gallery, and we look forward to continuing making it stronger for everyone to enjoy.”