A Dream Realized

(Artist and gallery owner, Pamela Claflin’s oil paintings on display in The Rimrock Gallery in Prineville. (R) Pamela with her paintings | Photos courtesy of Pamela Claflin)

The Life of Pamela Claflin & the Rimrock Art Gallery

Pamela Claflin, the owner of Rimrock Gallery in Prineville, originally opened the space because she wanted to create something beautiful and meaningful in her hometown. “I decided to create the Rimrock Gallery, for myself and for Prineville,” Pamela said.

While the 75-year-old-painter was born in the nearby logging town of Kinzua, her family moved to a property near the Ochoco Dam in Prineville before she was a year old. Early life presented challenges to a young Pamela, whose mom and three brothers were all dealing with an abusive father.

Finding solace in nature, Pamela recalls days in her early childhood where she would tie a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a handkerchief to her belt and run off to the nearby rimrocks with her brothers. “Three honks of the car horn meant get home for dinner,” she recalls.

Pamela says those days embedded in her a love and appreciation for nature. In elementary school, she found a new interest in art; Pamela won a poster drawing contest in the 2nd grade. By the 5th grade, her family had moved to Central Point, where Pamela would graduate high school. In these years, she attended as many art classes as possible, and even skipped a few study halls to spend more time making art. As a senior, she made a promise to herself by saying out loud in one of her art classes. “I am going to be an artist.”

She took this declaration seriously. Pamela received a scholarship to attend Southern Oregon University in Ashland, but dropped out after three months because her advisers would not let her exclusively take art classes. “I continued my then day job at the data processing firm and ended up marrying the computer operator. We moved to the Portland/Vancouver area where he climbed the ranks in the corporate computer world and I became a stay at home mom.”

Nearly a decade later, Pamela is 29. After spending years focusing on her role as a mother, a neighbor invited her to take a tole painting class. Almost immediately, Pamela felt that surge of inspiration that can only remain dormant for so long. She still wanted to be an artist, and decided to continue pursuing her dream. After studying tole painting for a year, Pamela started teaching three classes a week at her home.

While attending a landscape painting workshop to try out a new medium, Pamela met master oil painter Del Gish. “He taught me everything I know and use today,” she said. Pamela immediately switched her focus to landscape painting and began teaching classes on the subject. She added many workshops based on renowned artists, but found that most of the tips she shared with her students came from the master that taught her, Del.

A bit later on in life, Pamela was thrown a curveball; she would be accepted to show her work in an art gallery in Portland, but this opportunity would present itself as she would become a single mother, becoming busier than ever.

Despite the workload, Pamela would help push the art scene in Portland and Vancouver forward. “I worked for the City of Vancouver as their graphics person and formed their first computerized graphics office over a five year period,” she said. “At the same time I continued to grow as an artist and I started a gallery in the Marshall House in Officer’s Row in Vancouver, Washington, to see if I wanted to have a gallery of my own.”

Never quite falling in love with the rain and gray skies, Pamela found herself moving around; from Vancouver, she went to Eastern Oregon. From there, she would land in Bend in 1985, when the city had a population of about 17,500. In Bend, opportunity would present itself, again. “I landed a job with Cascade East Magazine, doing graphics and selling ads.” Pamela said. “One of my customers was expecting her first child and I asked her who was going to run their gallery when she had her baby. She got a little flustered and said, ‘I was hoping you would’. I gave notice and went to work for Blue Sky Gallery, which was my real start to the professional gallery world.”

Pamela spent the next few years continuing to hone her painting while she was learning the business side of the art world. She eventually purchased a little gallery in Sisters. “I renamed it Mockingbird Gallery and four years later moved it to Bend to the current location,” she said. By now, my sons were in college. I loved the gallery business, loved working with the artists and really enjoyed the wonderful people that became collectors, and some of them, lifelong friends.”

At this point, life took another tough turn. Pamela’s mom had been diagnosed with dementia, and needed to be cared for. “I wanted to care for my mom like she cared for us,” she said. “I moved her up to Bend and quickly realized I needed to sell the gallery. I was too fatigued to do all that I had put on myself.”

In a chance meeting that can only be described as perfect timing, Pamela met Jim Peterson while he was still planning on moving his family to Bend. The two spoke, Jim purchased the gallery and has since then expanded Mockingbird to a second location.

“After three years, my Mom’s angelic wings took her to heaven,” Pamela said. “I spent two years traveling to every national park on the West Coast, entering plein air art shows and painting for the Bronze Coast Art Gallery in Cannon Beach. Soon, the isolation of working in the studio got to me, and I decided to move back to Prineville.”

Back in her hometown, Pamela would reconnect with loved ones, old friends and even her love for those iconic rimrock formations that surround the town. When a building on 3rd street became available, Pamela jumped at the chance to open a small, more personal gallery. Now she can present her work and the work of other local artists to locals and tourists alike at the Rimrock Gallery, sharing a little bit of her life and passion with each guest that walks through the door.

“I am 75 and feeling like I will have the gallery for as long as I am healthy,” she said. “I still love painting and I enjoy my small family of two sons and two granddaughters.” Pamela hopes to one day share her knowledge with her granddaughters, one who is a young artist and one who is a photographer starting up her career.

More than anything else, Pamela is happy. Through a life of ups and downs, she never gave up on that promise she made to her 18-year-old-self. Looking back on a dream realized, Pamela can teach us all a lesson in perseverance and staying true to what drives you the most.


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