(Photo by Loma Smith)
When arriving on the 260-acre Pine Meadow Ranch property in Sisters, it is difficult to not immediately become awe-struck. The ranch offers clear views of the nearby, towering Cascade Mountain Range, snowcapped peaks and all. At the mountain’s base extends a thick forest of ponderosa pines that gives way to a vast open meadow that the fully working ranch dedicates to regenerative agricultural practices.
Unlike other ranches in the area, the main practice of Pine Meadow Ranch is not just agriculture. Sure, plenty of that takes place in this beautiful area, but the ranch is actually home to an incredible opportunity for artists: an artist residency.
The ranch is run by the Roundhouse Foundation, which is an organization that helps artists across the world find inspiration and connection, both to each other and the land they occupy. According to the foundation’s mission statement, “We support programs that inspire creativity and connect people with each other and their sense of place to ensure sustainability and economic success for Oregon’s rural communities.”
The Roundhouse Foundation was founded in 2002 as a collaboration between the founder, Kathy Deggendorfer and her mother, Gert Boyle, and has always had the vision to support the creative community of Central Oregon and beyond. In 2005, the foundation funded a study that declared Sisters needed support for local artists and galleries to help increase sales by bringing more buyers. By 2016, the goals of the foundation had shifted to meet the needs of the community. The foundation sent 30 artists on varying art residencies across the nation, with the goal of building one right here in Sisters. The following year, the foundation acquired Pine Meadow Ranch for their base of operations.
The focal point of the ranch is a massive, 25-foot mosaic mural made from seven individual panels. The idea for the mural came from Kathy meeting another mosaic artist and the owner of Wild Rose Artworks, Rochelle Rose-Schueler, at a Christmas party. They both shared stories about the projects they were each working on and connected over a love of art. The idea of using recycled and reused tile came up, which inspired the mosaic at the ranch. Rochelle then involved Lynn Adamo for the design of the mural.
The finished mural is a stunning work of art that catches the eye of anyone driving up to the front office, where it is positioned proudly for all to see. The iconography was inspired by the ranch and the land itself; the middle three tiles depict a geometric pattern found in a historic round barn that sits nearby, while the outer four panels depict the burbling waters and smooth stones of the nearby Whychus Creek. Many of the tiles themselves are recycled and reused pieces.
To finish the project, Lynn and Rochelle held an open call and selected the help of Brenda Gratton, Kellie Hoyt and Line Bergene, three other experienced mosaic artists, to finish the mural. These three artists made up the 2022 mosaic artist residency, and were able to not only learn from Kathy and Rochelle, but also share with them some techniques and knowledge of their own.
This is the logic of the artist residency at Pine Meadow Ranch; to create artwork with a sense of place and responsibility for the land it resides on, while also allowing artists the chance to escape everyday life, find inspiration and achieve their goals.
When I personally visited the ranch, Ana Varas, the arts projects coordinator, was kind enough to guide me around to visit different artists, pieces of art and important sites. We drove down a long gravel road with views of the Cascade Peaks on my left and historic building after building on my right. We met with an artist in residency who was cleaning and creating molds out of animal bones that had been found on the property, as well as another artist who focused more on drawing and sketching with tons of black on white paper, which yielded a heavy contrast. I was even lucky enough to meet honorary staff member and barn cat Watson, who decided it was the perfect time to lay in the middle of the gravel road and bask in the sun.
The entire experience, from the wonderfully intelligent staff, dedicated artists and even the lounging Watson taught me that Pine Meadow Ranch is a place where creativity and inspiration flow like the waters of Whychus Creek. Many future creatives who will beautify Sisters and Central Oregon as well as establish themselves as experienced artists and masters of their craft will come from Pine Meadow Ranch, thanks to the long-term vision held by Kathy and her late mother.
In the future, Kathy hopes to expand operations to allow more artists to stay at the ranch at one time. For the four weeks an artist stays at the ranch, Kathy wants to expand on what classes and opportunities are available, and possibly even offer a stipend to each artist, to help make this experience as accessible to everyone as possible, so long as they show dedication and experience in their respective craft.
Regardless of where the future leads Pine Meadow Ranch and the Roundhouse Foundation, it is clear that they will be a positive force for art and on the greater Central Oregon community for years to come.