Continuing the Legacy of Giving Back
Bank of America donates a Betty Feves sculpture to Museum of Contemporary Craft
“My strength as an artist is in my imagination,” Betty Feves once wrote, “the ability to create, to bring ideas into form that will have an impact upon people, to make them aware of beauty and love in the simple things all around us: the clay, the rocks, the forests, the streams, the fields.”
Generations: Betty Feves, last year’s critically celebrated retrospective exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Craft, situated almost four decades of ceramic work from Feves’ long and rich career alongside evidence of Feves’ focused dedication to family, to craft, and to community. For Feves, the focus was always on making good work, on being rooted in the place and among the people with whom she lived, and on contributing substantially in the way she gave her gifts back. Critics called the exhibition one of the best of 2012.
That legacy of giving back continues.
Bank of America recently donated a historically significant Betty Feves Sculpture to Museum of Contemporary Craft. The untitled sculpture is a tall, stacked column of rough clay dug from Oregon soil with glazes the artist made from materials in the Pendleton area. It is related in form and material to Garden Wall (1979), which was installed at the entrance Generations: Betty Feves.
As an influential Northwest artist from the 1950s through 70s, Feves brought rigor and a modernist approach to northwest ceramics. She excelled in a traditionally male-dominated craft and was a keen student of landscape, material and process.
“Preserving and illuminating the legacies of the region’s finest craft artists is a vital part of what we do here at the Museum,” says Museum Director and Chief Curator Namita Gupta Wiggers. “This gift from Bank of America of a piece we would not have otherwise been able to acquire ensures that this important work by Betty Feves will be held permanently in the public trust, available for viewing and scholarship.”
“At Bank of America, we’re committed to strengthening our local communities and one way we do this is by supporting nonprofits that are making Oregon better, like the Museum of Contemporary Craft. We help not only with grant dollars and volunteer hours, but also in unexpected ways like this sculpture donation, which will enable more Oregonians to enjoy the art created by a locally-beloved artist,” said Roger Hinshaw, President of Bank of America in Oregon and southwest Washington.
He continued, “This donation is something our local employees are excited to be a part of, since they know the value of the arts in bringing communities together and building healthier neighborhoods.”
Feves also knew the value of the arts in bringing communities together. As Wiggers conducted her research in preparation for the exhibition, she discovered the incredible impact that Betty Feves had on the city of Pendleton, Oregon.
“There were grown men and women sitting across from me in tears as they expressed the impact that Betty Feves still has on who they are as adults now,” Wiggers explained, “It was moving. It was powerful. It was palpable. Each of the folks I talked to had an entirely different story about that impact and it was clear that here was a woman – a leader in her community and in her craft – who made room to quietly guide all these people so that each of them felt like they got something that was unique for them. That’s amazing. That’s just astonishing.”
Feves taught art in her community, shared her musical talent through private violin lessons for area schoolchildren, and brought the Suzuki method for violin to the Pendleton schools. She mentored numerous younger artists and advocated for the arts in education by serving on the Pendleton school board as well as the State Board for Higher Education. In 1977, Feves was one of the first recipients of the Governor’s Arts Award for the State of Oregon for which she was recognized for both art and music.
The untitled sculpture from Bank of America lived for decades at the bank’s Pendleton Branch office. When the branch closed in November 2012, Bank of America contacted the Museum to ask whether it was interested in the piece. Bank of America has a long history of supporting the arts. The bank offers millions of dollars in grants each year, helping arts institutions enrich programming, expand audiences, and invest in communities.
This untitled Feves sculpture joins the collection of Museum of Contemporary Craft in advance of Garden Wall. The Museum received a significant $40,000 grant in July of 2012 from The Ford Family Foundation’s Art Acquisition Fund through the Oregon Arts Commission to acquire Garden Wall and is working toward raising the remaining $20,000 of the purchase price.
“Our goal Museum of Contemporary Craft,” said Wiggers, “is to find a way to use the Museum, particularly as a regional museum, to tell stories about who have had an impact over time. These exhibitions focus on people who really changed the cultural landscape right here in Oregon.”