Willow Creek’s Studio 299 Moving Ahead

Members of Studio 299 from left to right are Diana Lynn, Lisa Ambrosini, Tamara Jenkinsen, Sandra Sterrenberg, Mediha Saliba, and Gill Saliba. / Photo by Kay Heitkamp.

Rebirth, Renewal, Revival

By Kay Heitkamp, Two Rivers Tribune Contributing Writer

From time to time the question comes up, “What’s happening with Studio 299? Where exactly is Studio 299?”

The answer is new and exciting plans are in the works for moving forward in a big way in 2012, keeping with 299’s original mission of promoting and developing the arts in the Klamath and Trinity communities.

Recently, Studio 299 Center for the Arts announced they have a permanent home at 75 The Terrace in downtown Willow Creek. Plans include renovating the trailer already on the property to create a learning art center and building a space to display the work of local artists. Art shows will feature ceramics, painting, photography, quilts and other types of artwork. Poetry workshops are on the agenda too. Ideas from the community for types of displays they might enjoy are welcome.

Along with shows, exhibits, and workshops, Studio 299 is collaborating with Creekside Arts and Education to hold onsite classes for the students of all ages. Artists of all persuasions are invited to apply to conduct classes, workshops and demonstrations.

Studio 299 began informally in 1986 as friends, craftsmen and artists gathered together to identify common interests, goals and needs. Rather quickly, the group became a formal organization and chose its current name. Within a year, Studio 299 – Center for the Arts incorporated as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit public benefit corporation.

Throughout the 1980s, the art center provided a venue for artists from Willow Creek and surrounding areas to show and sell their work. The center also sponsored events such as the Harvest Moon Festival, holiday craft fairs, music and dance nights, and grants that funded the murals in the downtown area. Small fund raising events helped keep the center going.

By the late 1990s dreams of a thriving art center had dimmed. Activities and participation slowed to a trickle. Interest waned. Energy levels dropped. Studio 299 floundered in the doldrums.
The good news is that today, the organization is experiencing a rebirth in the form of renewed interest on the part of artists and the community. There is a vibrant new energy and   great potential for growth. The overall goal is for Studio 299 to serve as a community show place for local artists and crafts people.

The group held its last meeting of the year on Dec. 6. Mediha Saliba, president, began with a request that each member provide a brief introduction and description of their artwork. Saliba is a poet and writer and principal organizer for Studio 299 events. She also works with Tamara Jenkinsen to bring George Wallace, a New York beat poet, to Willow Creek once a year to run a poetry workshop.

Jenkinsen is a poet and chairperson of Mountain Voices, a creative program that provides the opportunity for individuals to express their literary and poetic skills in workshops and readings. As director of the Willow Creek Community Resource Center, she helps people access resources that include health care, nutrition, clothing, housing, utilities, internet access and other social services.

Sandra Sterrenberg is vice-president and a founding member of Studio 299. She and Trish Oakes started the organization in Hawkins Bar in 1986. She is a visual artist, painter, and designer of the unique poster created each year for ‘Taste of Willow Creek,’ a major event that is organized and produced by the art center. She is a long time art teacher at Burnt Ranch Elementary School and, along with Dena Magdaleno, organizes Indian Days each year.

Gil Saliba is the treasurer and an accomplished wood worker. He and Mediha moved to Willow Creek in 2002 and by 2004, working with Jenkinsen and Sterrenberg, helped revive Studio 299 by re-incorporating the organization as a 501 (c)(3) public benefit nonprofit. He’s looking forward to improving the premises so it can be a focus for artists.

Lisa Ambrosini is the group’s secretary. She is also a teacher at Creekside, a learning cooperative that opened in 2009. As an artist, she creates jewelry and pottery.

Diana Lynn is a board member who is also affiliated with Creekside as a co-founder and teacher. In her spare time she is a photographer, photojournalist, published writer and painter.

Creekside Arts and Education is an alternative school, a learning cooperative where parents who home school their children and teachers join to participate together in the children’s education. According to Lynn, Creekside has a very strong art program that’s woven into everything they do.

When asked to describe the relationship between Creekside and Studio 299 one member said it’s a collaboration of parents, teachers and artists. Listening to the two teachers and other members of the art center talk about plans for artists to work with the students, the synergy created by the unique relationship can be felt.

Members who were not present at the meeting include Michaela Walston, Creekside site coordinator; Keri Raphael, webmaster; and board member Bill Lewinson.

Mediha opened business discussions with an announcement that architectural plans for building a 24 by 40 foot garage on the property are now finished. Final approval of the plans and obtaining permits will need to be completed before building can begin. The group plans to utilize the space for art shows, displays, classes, meetings or special events such as poetry readings. There will be some onsite parking.

Studio 299 is grateful for the generous anonymous donation that has made all of this possible. Gil Saliba said that expansion will occur in two phases – construction of the garage space and creating a parking area, and then rehabilitation of the existing trailer where classes will be held.

“These are exciting developments,” said Gil. “We have lots of dreams of what we want to accomplish in the coming years.”

Mediha said, “We’re always trying to find ways to showcase the work of our artists. I don’t think that people in Willow Creek know much if anything about our group – we haven’t had a presence. Now, I feel we are creating a presence by what we’re doing…building, renovating, our association with Creekside. We’re starting to feel like a center for the arts…it’s really a new beginning.”

Jenkinsen reported that Mountain Voices has its own page on Facebook, but that there are still some kinks to be worked out in linking with Studio 299’s page. She suggested sending an inquiry to the email addresses of Studio 299 members asking if they want to be friends with Mountain Voices as one way to publish and share poetry.

Gil feels the main goal is for people to be able to read the poetry submissions. He said he’ll work with Raphael on web issues. He agreed with comments that the group’s website needs to be redone, with a goal of having pages just for the kids where they could upload poetry, paintings, other types of writing, and imagery or photos.

Lynn hopes to find ways to increase the interface between Studio 299 and Creekside with programs like Mountain Voices, since some of the students are beginning to write poetry. The group as a whole expressed their belief that participation by the children is to be encouraged. Lynn would like to see the kids publish a chap book and suggested that she and Ambrosini begin to collect the best work of all the students with a future goal of publishing it in some form.
“Artists can work with the kids and be part of the creative process,” said Lynn.

The Studio 299 grant program managed by the Humboldt Area Foundation was discussed briefly.

“Plans for the grant program are still in development,” said Gil. “Once the program is underway, there will be funding available for starving artists, support for art in local schools, reimbursement for visiting artists, help for artists to get ready to show their work, community art projects…innovative endeavors.”

Jenkinsen said that, courtesy of a large grant, the resource center will be receiving some amazing equipment in January, including a four foot wide screen with ability to teleconference via high speed Internet and provide the means for visual displays and power point presentations.

“I want this to be used to benefit the entire community,” said Jenkinsen. “Artists could give demonstrations and host workshops. There are all sorts of teaching possibilities.”

Mediha said she envisions opening the gates to the grounds of Studio 299 and walking into a secret garden. Certainly, themes from Secret Garden, first serialized in 1910, including the destruction of a family unit, regeneration and the power of healing, are an appropriate analogy to an art center well on its way to new beginnings.

Studio 299 is open to artists and all those who support or enjoy the arts. Meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 5pm, at 75 The Terrace. Membership dues are $10 per year. Members can participate in a number of ways—by showing or selling their work, providing ideas, conducting workshops or classes, and volunteering their time during events and at the gallery.

Fundraising to help build the new gallery is essential to the group’s continued renewal in 2012. Plans include rummage sales, dinners, grant writing, and repetition of the successful ‘Taste of Willow Creek’ event sponsored by Studio 299. Ideas for fund raising as well as donations of any amount are encouraged and welcome. Building materials are needed too. All contributions are tax deductible. If you are interested, contact Mediha at (530) 629-3488.

The organization has a website at www.studio299.tripod.com and an email address at Studio299@hughes.net. Web space is available to showcase the work of local artists. Posting artwork on the Internet via the art center is a great way to get established as an artist and promote individual talent. Help to create individual web pages is available.

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