Any visitor to OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences will immediately notice the artwork on the walls. A blue bowl full of red tomatoes; a green and gold tapestry of wheat fields; a foggy monochrome of fishing boats at rest. These artworks, all inspired by Oregon’s working landscapes and natural bounty, are part of a valuable collection assembled over more than three decades as part of a program called Art About Agriculture
Agriculture has been the subject of art for millennia. But rarely has art been a subject of agriculture. Art About Agriculture opens a conversation between those who grow our food, manage our landscapes, and steward our natural resources, and those who receive the benefit from that work.
“The college has a long history of connecting rural and urban Oregon, through the fundamental interest that we share in food, agriculture, and the environment,” said Gwil Evans, who with colleague Ken Kingsley proposed the Art About Agriculture program in 1983 and helped oversee its growth for a quarter century. “The original inspiration for this arts program was to bring together people from across Oregon, both rural and urban, to recognize all that they share through the language of fine art.”
Since then, the college has sponsored an annual art exhibition focusing each year on a different aspect of land, water, and community. Artists invited from throughout the Pacific Northwest interpret that theme through painting, sculpture, textiles, photography, or multimedia. Purchases for the permanent collection are made with private funds, gifts, sponsors, and special grants. No state funds are used to acquire art for this collection.
“Imagining one’s place is an essential part of human nature that we all share,” said Shelley Curtis, the program’s directing curator. “Across the entire 250-piece collection, this sense of place is imagined in different ways by different artists.”
There is no gallery for this expansive collection, which was recently appraised at more than $300,000. Instead, a rotation of individual artwork graces offices throughout OSU and public spaces throughout Oregon.
“Our gallery is the world,” said Evans, “inspired by this bountiful place that we all share.”