The Wallowa Valley Arts Council has been promoting the arts since it formed in 1983 in time to put on the county's first arts festival. It has remained an important force in Wallowa County, not only continuing to sponsor arts activites such the Wallowa Valley Festival of Arts and the Youth Arts Festival, but serving as a nonprofit umbrella for such events as the Wallowa County Old Time Fiddlers Contest and partners with others such as the Wallowa Lake Chamber Music Festival.
The organization's board members feel that with budget cuts hurting the arts in local schools, its role in the community is more important than ever.
"With schools cutting art, we need to do all we can to enhace the arts," said WVAC president Carolyn Gilbert. She said that the council already is involved in the artist in residence program in the schools through the regional arts council, and hopes to become even more supportive in the future.
Right now the council is continuing the annual membership drive it started this summer, and is offering an added incentive to sign up as a member - the chance to win a pastel oil painting by Enterprise artist Bob Fergison.
Fergison is a former president of WVAC and also, like Gilbert, a former president of the Eastern Oregon Arts Council. He prepared the membership letter this year along with a picture hook, to "hook" people to become members.
He notes that he really got started on his present career as an artist by making posters for the WVAC. Fergison has become a respected artist in the region's art community, and now sells about 50 paintings a year.
The painting he is donating to the arts council is a 22"x30" oil pastel, depicting part of Mt. Joseph with an agricultural foreground. All WVAC members names wll be put in a hat in the first part of December, and the winner will receive the painting as the prize.
Year memberships in WVAC are $25 individual, $35 family, $100 bronze sponsor, $250 silver sponsor and $500 gold sponsor.
To become a member, send your membership fee to WVAC, P.O. Box 526, Joseph OR 97846.
For more information about the organization, contact Gilbert at 432-7535, or any other board member. They are treasurer Diana Stein, Don Green, Jeanne Holly and Malcolm Phinney. The council meets on the 5:15 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at Outlaw restaurant in Joseph, and all members are encouraged to attend amd voice their opinions.