by Allyn Cantor
As a scenic town on Oregon’s north coast, Cannon Beach has long been considered an artistic community, with galleries and artists’ studios on the scene since the 1960s and ’70s.
The City of Cannon Beach created a program to award regional artists opportunities to have outdoor sculpture displayed throughout town. The Sculpture Without Walls contest invited a panel of curators from Pacific Northwest museums to jury artworks for a year-long display, with a purchase award selected by a “people’s choice” vote. These endeavors yielded noteworthy pieces such as Fisherman’s Dance, a trio of contemporary wood carvings by Seattle artist Steve Jensen, and the bronze Tufted Puffins, by Washington artist Georgia Gerber, who started the first female owned and operated foundry in America.
For years the popular program was an excellent means for the city to develop a public sculpture collection. Eventual shifts in bureaucracy led to public art funds being spent differently, as for the Welcome Pole carved by Native American artist Guy Capoeman, inspired by the original Clatsop-Nehalem tribe and placed at NeCus’ Park, on the Ecola Creek estuary.
Today, close to 15 outdoor artworks can be seen – in parks and courtyards, on sidewalks and public walkways – in a town strip that is only a few miles. A longtime landmark on the north end is a striking homage to the arrival of the explorer Sacajawea, set against a vast edge of the Pacific Ocean.
The main blocks downtown have the most prominent and accessible pieces, including the eye-catching Red Sphere, an intricate powder-coated steel piece by Ivan McLean, in front of the Northwest by Northwest Gallery. Farther o the beaten path, in Tolovana Wayside State Park, is an elegant stone and metal sculpture, Salmon Journey, by Lillian Pitt and Aaron Loveitt, that recalls the Native heritage of the coastal region.
In this artistic town a casual stroll might also reveal numerous unassuming art pieces on residents’ front lawns. And on the town’s bus shelters, designs from the original elementary school murals have been sandblasted onto glass panels by Ecola Lewis, who attended the school as a child.