Back a couple weeks ago we talked about ways of giving back to your community, and one of my friends on Facebook, Pascale Steig, talked about opening up her historic home to visitors and art groups. I asked her to tell a little about what that means to her and to the community, and here’s what she has to say.
Although I have lived in the United States for many years, my European upbringing has taught me to appreciate the past. It saddens me how old buildings are unappreciated on the West Coast, our still very new part of the country, where the oldest residence in Oregon dates back to only 1861. When we don’t respect the past, we don’t teach the next generation to see the present as a foundation for the future. Not everything is disposable, least of all History.
Pascal’s studio (all photos by Pascal)
I have the privilege to own one of the early homes in our area. It was not much in 1904 Oak Grove, a small community several miles from Portland. Originally a small cabin-like farmhouse expanded in the 1959s, is sat on a fruit tree nursery overlooking a trolley line connecting the country to the city… Alas, times have changed. The city is now practically next-door; nurseries on the highway have been replaced by car dealerships and box stores. Yet, sitting on a chair on the front porch, one feels removed from everyday troubles and worries. Wind blowing in the trees, birds chirping… Silence.
I feel that one of the reasons people are drawn to vintage or “shabby” furniture and objects, or raising chicken and vegetables comes from a deep-seated yearning for simpler times, when home was the center of one’s universe and self-reliant skills, by ensuring survival, gave one’s life meaning.
Our house was recently designated as a Clackamas County Historic Landmark. This designation does not put any “open house” burden on us. Nevertheless, we have given countless tours of the house to enthusiastic visitors who are stricken by the simple farmhouse cozily nestled against a hill. We get to tell known anecdotes about the early owners, how the original house was set, what was in the area. We make visitors pay attention to the murmurs of the past… The footsteps that left their marks on the wood floors… The hands that planted the now towering oak trees and the rhododendron by the side of the house…
Of course, I would be lying if I did not admit to liking the interest people express in the house, but also know that opening our house to visitors offers a more interesting view of life a long time ago than visiting a house-turned-museum, where everything is remote and frozen in time. Here, we offer a view of how an old structure has been inhabited and used in everyday life by a succession of people over time; I believe this offers a better understanding of how people lived many years ago. We connect to what we know and experience.
Various events have taken place on the property, such as vintage sales, a local garden tour, annual open-house-format parties attended by friends, acquaintances, neighbors, etc. A garden party for church ladies is scheduled for next week; then a group of Portland women writers and editors; in September, the local history group will have a tour of the house… I also have been teaching art classes in the spacious studio behind the house, – originally a garage workshop – an inspiring place for those who want to motivate their inner artist to manifest herself…
We have enjoyed living here for the past three years. Among many other things, we contributed stunning mosaic glass windows by a local artist, to add to the charm of our little farmhouse.
(mosaic windows created by Jennifer Hanson)
Our many hair-pulling home repair and traumatizing yard maintenance experiences have taught us to be resilient, resourceful, to adapt to the unpredictable. We and have grown as individuals as a result.
Thank you, Pascale! If anyone else has a story about ways you’ve given back to your artistic community, I’d love to hear about it—email me at ricefz at gmail.
Take a look at the studio spaces of other artists in the book Inside the Creative Studio by Cate Coulacos Prato.
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