Salem Museums Receive Money for Art, New Look at Asahel Bush

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The Hallie Ford Museum of Art received a grant of $ 7,586 and the Bush House Museum received a grant of $ 6,000. Both organizations plan to use the money on projects that highlight marginalized communities.

Jonathan Bucci, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, releases a print by artist Rick Bartow. The museum recently received a grant to preserve and digitize Bartow’s collection of prints. (Amanda Loman / Reporter Salem)

Each year, the Oregon Heritage Commission awards grants to museums.

This year, two of the 11 funded museums are in Salem: the Hallie Ford Museum of Art and the Bush House Museum.

The art museum, located at 700 State Street in downtown Salem, received $ 7,856. Museum officials plan to use the money to upholster and store more than 577 prints and other works on paper created by Oregon artist Rick Bartow.

Bartow was a member of the Mad River Wiyot tribe and he lived in Newport. During his 35-year career, he used paint, prints, drawings, and sculpture to explore personal identity, Native American culture, ancestry, and identity.

“He is certainly one of Oregon’s most important artists,” said Jonathan Bucci, curator of the museum’s collections and exhibits. “His work contains elements of humor, but it also contains elements of personal struggle and angst, so it represents the duality of human existence. It’s very expressive.”

Bartow’s work appears in many museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Portland Art Museum. He is perhaps best known for We were still there, a pair of cedar sculptures commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

In 2016 and 2017, the artist and his estate donated materials to the art museum, and protecting them is essential for academics and art lovers, Bucci said.

“I often think of the general public, when they think of museums, they think of the things they see publicly, the things they see in galleries,” said Bucci. “But we also preserve art.”

The project will progress in stages, Bucci said. First of all, a framer will assemble each piece of the collection and cut out mats to protect them. Then a photographer will take digital photos of each item. Then the trainees will upload these images to the museum’s website. And finally, the archives will be kept in museum-quality boxes.

“Making sure things are well taken care of is a way to preserve them so that they can be shared, studied and exhibited in the future. This grant allows us to do that, and it’s really wonderful that the Commission du heritage provides those kinds of management grants, ”said Bucci. “It’s not necessarily something that has a tangible, immediate experience that the audience can see. But it’s something that the audience benefits over time.”

Bucci said the collection is packed with items that will spark the interest of art historians and students. For example, in addition to known prints of Bartow’s work, the archives include proofs.

“You will see the same plate printed in different colors and on different papers. So you can see his thought process as he decides how best to view that print,” he said. “For art students or anyone interested in artistic processes, this is a really interesting archive.”

When the project is completed, the entire collection will be available on the museum’s website. Bucci said he expects the catalog to be online in January or February.

The Bush House Museum, located at 600 Mission Street, received $ 6,000.

Ross Sutherland, director of the museum, said it was the first time the organization had received a grant from the Commission. He attributes the success to a new direction.

The Bush House was built in 1878 and each of the 12 bedrooms has been carefully preserved. The museum complex also includes a conservatory built in 1882, a root house and the family’s original barn. The museum opened to the public in 1953, and the house and adjoining property are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Bush House housed Asahel Bush and her family. Bush was the founding editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper, and he co-founded Salem’s Ladd and Bush Bank.

He also had a troubled relationship with race, and he was a vocal critic of abolitionism. The Salem Leadership Foundation reports that Bush often used his journal to express his cultural views.

In an editorial published in June 1851, he wrote: “Their assertions that black people have the right to approach our polling stations, to sit in our courts, to occupy places in our legislature are not more rational than asking them to let all the bubbles vote at their ballot boxes, all the able goats have a chance at their ermine, all the donkeys (quadruple) the privilege of showing up at their general meetings and all the pigs for their seats in the Congress.

“Last year, when they looked at our grant, they asked if we were telling a full story about Asahel Bush, and at that point they wanted us to address some of the problematic statements he made,” did he declare. “Over the past year, we have worked to understand issues related to museums, white privilege and racism in education, and other similar issues.”

Sutherland said his team had also heard comments from the community about the focus on Bush House. The visits focused heavily on the work Bush carried out in the early days of Salem.

While the museum contains many interesting family artifacts, some people wanted to know more about the others who lived in the house and the workers who supported the family.

In their grant proposal, the Bush House team offered to tell the stories of marginalized members of the Salem community.

“The idea was: what if the museums in Salem had developed around sites related to traditionally under-represented Oregonians? From that idea, we figured we could take those stories and then flesh them out and find out where they actually happened in town, ”Sutherland mentioned.

A team of three will extract printed materials, looking for stories about Salem. Sutherland said his team will also conduct interviews with residents of Salem.

Sutherland said his team planned to search for a school for black children that once stood where Macy’s is now. He also mentioned a long-gone photo studio that once stood on the site of the Night Depository bar. It was used by the students of Chemawa.

But Sutherland said his team will also create an online submission form, so residents of Salem can share their stories, artifacts and memories.

“We’re going to talk about people rather than talking for them. And that’s really an important point. We impart and organize information rather than speaking for others,” Sutherland said.

The money is timely. The Bush House Museum has been closed to visitors since March and no opening date has been set. The house has tight corners and narrow hallways, which makes social distancing difficult.

“Plus, in terms of remediation, you can’t just wipe down historic woodwork with a standard cleaner,” Sutherland said. “We are happy to explore other ways to interact with audiences virtually.”

The archive will appear on the organization’s website. Once the research is complete, the stories will be published. The Bush family will remain prominently in the records, Sutherland said. The team will look for ways to highlight how the shared stories intersect with members of the Bush family and residents of the house.

Jonathan Bucci, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art is leafing through a book of prints by artist Rick Bartow. The museum recently received a grant to preserve and digitize Bartow’s collection of prints. (Amanda Loman / Reporter Salem)

Prints by artist Rick Bartow will be processed in a digital archive. (Amanda Loman / Reporter Salem)

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