An Urban Photo Gallery and a Bucolic Artists Retreat Join Forces

Blue Sky Gallery and the Sitka Center team up to give photographers two weeks of work and reflection on the Oregon Coast.

By Jason Buehrer February 28, 2017

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Photographer David Kressler's Blue Hill, Catharpin, Virginia, 2012

Blue Sky Gallery is a photography-centric mainstay of Portland’s art scene at the edge of the hyper-urban Pearl District. The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology is a woodsy coastal retreat in tiny Otis, Oregon. Thanks to a new partnership, the two nonprofits will combine to form the creative landscape of a select crew of photographers.

Sitka—which normally hosts up to five artists, writers, and scientists for three-and-a-half month stays—recently announced a new two-week residency for participants in Blue Sky’s Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers program. The gallery launched that initiative in 2007 to feature original prints by Pacific Northwest photographers, and encouraged past and present participants to apply for the new residency. This spring, David Kressler will be the first photographer to head to Lincoln County.

According to Sitka Center’s executive director Ben Shockey, the two-week slot gives a shot at a residency to artists with families or regular full-time work. For Sitka, it’s all about connections.

“One of the challenges we have out here on the coast is that we have a community of supporters all over Oregon, but a lot of people can’t get to Sitka for an event,” says Shockey. “We saw that as an opportunity to activate the Sitka community and build it in a new place.”

Of course, the real beneficiaries are artists like Kressler. Kressler, an artist with past experience as a commercial photographer, has built several collections of landscapes starting from his time as an undergrad in Baltimore. While his past projects explored places where humanity meets nature, his current project starts closer to home. According to Kressler, his maternal side of the family has been in Oregon since the early 1800s, working in the timber industry, and he's interested in exploring not only that connection but also what it means to his identity.

It feels sort of like a salmon swimming back up stream to some place that you don’t even remember," he says. "You have this weird genetic pull."

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