There is something special about kids that are born and raised in Sisters, Oregon. I’ve experienced this first hand many times. The most recent occasion was while I was playing a gig at one of my favorite venues of all time, The Barn off Three Creeks Road in Sisters and was first approached by eighteen-year-old John, one of the owners of the venue. He was warm, hospitable, confident and totally present. He is a fellow singer/songwriter and a senior at Sisters High School – an almost alumni of the Americana Project, the educational arm of the Sisters Folk Fest. The Project was was established to foster a passion for the arts among the youth of Central Oregon. As a student in the program, John learned everything from how to play the guitar, to songwriting skills, to how to appreciate music of all genres. Many other students of the Project were there in the audience that night, and it lives down in my memory as one of the best shows I ever played, specifically because of how attentive and appreciative these high school kids were during the performance. They hung on to every word, and surrounded me after the show, offering accolades and sharing stories from their own songwriting process.
This weekend in Sisters, ww all have a chance to support the wonderful work of the Americana Project. There are performances, a community art stroll, a parade, and the finale fundraiser at the Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks. Read on for more info about this awesome event:
The 2011 My Own Two Hands Celebration is an annual fundraiser for the Americana Project, the educational outreach of the Sisters Folk Festival. The event encompasses a full-weekend of activities on April 15th and 16th including a Community Parade, the Community Art Stroll and Performing Arts Evening , and the Art Auction and Party.
My Own Two Hands celebrates how one individual can change their community for the better using their skills in a positive way. It also helps to support the mission statement of the Sisters Folk Festival to expand community involvement in the arts.
“It is amazing to see so many people from different parts of the community come together in support of music and visual arts through the Americana Project,” said Brad Tisdel, executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival. “It is a testament to the meaningful impact that music, the arts and community create in people’s lives.”
One of the core elements of the My Own Two Hands fundraiser is the Common Canvas Project. Every year a different theme is chosen, and visual artists from the community and beyond are invited to create pieces, which will be featured in the community art stroll and auctioned off as part of the final fundraising event on Saturday night.
This year’s theme is “In the Current.”
“We like to keep the theme open-ended,” said Katy Yoder, development director of the Sisters Folk Festival. “It can mean whatever the artists want it to mean. So far this year we’ve had donations ranging from water themes, to air currents, to an actual current, as in the berry.”
Common Canvas is not just for professional artists, however. On the Community Art Day (March 12th this year) members of the community were invited to Sisters Middle School to create art around the theme to be worn or displayed during the community parade, which will take place this year on April 15 from 4 – 4:30 p.m. and run down Hood Street. The Sisters Chamber of Commerce is still accepting applications for the parade.
Shortly after the parade, the Community Art Stroll begins, where over 40 Sisters businesses keep their doors open late, displaying all the donated works from artists, the Common Canvas pieces, and featuring performances by over 20 local musicians. The festivities then move Bronco Billy’s for the Performing Arts Evening, featuring performances by students of the Americana Project as well as the SHS jazz band and choir.
“The Performing Arts night is a real showcase of how the kids in this community have gotten better and better over the ten years of the Americana Project,” Tisdel said. “Younger kids are inspired which gives them goals and creates opportunities for youth mentoring.”
The finale of the weekend’s activities is the Art Auction on Saturday, April 16th at the Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks from 6 – 9 p.m. This event features both a live and silent auction and there are limited tickets available. If you would like to buy tickets, please call the Sisters Folk Festival office at 541.549.4979. Those who cannot make the event are welcome to donate to the American Project on the Sisters Folk Festival website or by calling the office.
“There is an amazing multi-generational aspect to these events,” said Tisdel. “Everyone from elementary school kids marching in the parade, to wise and talented artists donating pieces for the auction; it is really unique in that the community support extends far beyond people with kids in school.”
All monies collected at the auction support the Americana Project. Although the Americana Project is best known for its innovative songwriting and folk music history classes in Sisters High School, its reach goes far beyond these classes and supports many different aspects of music and art curriculum in the Sisters School District. The program awards scholarships for students in the visual and performing arts, provides national, regional and local guest arts and mentors in the classroom, gives an annual gift to the Sisters High School art, choir and music departments and supports both the Sisters Middle and Elementary School music and arts programming.
“I like to think of the Americana Project as more of a movement than a program,” Tisdel said. “It’s a central point in the development of young people in this community, and there is a certain magic in seeing so much community support for a cause that is all about creativity and self-expression.”