The Crossroads Art Center in Baker City, Oregon provides a welcoming atmosphere for people who want to actively participate in the arts, whether taking a class or admiring the display of new art.
On June 9, Director Ginger Savage took me on a guided tour inside Crossroads and talked about some of the magnificent pieces of original ceramic art work currently displayed on the second floor of the building.
The art is part of a prestigious traveling exhibition show from the Missoula Art Museum in Missoula, Montana. The show is titled “Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana”. It features ceramic artwork from nineteen different artists who live in Montana. The show is at Crossroads from July 6 to August 31.
In addition to talking about the show, Savage also shared a little about the history of the Crossroads organization and the historic, 1909 Carnegie Library Building in downtown Baker City, where Crossroads is currently located.
According to Savage, Crossroads first opened in 1963. It is the oldest actively running community arts council east of the Cascade Mountains. In 2013, they will celebrate their 50th anniversary.
The Carnegie Library Building was Baker City’s only public library from 1909 to 1971. In 1971, a brand new public library was constructed at the corner of Campbell Street and Resort Street in Baker City.
After the public library's move, the Crossroads art council transferred its organization into the Carnegie Library Building. They successfully occupied the space for the next 8-10 years until the building could no longer be efficiently maintained or heated due to old age. Crossroads then relocated to Main Street in Baker City.
In 2000, the director of Crossroads had a discussion with the city government of Baker City, to see if the Carnegie Library Building could be fully restored so Crossroads could move back into it. The old library had been abandoned since the early 1980’s and was scheduled by the city to be removed (demolished).
In 2002, with the city government’s blessing, the Crossroads arts council began their first public fundraising event to help restore the Carnegie Library Building to its original, 1909 pristine condition. The first fundraiser was a success, and the arts council continued to hold more public fundraising events over the next six years.
In 2008, the Carnegie Library Building was completely restored at a cost of $1.8 million dollars. The money was primarily raised through a combination of state and federal grants, local fundraising efforts, public support and many charitable donations. It was also a state historic preservation, heritage award-winning project.
The building itself was also updated with modern equipment and technology, including a state-of-the-art heating/cooling system, special indoor lighting that will not harm paintings or other artwork, and a sophisticated security alarm system.
In addition to its modern-day features, the Carnegie Library Building has some fully restored features that display its 1909 charm and beauty. For example, every window in the building is original, 103-year-old wavy glass, and all its flooring is composed of original, 103-year-old Douglas fir panels.
Since 2008, Crossroads has successfully held numerous, First Friday, open art shows and hosted numerous other community activities. The entire Carnegie Library Building is also available for the public to rent for private parties, anniversaries, weddings, school reunions, conventions, etc.
The building's first floor has a large pottery room where ceramic artists can work with clay, using hand-thrown or wheel-thrown techniques. Across the hall from the pottery room is a kiln room, which is used to heat completed ceramic objects.
Also at one end of the first floor is a very large, open utilitarian room that is used to hold a variety of art classes, small stage theater productions, meetings, parties, public book signings, dance classes, etc.
The room was also the original children’s library when the Carnegie Library Building was Baker City’s only public library. At that time, the children’s librarian was a woman named Mrs. Fleetwood. Fleetwood and her husband were also founding members of the Crossroads organization.
Mrs. Fleetwood is probably best well-known for entertaining young children by performing puppet shows for them at Carnegie. When she was the children’s librarian, she would perform a new puppet show every Saturday morning at 10 am. Today, puppet shows are frequently performed for young children at the current public library in Baker City.
With a beautiful combination of history and art, the Crossroads Art Center is a truly amazing place where people meet and the arts speak. If you would like to learn more about the Crossroads Art Center, or the Carnegie Library Building, or the “Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana” exhibition, please click one of the website links below.
Each link will take you to my YouTube page where you can watch a separate video clip of Crossroads Director Ginger Savage giving a guided tour inside the entire Carnegie Library Building (from top to bottom). I personally recorded each video clip using a digital JVC camcorder.
My video clips will give more in-depth meaning to what you have read so far in this article. You will also see, hear and learn about the “Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana” exhibition, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the ceramic arts.
Crossroads Art Center Guided Tour - Part 1
My 9-minute video recording of Director Ginger Savage's guided tour on the second floor of the Crossroads Art Center. In this video, Savage talks a little about the history of the Crossroads organization, its art council, the 1909 Carnegie Library Building and its restoration, as well as the Missoula Art Museum's "Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana" exhibition. In addition, Savage also provides a tour of the exhibition and talks about some of the individual ceramic art pieces and the artists who created them.
Crossroads Art Center Guided Tour - Part 2
My 9-minute video recording of Ginger Savage continuing her guided tour of the Missoula Art Museum's "Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana" exhibition while talking about some of the individual ceramic art pieces and the artists who created them.
Crossroads Art Center Guided Tour - Part 3
My 6-minute video recording of Ginger Savage giving me a guided tour on the first floor of the Crossroads Art Center. In this video, Savage talks a little about the history of the 1909 Carnegie Library Building and Mrs. Fleetwood. Mrs. Fleetwood is a former children's librarian who used to perform live puppet shows every Saturday morning at Carnegie. Savage also guides me on a tour of the pottery room, the kiln room, and the outdoor courtyard, discussing each.