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Preserving KAA

Art in Keizer has had an uneven past and a much more uncertain future.

The Keizer Art Association (KAA) was founded in 1977 be three dedicated volunteers: Don Walton, Marge Bowder, and Enid Joy Mount (the association’s art gallery at the Keizer Heritage Center is named in her honor).  During the first few decades the association fulfilled its mission to focus on art education for both children and adults, and to promote local arts through monthly exhibits.

These days the art association faces the same thing other non-profit groups do: a dearth of volunteers. That lack of volunteers has forced the association to limit the hours the gallery is open. Currently it is open three days a week, two are weekdays with afternoon hours—not the best time to promote art in a city where many people are not present during the day.

The association offers varied art classes taught by professional artists; everything from woodcarving to calligraphy are offered for adults. Art classes and programs aimed at children fill a need that schools are not filling due to budget cuts. Organizations and businesses in Salem have art classes for all ages but they’re not in Keizer.

A small dedicated group of volunteers struggle to maintain the associaton and the gallery.  Volunteers work hard to prepare exhibits, receptions, classes and shows. In April, for second year in a row, the Enid Joy Mount Gallery will host the annual show of the Colored Pencil Society’s local district. The show in April was a huge success and put the gallery on the map statewide.

Another show the association and the gallery stage is the annual Black, White, and Gray Show each November. There is art and culture in Keizer and it’s free—there’s no admission price to the gallery or its artist receptions. Costs for the art classes are some of the lowest in the entire region.

Years ago a lively cadre of volunteers saw to it that the art gallery was open five to six days a week and at hours when working people could go to it. The association has suffered because of the severely limited hours of operation at the gallery.  With more and longer hours the Enid Joy Mount Gallery can attract local residents who will see some wonderful pieces of art.

The association has been a key player in the Mayor’s Invitational Art Gala the past few years. They oversaw the entries for pieces submitted in hopes to be added to the city’s permanent art collection. They also helped with the gala itself, which raised money for public art that is seen along River Road. The association did not receive money from the city for its part in the gala last year which was a blow both financially and pyschologically.

The art association promotes art but it needs to reach out into the community more than it does. It may have once been an insular group of artists but its mission is bigger now. Art and public art has been a major interest of Mayor Lore Christopher. She is chairing a new task force to chart a path forward. We are encouraged by her involvement, it will be a good thing for the art association.

Art adds to the quality of life of a community, be it public art along the roadways or a gallery showing the works of local artisans. Those who want to maintain Keizer’s appeal should all be supporters of the art association and the gallery.