The Siskiyou Arts Museum
By Gary VanDeWalker
Curate CommunityApril 2016
Story by Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
Within the city of Dunsmuir, there is a place where fish swim in schools along the walls. Sailing ships move up and down, changing form. Buildings rise at odd angles, glowing with every color of the rainbow. Dreams of the young and old burst into life. The creative hours given by moving fingers loop beads and stones into the art of jewelry. People pause on the wooden bench along the sidewalk before entering and immersing themselves in the world of the Siskiyou Arts Museum, or as the chalkboard in front says, SAM.
SAM’s world surrounds those who come into the influence of her allure. In July 2013, Ernie Wasson, a new resident, walked into the doors of 5824 Dunsmuir Ave. to explore. He left a dedicated volunteer, later joined the board, and now serves as board president. “It’s all happened so quick,” Wasson says. “I was sucked right in.”
The double store front is provided by Peter Arth, who is a major supporter of SAM’s mission. Wasson points to a common interest held by Arth, himself and all the volunteers: “The Siskiyou Arts Museum strives to enrich the lives of residents and visitors to Siskiyou County through acquisition, preservation and interpretation of the visual, literary and performing arts in order to present exhibitions and programs that will educate, strengthen, serve and sustain our community.”
SAM is a gallery and gift shop. Large windows look inside, as those within gaze at the pedestrians whose eyes turn inward as they pass. The carpeted south room holds the treasures of local artists from all over Northern California, available for patrons to purchase and carry home. The northern half hosts two wooden-floored galleries which present exhibits lasting two months, which rotate in alternate months, giving SAM a new look every month.
Lasting into mid-April is the Every Child is an Artist exhibit. From the minds of Dunsmuir Elementary, Dunsmuir High and Castle Rock Elementary schools, the front gallery reveals the inner thoughts and visions of local youth. The back gallery currently holds the exhibit, “Dunsmuir Collects.” Each selection is a collection either from a Dunsmuir resident or about Dunsmuir. The local tire shop loaned its collection of bolts, nails and other objects pulled from the tires brought in. The covers of Sunset magazine from a single year in the 1930s comes from another Dunsmuir home. Elephants sit along a collection of thangka, Tibetan paintings on material.
In the gift store, the cards of Etna artist Catherine G. McElroy bring alive the dreams of color and animals, where a world of car-driving, music-playing and life-loving creatures become the covers of messages written in everyday life. The tote bags of Cheerio Textile by Susie Robison of McCloud wait to be filled with the treasures of new homes. Necklaces, knitted caps and canvas landscapes each carry the aura of the corners of Northern California from where each was produced. Local artists are supported, but also provide what is needed to sustain SAM.
“There is a myriad of activity here,” Wasson says. “We host a cultural community with music, poetry nights, plays and offering art classes. Visitors stream in and out the doors, coming from the Bay Area and Redding, often enjoying a day in the gallery, shopping and having a meal at one of our local restaurants before returning home.”
Inside the front door, foam snowmen align in battle, throwing snowballs. Their enthusiasm moves through the air, over the walls, making SAM come alive. Wasson says, “You never know what you might find here.”
Siskiyou Arts Museum
Hours: 11 am to 4 pm Thursday through
Sunday (closed in January)