November 17th, 2016

McMinnville Tiny Travels

Tiny Travels Gallery at Ten Oaks McMinnville OregonThe best place to go in McMinnville after the election

This is my gift to you: a story about a place where you can spend time with an artist’s view of our world. In what feels like a season of division and torment, I am thankful for that place that exists in my hometown: The Gallery at 10 Oaks.

Set in an early 19th century farmhouse just across from the iconic oak grove of Linfield College, the gallery has reached a new necessity in my life. It is perhaps the best place in the valley to get a little wisdom, feel a sense of connection that is anything but digital, and spend time away from Facebook considering a stranger’s view of the world.

It’s ironic – you must disconnect in order to connect.

Local people may know the gallery from its previous incarnation as MovieTime video, a mom and video rental shop, which launched in 1983 and was taken over by Dan and Nancy Morrow in 2001. MovieTime was a cineaste’s tiny dream palace, where you could count on copies of Hocus Pocus and, if you’re from McMinnville, the Helen Hunt Vehicle The Quarterback Princess. It had rooms devoted to genres – western, thriller/suspense, romance, family, sci-fi – and the floorboards creaked as you walked through, the only care a visitor needed was to match a story to a desired feeling.

But once a curator, always a curator. If every person has their special Shakespearean talent, the thing that drives their action and choices, for the Morrows, that seems to be a penchant for selecting and presenting art. The couple is the heart behind the McMinnville Short Film Festival, and now, they are gallerists, ones that seek to tell a new story about the art being produced in the Willamette Valley.

What interests me most in art, as in politics, is what people pay attention to. For the 19 artists currently being exhibited there, what they create is both their experience of the world and what the world has left out, their own way of seeing, matched with the talent they have developed to render that vision.  

One larger space is devoted to the featured artist of the month – November belongs to Lori Maynard and her exaltingly serene photographs – with the rest of the spaces given over to a rotating group of artists working across media.

Also, may I add, for good measure, the art doesn’t talk back. It relies on an expression that creates interpretation in the viewer. I don’t know about you, but walking through emotionally resonant rooms is just what the doctor ordered.  It’s a real joy to connect with a single artist in one room and then encounter their work by style alone in the next.

Sure, you can look at art and say: Yay or Nay. You could see it as nothing more than a shopping adventure – does this thing solve some kind of problem in my life, even if that problem is boredom or blank wall spaces? You can judge its importance, or its relevance, the colors used or the techniques applied.  It takes no courage to make a judgment.

But in this place, you can’t deny the art’s existence, the facts that time lapsed in the making of it, that it was made by a person who is not you, someone with a back story, a series of unfortunate or blessed events guiding their life. All art is born out of the intense vulnerability that comes with showing your true vision to the world and not hiding behind words or avatars.

I could have started this post any other way. I could have said: “Take your wine for an art walk!” (Coleman Vineyards hosts a front room tasting facility on site). I could have written: McMinnville finally gets its own curated gallery! Or I could have opened with: “For Christmas, shun mass production and buy local art!”

I believe all of those things. But I believe in the art even more.   

Emily Grosvenor is a travel writer and essayist based in McMinnville. Follow her on Twitter @emilygrosvenor.

Gallery at Ten Oaks McMinnville Oregon