(Above: Eugene artist Uyen-thi Nguyen’s oil-on-canvas painting, “The Truth About Adults” is part of the Around Oregon Annual juried art show at the Corvallis Arts Center; the artist’s aim, according to the artist’s statement is “to make discoveries about both inner and outer worlds, and bring to life pictures that I glimpse in moments of understanding.”

By Randi Bjornstad

With its lofty open-beamed ceilings and pointy-topped leaded-glass windows, the Corvallis Arts Center still resembles the late-19th-century Episcopal Church that it once was.

And, like many other churches “repurposed” in the same manner — the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene immediately springs to mind — the transition from a place for seeking fellowship through religion to seeking it through art seems to make perfect sense.

Hester Coucke, the Corvallis Arts Center’s curator of public exhibitions, sees the center “really as a gathering place for community culture.”

Regina, by Eugene artist Karen Russo, is one of a series of sculptures of contemporary women under the title Hope & Despair, in which she explores a kinship that arises out of isolation to discover resiliency

“We have a gallery for visual art, but we also have music, poetry, reader’s theater, lectures, and many other arts activities here,” Coucke said. “We offer classes for children and adults, and we now also have an ‘artist accelerator’ program to help artists expand beyond their skills in creating art into also creating a business for themselves.”

Right now, the main exhibit at the center is the Around Oregon Annual show, on display through Aug. 9.

“The juror for this show was Sandee McGee, who is the curator at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center in Roseburg, and I think she has done a wonderful job of selecting works by artists throughout the state,” Coucke said. “This show tends to be our most professional group showing.”

The dozens of pieces currently on show include 3-D sculptures, paintings from whimsical to breathtaking, prints, fiber art, clay, and woodworking.

Coucke, who came originally from The Netherlands, has a background in teaching and art history, but also is an artist in her own right in the mediums of drawing, small abstract sculpture, and painting she describes as “slightly 3-D, with just a little bit of depth added.” One of her sculptures was chosen for inclusion in the Around Oregon Annual.

Hester Coucke’s small sculpture, Together, incorporates found terra cotta, wood, metal, and porcelain pieces

The center puts up eight shows each year in the main gallery, plus another dozen in the small Corrine Woodman Gallery, named for one of the founding members of the center. There’s also an expansive wall near the entrance to the gallery space that can accommodate large works of art, from paintings to quilts.

After the annual juried show ends, a new show — Tradition Turns Contemporary, featuring basketry, printmaking and photography on fiber — opens Aug. 15 and runs through Sept. 22.

Around Oregon Annual

When: Through Aug. 9

Where: Corvallis Arts Center, 700 Madison St. in downtown Corvallis

Gallery Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Information: Telephone 541-754-1551, email info@theartscenter.net or online theartscenter.net

Part of the main gallery exhibit space at the Corvallis Arts Center, where the Around Oregon Annual juried show is on display through Aug. 9; photo by Randi Bjornstad