For as long as we humans have been able to use our hands, we have been creating — whether it be us creating the first campfires upon the Earth, tools for hunting, or clothes to keep warm. And with that intellect of creation has come to the creativity of expression. Thus, our civilization has accumulated over 30,000 years of art history, starting with the very first cave drawings and making its way through a series of movements, styles, and periods reflecting the times along the way. Many masterpieces have been saved, and many more are still to be created. Here, within the Marion County community, there are plenty of amazing art galleries where you can see the history of our region’s magnificent works of art and the direction it is headed for the future.
Salem Art Association
600 Mission St. SE, Salem
Founded in 1919, the Salem Art Association is a non-profit arts organization serving the wonderful mid-Willamette Valley community and just so happens to be the largest community arts organization in the great state of Oregon. The SAA itself, as it’s called, moved to its current location in Bush’s Pasture Park in 1953, but the origins of the Bush House itself go back even further to 1878. This makes our local SAA truly special because patrons can view the amazing art located in the Bush Barn Art Center in the barn carriage behind the historic house and take a walk through history while exploring the Bush House Museum within the home.
Many fun events and exhibitions are hosted throughout the year at the Salem Art Association, all of which encourage community engagement with the arts with shows ranging from traditional to contemporary, and of course, they’re always free to view!
Salem on the Edge
156 Liberty St. NE, Salem
Serving up views of exquisite fine art in downtown Salem is Salem on the Edge Fine Art Gallery. Melanie Weston decided to open the head-on gallery after she realized that our beautiful state itself was on the edge of a remarkable cultural awakening. Instead of waiting for someone to take the lead, she decided to make things happen herself.
Today this fine art gallery holds unique exhibitions and art-related events with the goal of enriching people’s lives through art. Salem on the Edge displays a wide variety of works and features various types of Pacific Northwest artists, from established artists to graffiti painters, up-and-coming artists, and everything in between. Gallery entry is always free and there is even a gift shop where you can purchase original artwork that inspires your inner artist!
113 N Water St., Silverton
Lunaria Gallery in Silverton has moved around quite a bit since its start in 1995, but they now seem to have found a home on Water Street. This new space has been perfect for the gallery as it features excellent lighting, high ceilings, and much more wall space. The expansion has proven lucrative to the members running the gallery as their membership has increased to 25, much more than the original five lovely ladies that started the gallery all those years ago.
The co-op continues to thrive, hosting First Fridays regularly that have since become a Silverton institution. This has propelled Lunaria Gallery beyond the city limits as it has become well-known throughout Oregon for its fantastic works that feature unique, eclectic styles from local artists who are continually exploring and growing along with the gallery.
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
700 State St., Salem
Located within the grounds of our area’s first university in the west, Willamette University is the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. The museum is also the only liberal arts college art museum in the Northwest. As a result, the museum has become a leader in research on art in the Northwest region. In the process, it has accumulated one of the most significant collections of the area’s art and history of important publications and exhibitions.
Since 1998 the museum has been serving our community as a vibrant, artistic hub offering access to historical, regional, and contemporary art, many of which reflect the Pacific Northwest culture. Special exhibitions at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art range from classical works to modern masters, while the permanent galleries tend to feature works by artists native to the region as well as Native American artists, along with a diverse collection of Ancient, European, American, and Asian art.
There truly are so many amazing works of art out there, each one reflecting different movements, styles, and periods of our civilization’s history, and here in our wonderful Marion community, there are plenty of galleries where locals and visitors alike can find these beautiful masterpieces and take a special tour through our region’s very own stunning art history.