Jul 12 2016

In just a few weeks, we open the Art House at Old St. Francis School, where each room is named for the title of a painting done by one of the artists who have lent their talents to McMenamins properties.

Each artist was asked to paint a mural that represents his or her experiences or inspirations from working with McMenamins. Below, read about Olivia Behm's contribution as well as her journey as an artist with the company.

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Over the years I have painted, among other things, many "orbs" (decorative steel balls attached to railings and fences atop wood or metal posts) - big ones, small ones, some plain, some fancy. Artist and plumber Jeff Allen used his artistic talents to assemble this one atop a pole, to which he welded pieces of steel with directional signs, lettered by me. It stands just inside the entry to the McMenamins Edgefield hotel property in Troutdale, Oregon.

I decorated the orb and smaller "satellite orbs" in the comfort of my studio. Once it was welded in place, ten feet off the ground, I was asked to repaint the background with a color that would show up better against the trees. This meant rounding up an eight-foot-tall orchard ladder and climbing up and down to move it around the whole assemblage.

I am somewhat famous for my fear of heights, yet regularly find myself painting higher off the ground than I am comfortable with. How I would have loved having the "helping hands" I've depicted here!

About the Artist
I started my painting career with McMenamins early in 2003 when Jenny Joyce took me under her wing and began teaching me to paint decorative borders at McMenamins Hotel Oregon in McMinnville. Myrna Yoder and Lyle Hehn were there as well. I met Kolieha Bush when we started in on the second wave of art (decorative borders, lettering stories and painting portraits on the walls of the rooms) at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon. Somewhere in there I was honored to meet Kolieha's partner, fellow artist Joe Cotter. These guys were larger than life to me, but I found them all to be down-to-earth and a lot of fun to work with. I was introduced to folks as "the newbie" for many years, until Eona Skelton joined the group, having been discovered through her fabulous chalk art for the company. Since then, we've had several more join our fold, enduring dusty construction sites, painting in all kinds of light and weather, and at various heights, from pretty close to the ground, to pretty darned high up. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky getting to the spot that needs art, but once you're there, the creative forces take over and the sheer love of painting causes one to forget the discomforts.

We alternate decorative painting on site with painting fine art panels in solitude in our studios. I've really enjoyed the back-and-forth of working alone and then with the team. Through the years I have learned so much from, and bonded with the other artists, and our wonderful historian Tim Hills, until now they all feel like family and, honestly, each of them is still "larger than life" to me.

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