The History of Oregon Society of Artists

OSA building  At that time there was considerable confusion in the old Portland Art Museum because some members felt they were being pushed aside by aggressive “Faddists and Abstractionists”. So, late in the fall of 1926, Mr. William Gray Purcell, Art Editor of the local magazine, SPECTATOR, an architect and conservative artist, called a special meeting of likeminded individuals.  Its purpose was outlined: 

  •      To help the artists to get their work before the public
  •      To meet and discuss mutual problems
  •      To provide a place where the artists could exhibit their works under rules the artists made themselves
  •      To provide a place where others who were interested in traditional art, although not artists themselves,
                                                                               might meet with artists in a mutual way.

In early 1927, an organizational meeting was held at which William Gray Purcell was elected President and they titled the organization: The Society of Oregon Artists.

The Portland Art Museum included The Society of Oregon Artists (SOA) in their activities and were glad to have them meet and exhibit in their building. In return, SOA helped the Museum with their financial difficulties, both individually and as a group. However, when PAM received county assistance, it developed that the policy of the Museum's Curator and that of the SOA were not the same, so it was suggested that SOA find another place to meet.

On December 9, 1929, SOA decided to incorporate, and as the name "Society of Oregon Artists” conflicted with an older society, the name was changed to Oregon Society of Artists.  

The Society met at Clyde Leon Keller’s art studio for many years. He was the third president and did much to see that the control of the Society was kept in the artists' hands. Membership was a "Who's Who" in Portland's art world.

As time passed, meetings were held monthly in various places, such as restaurants, halls and in the Public Library. Annual exhibits were held in Meier & Frank's auditorium and in the Public Library. At one time pictures could be taken out on one's library card.

OSA was offered a choice building site at Depoe Bay, in 1932, providing it would build and make its headquarters there. But it was decided that it was too far from the center of its activities.

In 1939-40 the Society rented the old schoolhouse on Sauvie’s Island but even that too was too far from Portland. OSA felt the need for an educational and cultural center of their own, a place where artists could work and display their pictures free and as a service to the public. A Building Fund was created.

The proceeds from classes from the likes of Arthur A. Selander, Ed Quigley, Kate Raymond, and Colista Dowling, picture sales, bazaars, rummage sales, and many other activities went into the Building Fund, making construction of the building possible.

Though many of the members lived on the east side, it was suggested that OSA purchase the beautiful old formal garden of Mrs. T. B. Wilcox as the site for the new building. The beauty of the site and the flowers sold the artists. It was valued at $20,000, about four times the amount in the building fund.  The owner, Mr. Nathan Sohn, was invited to an OSA meeting and was so impressed by the group, he became a member and donated $2,500 towards the purchase. He then let the Society make its own terms on a low interest loan covering the remaining $17,500. The land was purchased in April 1953.

Thayne J. Logan, Architect and Lyle Keeler, Contractor, donated their services and the use of their equipment and organizations to build the building. Nearly everybody participated, either by giving labor or proving meals to the works. It was a "Do it Ourselves" project, and no public funds, donations, foundations or subscriptions were asked for, nor were they offered.

In 1940, BrushMarks was created. Helen Logan was the first editor-in-chief, printer, mailing clerk and distributor.

On Thursday, September 23, 1954, the first meeting was held in the new building.  At the Christmas Party, December 1956, the mortgage was burned, and the building was now the Society’s.

Just three years later, in 1957, a temporary storage room, 12' x 20', was added to the northeast corner of the building with labor again being donated by OSA members. Membership and activities continued to expand and in 1959, Thayne Logan drew the plans for a one-story and daylight basement addition.  The new wing was built in 1960. In 1965 the parking lot was built. Members filled and planted shrubs by donated labor.

In 1981, it was determined to establish membership by election of the Board and Membership vote, the main requirements being an interest in conservative art and compatibility to the general wellbeing of the Society.

During the years, the Society has received many donations, most we still have today (**):

  •  Mr. and Mrs. Frederick DeNeff donated a beautiful bronze statue**
  •  Mr. and Mrs. Erich Porshman, an electric stove** and refrigerator
  •  Mr. and Mrs. Thayne J. Logan, a large dining table
  •  Mr. Arthur A. Selander, in memory of his wife, Nettie, a secretary's desk and chair**
  • James Hazelwood donated, in memory of his wife, Veda, a marble base for our bronze statue**
  •  Fred Raymond donated the umbrella stand in memory of his wife, Kate
  • Judge Henry Tomlinson donated a silver service in memory of his wife, Helen
  • The Henry Ets collection of art was bequeathed to the Society, and from the funds received an illuminated bulletin board** was installed in front of the building.
  • A memorial gallery dedicated to the name of the late Colista Dowling was constructed in 1970, with funds received from the sale of Mrs. Dowling's paintings and lifetime sketches bequeathed to the Society.
  • Many of the art books** in the library were originally from the McKay estate, which was the original site of the present building.

Historically OSA been a home for conservative and objective art.  Until 2018, there were no paid employees other than on bid and contract. Today, OSA is still an educational group though class offerings encompass a large variety of mediums with subjects both in traditional and in more abstract styles.  OSA is more than a "society, we are a “community” with the mission to promote the visual arts throughout the diverse communities of the region.

Classes and workshops are now offered both online and in-person to artists of all levels of ability.  The Gallery has a new show every month with the intention of helping artists, both members and non-members, to get their work before the public.  OSA’s board of directors is a group of hands-on volunteers, much like the Society’s founders.  A great deal of the maintenance of the building and the garden are taken care of by these volunteers.  The true spirit on which OSA was founded is as alive today as it was in 1926.  Thank you.

Presidents of Oregon Society of Artists

1927 Wm. Gray Purcell (1) An architect, interested in sketching and the fine arts.
1928 Wm. Gray Purcell (2) Public Relations and Art Director in World War I.
1929 Wm. Gray Purcell (3) A good organizer and believer in traditional art.
1930 Judge H. M. Tomlinson A lawyer. Painted in oil as a hobby. Very civic minded.
1931 Clyde Leon Keller An artist and art dealer. Known as "Keller the Art Man." Gave generously of his time and use of his store for the Society. A good traditional artist.
1932 Ben Larsen (1) An artist. The Society was considering an offer of site at Depoe Bay. Incorporated officially as "The Oregon Society of Artists."
1933 Albert Gerlach (1) Art Glass artist. The Society was having growing pains and other groups were trying to grab our membership.
1934 Thayne J. Logan (1) An architect. Artist as hobby. Both water color and oil painting. Unified the Society.
1935 E. D. Morgan Fowle Government service employee. Oil painter as hobby. Extended activity of Society.
1936 F. W. Sercombe A lawyer. Artist as hobby. Revised and had printed our Constitution, at his expense.
1937 George McBride Government service, Marine Inspector. Oil painter marine subjects. Expanded art activity.
1938 Ben Larsen (2) An artist. Gave liberally of his time to OSA affairs.
1939 Thayne J. Logan (2) An architect. Society expanding. Good educational programs.
1940 Harold McMahon Window trimmer. Artist as hobby. Started "Brushmarks" as society news bulletin.
1941 Thayne J. Logan (3) World War II started. Many members called into service. Just holding society together was problem.
1942 Daniel Powell (1) High school teacher. Sculptor, sketch artist. War Year.
1943 Daniel Powell (2) War Year. Held regular meetings.
1944 Daniel Powell (3) War Year. Educational program started, again stressed traditional art. 1945 Albert Patecky (1) An artist. Telephone Director Sales. Expanded exhibits.
1946 Menalkas Selander An artist. Expanded educational program.
1947 Albert Patecky (2) An artist. Fiscal year changed from January to April 30, 1948.
1948 Frank Boynton (1) Paint and wallpaper dealer. Art as hobby.
1949 Frank Boynton (2) Started membership drive.
1950 Frank Boynton (3) Membership over 1000.
1951 Arthur A. Selander (1) Artist. Art teacher. Former Tax Appraiser, registered Civil Engineer in Oregon. Stressed need for new building.
1952 Arthur A. Selander (2) With E. B. Quigley, started sketch groups to finance new building. Purchased land.
1953 Ivan Houser (1) Sculptor. Ceramic Mfg. Started new building first unit.
1954 Ivan Houser (2) Building became reality.
1955 Albert Gerlach (2) Art Glass artist. Rule of Society back to conservative art membership. 1956 Dan Rowinski Military service. Artist and wood carver as hobby. Expanded sketch group activity.
1957 Clyde Leon Keller, Jr. (1) Building Management. Watercolor artist. Expanded traditional art.
1958 Clyde Leon Keller, Jr. (2) Money raising program to pay for first unit of building.
1959 Robert Adams (1) Apartment house manager. Artist as hobby. Started planning second unit of building.
1960 Arthur A. Selander (3) New second unit of building built.
1961 Oscar Haugen Engineer Bonneville Power. Picnic at Amity, and many sketching projects. 1962 Rev. James Alley (1) Preacher, Gladstone First Christian Church. The Society received good publicity for traditional art.
1963 Rev. James Alley (2) Invited Gov. Mark Hatfield to our show. Established Gladstone Art Week. The Society paid off notes of second unit.
1964 Beryl Berry Personnel Executive. Aviator as hobby. Finished our parking lot. Added granite plaques dedicating building to conservative art.
1965 Ben Larsen (3) Artist. Holy Week murals in our gallery. Jerusalem street scene.
1966 Ben Larsen (4) Artist. Very fine exhibits of ecclesiastic art.
1967 Thayne J. Logan (4) An Architect. Opened meetings with Salute and Oath of Allegiance to our flag. Had artist paint-out picnics and good educational art programs at meetings.
1968 Paul Keller (1) Insurance executive and artist. Got good publicity for Society. Started educational items on back sheet of Brushmarks.
1969 Carl Prier (1) Printer and artist. Hobby Archaeology, mainly the stone carvings and paintings of the Stone Age American Indian.
1970 Ashley Russell Very active in conservative art, commercial art.
1971 Dr. Max Zimmerman An artist for recreation. Brewmaster by occupation.
1972 Ree Barron (1) Conservative artist and instructor. U.S. Corps of Engineers (photogrammetric engineer).
1973 Carl Prier (2) A hard-working president and a good purchasing agent for OSA.
1974 Ree Barron (2) Promoted sketching and better exhibits.
1975 Leonard J. Cleary, Sr. A good executive. Promoted friendship and unity. A craftsman in metal.
1976 Robert Adams (2) Helped with mailing Brushmarks and had good programs.
1977 Jean Goin 50-Year Anniversary. First woman president. A good artist. Retired to studio at Depoe Bay.
1978 Carl Prier (3) An experienced president.
1979 Waldemar Nitz (1) A good administrator, with a sense of humor.
1980 Waldemar Nitz (2) A good artist. A fine master of ceremonies.
1981 Doris Barron A good executive officer. Devoted to conservative art.
1982-83  Norm Greene
1987-88  Gloria Heisley Webber
1989 Chester Glenn Murphy
1990-91  Robert Vetto Jr. 
1992  Chester Glenn Murphy
1993 Robert Vetto Jr. 
1994-95 Aloha Cannon
1996-97 Garve Beckham
1998 Lori Noel
1999  Nancy Seiffert
2000  Robert Graber
2001  Janet Holt
2002-03  Jack Gilbert Miller
2004-05  Rudy Stevens
2006-07  Billie Fisher
2008-09  John Reece
2010  Donna Lind
2010-11  Kris Kuster
2012-13  William Woods
2014-15  Mary Holt
2016-17  Tim Mahoney
2018-2020 Judy Matarazzo
2021 - Gail Joseph
2022 - Nancy Tanner
2023 - Steve Kleier

Note: Numbers bracketed beside names denote time served as President

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