Oregon’s ‘Tin Man’ houses new art center | Arts and theater

In Oregon, they call it the “Tin Man” – the restored silver water tank that towers 100 feet high in the heart of the village’s downtown.







Steve Feren’s artwork titled “Knockdown, New Populism” is displayed in the front room of the new Oregon Art Center located in the historic Pumphouse in downtown Oregon.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


The Tin Man rises from a stone pumphouse, built in 1899 and brimming with a new purpose: it now houses the Oregon Art Center, the home of an artist nonprofit called 14 South Artists.

The official reopening of the building will take place with an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Jury works by 22 local artists are on display and available for purchase in the quaint, sunny interior, which 14 South Artists President Francine Tompkins describes as “intimate”.







Exterior of historic water tower and pumping station

Locals have dubbed Oregon’s restored water tower the “Tin Man.” The historic brick pumphouse below, built in 1899, now houses the Oregon Art Center.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


“A lot of people come in and say, ‘How nice! or, ‘That’s so cute!,'” she said. “So many people in the community have never been in the building before, so it’s exciting.”







Interior of the Oregon Art Center

Francine Tompkins, president of 14 South Artists, shows off the space at the new Oregon Art Center, which currently features work by 22 area artists.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


Owned by the Village of Oregon, the pumphouse joined the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2007 after residents rallied to save it. For a while recently it served as the village’s visitor center but then became vacant during the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Village President Randy Glysch reached out to 14 Southern artists and the group jumped at the chance to set up an art gallery there, Tompkins said.







The art of glass by Pat Seidel

Glass art by Pat Seidel titled “Smiles In A Pot” hangs on the wall of the new Oregon Art Center. Many artists presented work on different mediums.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


Tompkins, a painter with several acrylics in the art center exhibit, joined 14 Southern artists in 2019. The group had traditionally held a fall art tour and other outdoor exhibits. “We thought it would be really nice if we had an interior space of our own,” she recalls. She became president of the group in 2020 “and decided to start moving in this direction”.







Francine Tompkins in front of the Oregon Art Center

Francine Tompkins, president of 14 South Artists, calls the space at the new Oregon Art Center “intimate.” The center will hold an open house on Saturday.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


The group’s new home allows it to expand its mission beyond developing the skills of its 36 members – most of whom live in communities along Highway 14, including Oregon, Stoughton and Brooklyn, as well as Mount Horeb, Fitchburg and Verona. 14 South Artists now plans to do more outreach, community collaboration and public art classes, and hold additional events in its new space, Tompkins said.

The group received a $10,000 grant from the Madison Regional Economic Partnership to help with rent and overhead, as well as a $5,000 tourism grant from the village to update signage, she said. It is planned to work with local businesses and to create a foundation to ensure the sustainability of the art center.







Artwork on the wall at the Oregon Art Center

Artwork by members of 14 South Artists fills the walls of the new Oregon Art Center, located in the historic Pumphouse in downtown Oregon.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


The opening of the art center coincides with another art project for Oregon, Glysch said. The village has received a $100,000 tourism grant to set up a rotating public art exhibit, likely starting next spring. The effort is inspired by an existing successful public sculpture project in Eau Claire, he said.







Front Room of the New Oregon Art Center with Francine Tompkins

The panels on the right await display outside the new Oregon Art Center, pictured here with 14 South Artists President Francine Tompkins.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


Today, with tours of outdoor sculptures attracting tourists, “It’s amazing what they’ve done,” he said of Eau Claire.







Door leading to pumphouse basement in Oregon

Francine Tompkins, president of 14 South Artists, opens the trapdoor of what she calls the “dungeon” of the historic downtown Oregon pumphouse. The cellar actually contains the original workings of the pump in the historic building, which now houses the new Oregon Art Center.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


Inside the Oregon Art Center, the art on display will remain through August, Tompkins said. The center will often be open during community events, such as this weekend’s Oregon SummerFest. More programming will be added “step by step,” she said.

“For me, one of the exciting things about this process is that it’s been so organic,” Tompkins said. “Let’s take a step and learn from this, before taking the next step.”

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