Best Places for Oregon Creatives: Wallowa Valley

The Creative Wilds of Wallowa Valley

Necessity is the mother of invention. In small, isolated towns of Eastern Oregon, where duct tape and welded farm implements are often part of daily life, creativity comes from unexpected places and in unexpected forms.

On the road to Eagle Cap Wilderness and Wallowa Lake, Wallowa and Lostine are two tiny towns where necessity and creativity collide. The Blue Banana espresso hut in Lostine is one such collision. This caffeine cabin is notable for a blue banana out front and a Blue VW Beetle poking through a wall as if it crashed landed there.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, craft furniture maker Tyler Hays bought the struggling M. Crow & Co. General Store in Lostine in 2013. The century-old store still sells dry goods but now also offers modern handcrafted items from Hays’ collection.

Beauty is the canvas, with the Wallowa Mountains to the east. The next Georgia O’Keeffe need not look far to find inspiration among the mountain meadows in Eagle Cap Wilderness, on the trails into the Wallowas, on a hike up to Sacajawea Peak and in the reflection of the setting sun on Wallowa Lake on the edge of the arts community of Joseph.

First recognized for its bronze foundry and ubiquitous bronze sculptures, Joseph earned national recognition as a budding arts community in an otherwise farming and ranching setting. In fact, a striking red barn in the green valley set against a blue sky and white fluffs of clouds serves as the area’s most photographic marvel.

Writers also flock to the Wallowa Valley every summer. For the past thirty years, Joseph’s annual Fishtrap writing retreat lures writers to yurts, cabins and tipis at Wallowa Lake Camp with the hopes of honing their craft and continuing to chip away at the next great American novel.
September brings the Festival of the Arts and the En Plein Aire event, during which artists put the finishing touches on their works as buyers look on.

Wallowa County, Oregon
Population:
6,858
Key Creative Resources
Fishtrap Writers Camp
Wallowa Valley Arts Council
Joseph Art Walk
Joseph Center for Arts and Culture
Valley Bronze, foundry and bronze art casting
Historical Artists:
Tyler Hays, furniture maker, owner of M. Crow (New York and Lostine), owner of BDDW, an American furniture company; Alvin Josephy, journalist and Native American historian
Don’t Miss:
Bronze Blues & Brews festival in August
Median Home Price:
$240,000

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