Early last year, an idea woke local artisan Clare Matthews in the middle of the night. She had a concept for a new exhibition for the Umpqua Valley Art Center, one unlike those usually on display.

The theory was simple, a photographic display in the form of black and white portraits of the people of the Umpqua Valley.

“The intention would be to show our area at a moment in time, depicting the pride and skills that everyday people contribute to make this a community that is a pleasure to live in,” states the project description.

As a volunteer galley committee member for the Umpqua Valley Arts Association, Matthews took her idea to her fellow committee members. According to Matthews and Gallery Director Sandee McGee, the committee members agreed unanimously. Thus started what is now known as the Faces of the Umpqua Valley project.

As the project began to take shape, snags occurred. It took a year to put the plan together. Funding had to be found, which eventually came in the form of a grant from the Ford Family Foundation, with more support coming from the Douglas County Cultural Coalition.

Then came the need to find people to be photographed. Thankfully, an answer came in the form of the Umpqua Vally Arts Association’s Summer Festival. Matthews and McGee said festival-goers were enthusiastic to participate.

Now, the project is being put forward into the community.

“We will be asking people to nominate somebody in the community that they feel goes above and beyond. Somebody that does their work with pride, wholeheartedly,” McGee said. “We know when we meet those people, they just somehow delight us.”

Douglas County residents can begin nominating their fellow citizens on Thursday. The project is all-inclusive. They simply ask the following:

“Do you know someone that helps make Douglas County the special place we know it is? Perhaps your barber/hairdresser, a local brewmaster or your tattoo artist, your favorite vendor at the farmers market or your car insurance salesperson or your doctor — who makes Douglas County awesome and unique?”

Nominations can be turned in online at form.jotform.com/UVArts/faces-of-the-umpqua-valley-project, at the Umpqua Valley Arts Association website and Facebook and at the Umpqua Valley Art Center, 1624 W. Harvard Ave., Roseburg.

There is no limit on nominations, and there is not a real deadline. Submissions will no longer be accepted when enough nominations have been received.

“There is a certain element of trust, that people will get involved,” Matthews said. “And from what I saw at the Summer Arts Festival, they will. I couldn’t believe the response. Everyone was so happy to do it, to be involved.”

The project will culminate in an exhibit at the Art Center in January 2020, encompassing the Hallie Brown Ford Gallery, the Student Gallery and an outdoor element. A catalog will also accompany the exhibit, which will include all of the portraits on display.

McGee and Matthews both hope that following the installation, the exhibit can be shared with other locations.

“When looking at these photos 10 years from now or 15 or 20 years from now and you look back, you will be able to say this was a particular time and a place. This was Roseburg in 2019,” McGee said.

“That’s something in art that we do, we take a moment and we document our culture at a particular time,” McGee said.

Matthews’ goal throughout the entire project is to be inclusive.

“I love living here, enough that I wanted to make it my home and it’s really once I got here and got settled that I decided to become an American citizen,” Matthews, a loom weaver born and raised in England, said. “It’s the people of Roseburg that make you feel at home. It’s not a building or a place, it’s the people, and the people here are lovely.”

Editor’s note: News-Review page designer and photographer Jon Mitchell was involved in the creation of the project.

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Community Reporter

Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review, mother of two and a native of Roseburg. She is an alumni of RHS, UCC and Western Oregon University. Contact her at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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