Our Organization In 1989, a small group of writers, artists, and scholars formed the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission to draw the public's attention to our state's rich cultural legacy. We believed that Oregon's sense of history and accomplishment had focused too exclusively on the early settlement experience without taking into account the substantial number of creative figures who lived and worked here over the years and laid the groundwork for today's rich and diverse cultural community and its many luminaries.
As Oregonian columnist and founding board member Jonathan Nicholas put it, the OCHC was formed to "remind us that old growth firs weren't the only giants who once dominated this landscape."
Our first major cultural project honored early 20th century poet Hazel Hall, a somewhat quiet giant. A reclusive poet and seamstress, Hall - like Emily Dickinson - based her poetry on the impressions she could gather from the home she shared with her family.
Our first symposium in 1995 examined Hall's work and life, both within the poetic tradition of her period and in light of the resilience of her verse and its value for present-day readers. Our efforts concluded with the installation of what we believe to be our nation's first poetry park, with three of her poems engraved on granite slabs in their entirety, and a biographical plaque, all located immediately adjacent to her home on NW 22nd Place in Portland.
The memorial has familiarized thousands of passersby with her work. In 1996, Northwest Examiner awarded the neighborhood landmark a major prize as a valuable civic contribution.
The OCHC believes in the importance of cultural memory, assuring the past a place in the present, to the benefit of the present and the future. As our culture continues making critical choices about the wide-ranging issues of the day, it is ever more vital that we bring the wisdom and experience of those who preceded us into the discussion.
Our cultural understanding perhaps best serves us as a touchstone, as a road map of where weve already been and gone; why we have, for example, our unique public beach law, our environmental orientation, our excellent public libraries. It can also help us identify where weve misstepped, and how our creative figures recorded the experience for future reference.
"I couldn't help but be impressed by the enthusiasm of the large group that attended the reception at the Collins Gallery of Multnomah [Central] Library. After years of research and writing on my Wood biography, it was amazing to step into a room where so many people shared so much obvious affection for Wood. It was wonderful to see a cultural institution like OCHC serving its community so splendidly. Your Wood celebration was "classy", festive, diverse and full of optimism - the very qualities Wood brought to Oregon life. Your program was just what Wood deserved. "I hope Oregonians realize what a precious asset they have in the OCHC."
Robert Hamburger, author Two Rooms: The Life of Charles Erskine Scott Wood, New York City
The Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission discovers, celebrates and commemorates contributions to Oregon's diverse literary and cultural legacy, raising awareness through publications and other media, memorials, and public events.
Culture, a word of many meanings, defined in terms of what we owe the past, embraces law, custom, religion, philosophy, and science. Literature, the fine and performing arts, and the folk arts serve as bearers of civilization. These are the special interests of OCHC.
We are not antiquarians in love with the past for its own sake. We are convinced that giving an artist from the past a physical presence among us helps put us in touch with her or his unique vision. Therefore we focus on a place or scene that informs an artists work and vision. A sense of history is important to us all, but especially to the young.
For information contact:
Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission
Phone: (503) 285-8279 or (503) 292-6439
Fax: (503) 289-4179