The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts will host the exhibition, “Connecting US 20” by Sal Strom and Lynn Moyers from June 9 to July 2 in the Runyan Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center. The exhibition serves as the culmination of a 30-day community- and art-building road trip extending from Boston, MA, to Newport, OR—the entire length of US 20, the longest continuously numbered highway in the United States. The artist team of Sal Strom and Lynn Moyers will exhibit cheesecloth fiber-art works, safety-pin chain necklaces, maps, photos and other work from their trip. The opening reception for “Connecting US 20” will be on Friday, June 9, with an artist talk scheduled for 6:00pm during the opening.
Sal Strom and Lynn Moyers currently reside in King City, OR, but they maintain a strong connection to the Oregon Coast and Newport. Strom grew up in Depoe Bay, as the daughter of the infamous restaurateur Gracie Strom of Gracie’s Sea Hag, and earned her MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston—the starting point for “Connecting US 20,” a 3,365-mile undertaking.
After a ceremonial launch on May 1 at Kenmore Square, Boston, Sal Strom and Lynn Moyers stopped at public libraries in each of the 12 states they passed through on US 20. Each stop included interactive art events, building a sense of community from one event to the next. Event participants each made two safety-pin necklace chains, one to keep for themselves and one to hand off to participants in the next state. Strom and Moyers also brought along heaping piles of colorful cheesecloth for event participants to play with and make art.
“Cheesecloth always gets people laughing,” says Sal Strom. “I’m a believer in the healing effects of laughter and color. Moving with cheesecloth is like dancing with a breeze through a rainbow. What could be better than that?”
Besides celebrating community through the visual arts, “Connecting US 20” honored local authors. Event attendees decided which of their state’s better-known authors to enshrine in a cheese-cloth sculpture.
“Sal and I are blessed with the opportunity to experience firsthand what America is all about and to celebrate the similarities and differences between the places we visit. In spite of what we are sometimes lead to believe, America is still a place full of people of good will and honest intentions,” wrote Lynn Moyers on the project’s blog on day 27, from Holstein, Iowa.
During their cross-country trip, Strom and Moyers took in as much local culture and history as possible, visiting sites such as the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York; the Native American burial grounds near Galena, Illinois; the Buffalo Bill dam in Yellowstone, Montana; the Ash Falls Fossil Beds in Orchard, Nebraska; and the Studebaker History Museum in South Bend, Indiana; as well as many other stops along the way. The artist team experienced “three wicked storms” and particularly enjoyed “linner” at the Fire Rock Steak House in Casper, Wyoming, one of the many local eateries they visited.
One of the best things about this project is that each event is a unique experience. Area natives give perspective to stories of local people and events,” wrote Lynn Moyers.
Thanks to extensive preplanning, it appears the Connecting US 20 project came off with few twists or expected turns. Certain parts of the country were clearly more prosperous than others, however.
“A difficult part of the journey was through northwestern Indiana and the 40 miles or so leading to Chicago. Driving thru Gary, Indiana, was the most depressing situation we have encountered so far. It is a scene of abject poverty; burned out buildings, boarded up businesses, trash and debris everywhere. Factories that once employed thousands now silent. The only businesses that seemed to survive/thrive in the area were the oil refineries. Ah, the smell of petroleum so early in the day,” wrote Lynn Moyers.
On the other hand, parts of the drive were less stressful than expected: “From all accounts I could find, Chicago’s South Side was a place to be concerned about and that US 20 was difficult to follow through Chicago. We didn’t find either to be true,” wrote Moyers.
The Connecting US 20 project enjoyed one of its busiest events in New Carlisle, Indiana. “No safety pins this time; only cheesecloth and book art,” wrote Lynn Moyers. “We had about 25 ladies that adorned books during the event. We got some quizzical looks as we explained what we wanted them to do, but everyone got in the spirit and created yet another batch of amazing colorful art adorning the books.”
The “Connecting US 20” road trip culminated with the artist team arriving in Newport on May 31. Family, friends and fans joined them for a celebration at US 20’s western terminus, and, from there, the artists continued west to tip their toes in the ocean at Nye Beach.
Sal Strom and Lynn Moyers are an appropriately matched artist team to have made the “Celebrating US 20” project successful. Strom is the visual artist, having exhibited her work at the Frye Museum in Seattle, the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, WA, and MilePost 5 in Portland. Her video work has been screened at the Portland International Film Festival, the DaVinci Film Festival in Corvallis, OR, and at Blue Sage in Paonia, CO. Lynn Moyers’ background is in project management, electronics and digital art. Moyers scheduled and documented the project, which included social media posts and online blogging. Additional project documentation can be found at www.connectingus20.com.
“This is one of those art projects that finds its natural home at the Newport Visual Arts Center,” says Tom Webb, the VAC Director for the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts. “We are pleased to help celebrate Sal and Lynn’s epic arts adventure.”
The Runyan Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am to 6pm.