Reopening Brings Replenishment
On June 24, 2023, Five Oaks Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time since March of 2020 with the new exhibition, Replenish the Root: Six Centuries of Gathering Under the Oaks. When the pandemic hit, the museum had just rebranded from Washington County Museum, having launched ten weeks prior with a Guest Curator Program, Codirectors, and a new dedication to featuring the stories of all the communities who live in the Tualatin Valley.
The museum’s community-responsive new approaches allowed them to pivot quickly in the early pandemic, shaping content according to what was needed within that moment. Since that time, five major exhibitions have been created and shared entirely online, Instagram takeovers have platformed local talent, and learning resources have taken on forms such as downloadable worksheets and Museum at (Our Place) sets – yard sign mini-exhibitions that bring the museum’s content into community spaces.
Most of the museum’s core functions remain the same as they have since its origins almost a century ago. The museum stewards Washington County’s collection of historical artifacts and archives – some 75,000 items, several of which will be in the new exhibition. These resources have long been publicly available through free, supported research access, which was maintained remotely during the closure and has returned to in-person this year. High quality learning resources and experiential opportunities for exhibitions, as well as programs that uplift community voices and increase access to museum content, are also staples of the museum’s work that went all-virtual and are now evolving into hybrid and in-person.
Visitors to the space will see many upgrades that have been done to the building over the course of the three year closure. New paint inside and out helps the building stand out and brings the vibrancy of the new brand into shared spaces. The exhibition hall has updated floors and walls, and there is now a dedicated library where researchers can dive in to the museum’s cultural resources. A multi-function Community Room has been created as well, which will be available for rental and community events in addition to museum programs and pop-up exhibitions. New parking spaces out front are dedicated to museum visitors, in addition to two accessible spaces, making finding the museum’s free parking easier than ever.
Bringing Virtual Success Into the Building
While the pandemic was a fatal blow to many small nonprofits and businesses, Five Oaks Museum was able to avoid layoffs and continue their programmatic work through the entirety of their three year closure. Features in ArtNews and on PBS NewsHour celebrated the museum’s innovative, ethical, community-inclusive tactics in 2021, as organizations all over the country scrambled to respond to surging demands for social justice and equity across the cultural sector.
The five online exhibitions will continue to be available after the museum’s reopening. This IS Kalapuyan Land, Guest Curated by Steph Littlebird (Chinook, Kalapuya, Grand Ronde), which opened in-person in 2019 and online in 2020, asserts a contemporary Native voice directly over the museum’s own past exhibition. Guest Curated by Becca Owen, Gender Euphoria: Contemporary Art Beyond the Binary, 2020, celebrates trans and non-binary artists in the Pacific Northwest. DISplace, 2020, by Guest Curators Kanani Miyamoto (Kanaka Maoli) and Lehuauakea (Kanaka Maoli), shines light on the widely unknown connection between Hawaiʻi, the Pacific Islands, and the Pacific Northwest. Untouchable Artifacts, 2021, is a love letter to the art, practice, and importance of indigenous storytelling on Turtle Island by Guest Curators Kat Salas (Chiricahua, Apache) and Rya Hueston (Diné). And Guest Curator Israel Pastrana created #StandUpFG: Latinx Youth Activism in the Willamette Valley, 2021, which examines the circuitous roots and routes of Latinx youth activism in the Willamette Valley.
Now, on June 24th, 2023, the museum will present the first in-person exhibition to be opened under the Five Oaks Museum brand. Replenish the Root: Six Centuries of Gathering Under the Oaks takes visitors through a layered history of the stand of ancient trees that the museum is now named after. The Five Oaks Historic site is a grove of five Oregon white oaks in the Tualatin Valley who have borne witness to centuries of community and environmental changes. In 2022 the museum created and installed beautiful new interpretive signs at the historic site, which celebrate the tree’s dynamic history through updated text and an illustration by local artist Aki Ruiz. Through objects, photographs, and art, Replenish the Root delves even deeper and invites us to learn about the people who have gathered here for over 600 years and our communal relationship with Oregon white oak savannas.
Community Taking Root
“When we understand our intersecting histories, we have the opportunity to connect with each other as well as the land we share,” says lead curator of the exhibition, Mariah Berlanga-Shevchuk.
Berlanga-Shevchuk is the museum’s Director of Exhibitions and Cultural Resources, and partnered on this exhibition with the museum’s former Head of Integrated Learning, Victoria Sundell. The two took on creating the exhibition’s content so that the museum could navigate the complexities of the return to in-person without overburdening a community Guest Curator. The museum’s Guest Curator program will return for a fourth cycle later this year with an open call for proposals.
Replenish the Root encourages visitors to develop a connection to the Tualatin Valley and the generations of people, plants, and animals who call it home. It also helps visitors cultivate an appreciation and respect for Native sovereignty and land stewardship, specifically around the human-made oak savanna habitat. The exhibition uses a variety of media–from art and photography to sound and video–to present an historical narrative that situates well-known events within a larger context.
Arts integration is a facet of Five Oaks Museum’s updated brand, with artwork included in their historical exhibitions to enhance the content, increase accessibility, and support the local arts ecology. The new exhibition features regional artists Ryan Pierce, whose paintings imagine nature recovering from human destruction; Camas Logue (Klamath, Modoc, and Northern Paiute), an artist and musician who shares abstract geological paintings, as well as photographs of his baskets taken by local photographer Evan Benally Atwood (Diné/Navajo); Antoinette “Toni” Luchessa, a botanical illustrator based in Seattle; Leslie Peltz, a Washington County-based photographer who focuses on landscape; and Wendy Given, a Washington-based visual artist whose work is guided by nature, myth, and magic.
The opening on Saturday, June 24th will include a special member preview hour with remarks, with the public opening reception to follow. Light refreshments will be served.
Regular open hours will resume Thursday, June 29th, and open hours will be Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from noon to 4pm. Reservations will be made online, and walk-in visitors will be welcomed as space allows.
Five Oaks Museum Replenish the Root exhibition opening reception
Saturday, June 24th, 2023
Member preview 12:00 to 1:00 PM, public opening 1:00 to 3:00 PM
Five Oaks Museum
17677 NW Springville Road
Portland, Oregon 97229
on Kalapuyan land, and the Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus
Reserve your free ticket at:
Member Preview: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/643927784337
Public Opening: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/643942187417
With Deep Gratitude to Our Exhibition Sponsors:
Benjamin Moore & Co.
Clean Water Services
Five Oaks Museum Board
Ford Family Foundation
Helvetia Farm Market at Marion Acres
James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation
Lucy Anne Smiles Designs
Pam Treece, Washington County Commissioner
Portland Community College
The Collins Foundation
Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District
West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District