56605 Sitka Drive
Otis, OR 97368
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The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology is operated as a public educational project of the Neskowin Coast Foundation, which received its federal non-profit 501(c)(3) status in 1970.

In 1970, in the midst of the back-to-nature movement, two young artists, Frank and Jane Boyden, along with other early collaborators, started a summer camp for kids on the Oregon coast. Their vision was to create a community where artists and scientists could live, work and teach, freed from the demands of academia and deeply immersed in the natural world.

From those early workshops in music, pinhole photography and marine biology grew the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Named for the majestic spruce trees that shelter the property, the Sitka Center invites people of all ages and abilities to explore their creative potential in a place of ecological significance and rare natural beauty.

From the beginning, Sitka has been about collaboration between art and science, across diverse groups of people and with the land itself. The Center operates on roughly an acre of coastal Sitka spruce forested land donated by the developer of Cascade Head Ranch, an environmentally sensitive residential community at the mouth of the federally protected Salmon River estuary. A 270-acre Nature Conservancy preserve borders this community, which also is part of a national Scenic Research Area and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

In the early years, Sitka partnered with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and local schools to bring in summer day-campers, who explored ocean tide pools, hiked old-growth forests and played handmade instruments on a makeshift stage in the meadow. But the center's relatively remote location made transportation difficult. By the late-1970s, the summer program had evolved to focus primarily on adults, with a wide range of workshops including landscape painting, low-fire ceramics, calligraphy, writing and coastal ecology.

In 1981, Sitka invited its first artist-in-residence to spend the winter. As the residency program evolved to include artists and scientists of national and international stature, as well as those just beginning their careers, and as the summer workshop program continued to expand, the Sitka campus grew as well. Today, a cluster of cedar-clad studios, private cottages and welcoming spaces hugs the forested hillside and hosts practitioners and instructors in residence. Additional residential opportunities for visiting artists, scientists and collaborators are hosted at a nearby 80-acre site surrounded by US Forest Service land (purchased by Sitka in 2017) and Estuary House, a private cottage within the Cascade Head Ranch community (purchased by Sitka in 2021). In 2018, in partnership with Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon and operated by Oregon State University, Sitka began offering Artist at Sea residencies through which visiting artists work alongside marine scientists on active research vessels.

In 2002, the Jordan Schnitzer Printmaking Residency program at Sitka was initiated. Through this program, experienced artists with minimal printmaking experience work with the support of a master printmaker to produce a series of prints. The Portland Art Museum receives works produced through this program for their permanent collection.

In addition to on-campus workshop and residency programs, Sitka serves regional nature-inspired artists through an annual Portland Oregon-based Art Invitational and Sale, started in 1993, show casing approximately 100 artists annually and reaching thousands of visitors. Sitka has hosted in-person and virtual artist and ecology talks, book readings and themed discussions in different ways throughout its history.

In 2020, Sitka Center assumed stewardship of the beloved youth programs previously led by Community Arts Project, a Tillamook County-based nonprofit (in operation from 1988 to 2020) including a school-based art literacy program and Slug Soup summer day camp. Building on these programs, Sitka now serves Pre-K – 8 students with free art and science enrichment workshops that take place out in the community through areas schools, after-school and summer programs, especially in schools and communities without dedicated art programs or instructors of their own.

From Sitka’s founding as an art and nature youth camp over 50 years ago to our present-day programs, Sitka continues to evolve in artist, scientist and collaboration-centered ways and with growing community impact and reach. By serving and bringing together next generations of creatives, researchers, innovators and educators whose own work explores the evolving edges and intersections of art, nature and culture, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology remains evergreen.