Pamplin Media Group – Kelsey Birsa Unveils Paintings at Stevens-Crawford House

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Leah Faure, current Art in Oregon artist-in-residence, also on view at the historic residence.

Art is alive and thriving in Oregon City, with Kelsey Birsa’s paintings on view now through September 17, at the Mary Elizabeth Gallery inside the historic Stevens-Crawford House.

Additionally, Leah Faure, the artist-in-residence for August, has paintings hanging in the studio space and plans to show work-in-progress throughout the month.

Both women support Art in Oregon’s goal to “build and sustain art patronage through pride in Oregon artists and pride in art ownership,” said AiO co-founder Tammy Jo Wilson, a resident of the Oregon City.

Established in 2017, Art in Oregon is a statewide visual arts-focused nonprofit working to build bridges between artists and communities.

The organization’s mission is to establish collaborative relationships with the common goal of increasing visibility and access to art for all people.

PHOTO COURTESY: LEAH FAURE – This painting of Portland's Broadway Bridge shows Leah Faure's penchant for simple things and shifting patterns held together by concrete.

Maria Isabel Gallery

The Mary Elizabeth Gallery “is not your typical white-box gallery. The artwork hangs from the original wooden rails that line the house’s cream-colored walls,” Wilson said.

Stevens-Crawford Heritage House is an American Foursquare house built in 1908 by Harley Stevens and his wife, Mary Elizabeth. In 1968, Mertie Stevens, the remaining member of the family, passed away leaving the home to the Clackamas County Historical Society.

In recent years, Oregon City has lost its few other art gallery spaces, and AiO decided to keep arts and culture alive in Oregon City, Wilson said.

“The gallery was a natural progression from the Artist Residency Program that AiO has run for the past three summers,” he said.

“We were looking for a space to share our artists’ beautiful work with the community. The Clackamas County Historical Society graciously supported us in turning what was an office display of yesteryear into a contemporary art space,” said Wilson.

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He added: “This transition has brought new content and new audiences into the house.”

“When I was first introduced to her art, Birsa was obviously very adept at rendering beautiful detail and texture through her paintings,” said Selena Jones, coordinator of artists-in-residence at AiO Stevens-Crawford House.

Jones appreciated Birsa sharing how she uses her art to dramatically explore the world she encounters.

“Viewers are transported to an immersive exhibit inside the historic house that they won’t find anywhere else,” said Jones.

Exploring anxiety and depression

“I’ve been thinking a lot over the last two years about interior and exterior spaces, as well as the social interactions we have in them,” said Birsa, noting that she loves working with oils and has recently started incorporating mixed media such as collage and pan gold to his paintings.

“My paintings explore the feelings of anxiety and depression that the pandemic has created in me and many others,” he said.

One of his paintings was inspired by the plants in the garden surrounding the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House.

“Experiencing outdoor spaces with friends and family, like the colorful garden outside, has become one of the few social interactions that felt safe and normal during the pandemic,” Birsa said.

He noted that AiO will host “Party Party,” an artists’ reception for their work and a potluck showcasing programming at the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House from 2-6 p.m. on Sept. 17.

Leah Faure

“Faure’s artwork captures neighborhoods with an eye for architectural line and color. His artwork preserves moments of everyday life that evoke a tranquil calm,” said Wilson.

She added that during Faure’s time as artist-in-residence, she will have the opportunity to work in the private second-floor studio at Stevens-Crawford House, surrounded by artifacts from another era.

“I was drawn to his artwork because of the way it captures a place. He doesn’t go for the fanciest or largest structures, houses or gardens. He spends time capturing unassuming stillness,” added Wilson.


Faure noted that making art is an individual effort and that the process can be slow.

“Artist residencies allow time to engage with the community at the pace of an artist. It’s a beautiful space and it’s an honor to be chosen by Art in Oregon,” said Faure.

“I like to figure out a scene. If it has a complicated pattern, like flowers in the grass or a telescopic perspective, I’m engaged and therefore distracted from the anxiety of everyday life,” Faure said, adding that her primary medium is oil painting, but he also likes to work with acrylic and charcoal.

Old buildings and houses have always inspired her, and touring houses is something she has done since she was a child.

“The above architects’ options for adding texture, utility and interest to a home are fascinating, including curved staircases, windows that push out for more views, walkways that create a large space, and built-in cabinets.” that dig useful spaces,” Faure said.

He noted that the public will be able to see the results of his residency during his solo show in January.

PMG PHOTOGRAPH: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - In the exhibit currently on display at the Mary Elizabeth Gallery, Kelsey Birsa

experience the art

“Successful art is one that the viewer finds a connection with; something in which they can see part of their own history and experience,” Birsa said.

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She added that she loves the feeling of home in the gallery and the historic house.

“It’s a unique setting for art that sparks some interesting conversations for me,” said Birsa, noting that her gallery show is titled “Living Room” and features contemporary people and experiences.

“Hopefully, gallery visitors can see some of their own experience in my paintings and consider the experiences of those who lived at the Stephens Crawford Heritage House,” he said, adding that Art in Oregon “is a wonderful program that promotes access and support for art.

“Art in Oregon has a talent for curating an incredible variety of art,” said Faure.

The Mary Elizabeth Gallery is “an exciting addition to Oregon City’s historic neighborhoods and beautiful sights,” he said.

Faure added that he looks forward to “exploring rides and amazing restaurants during my residency.”

Support the arts!

What: Art in Oregon presents “Living Room,” an exhibition of the work of Kelsey Birsa

When: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, now through September 16. There will be a special event from 2 pm to 6 pm on September 17.

Where: The Mary Elizabeth Gallery inside the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House, 603 Sixth St., Oregon City

Details: Visit to learn more about Art in Oregon; visit to see more about Kelsey Birsa; and visit to learn more about Leah Faure.

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