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Oregon's Percent for Art Is Back - Patients and Staff Take Part
Dana Lewis holding necklaces
Dana Lewis displays some of the beaded strings made by patients during one of her recent three-day workshops, which were held throughout the hospital's treatment malls and focused on writing, music, beading and meditation.
Walking the grounds of Oregon State Hospital’s (OSH) Salem campus, you’ll notice a variety of different sculptures and artistic designs throughout community areas and imprinted on buildings. These diverse works were created through the collaborative efforts of patients, staff and artists participating in Oregon’s Percent for Art program.


Part of the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon’s Percent for Art program was created with the goal of enhancing public environments and improving the character and quality of state buildings. The law, which was passed in 1975, mandates that one percent of construction funds for new or remodeled state buildings with a budget of more than $100,000 be set aside for the acquisition of art work.

With construction well underway on the hospital’s Junction City campus, Oregon’s Percent for Art program is back at OSH, and once again, patients and staff are helping create the art that will be displayed throughout the new facility.

Recently, local artist Dana Louis led a series of three-day workshops for patients in the Bridges, Harbors, Springs and Trails treatment malls. The workshops focused on writing, poetry and music during the first half of the week, and ended with additional writing, meditation and beading. The workshops provided patients a chance to contribute to the project in a variety of ways while still engaging in a therapeutic activity.

“The beading is not something I have talent in doing,” said Butterfly 2 resident James Condon. “The thing I really possess is my signing voice. But even if you don’t have talent, it’s a great learning experience for staff and patients alike.”

For each workshop, Louis used different materials and changed the focus depending on what was best for the patients. In her art, she uses a variety of materials such as glass, light, shadow and space, and describes her style as a fluctuation between intimate domestic-scaled pieces, interdisciplinary performance collaborations and large-scale public works that energize and alter ones experience of their environment.

While the workshops offered recreational activity and a learning experience for those who participated, the collaboration between patients and staff provided hope, inspiration and a larger sense of community. These messages are essential in Louis’ work for the Junction City facility, which she hopes will help create an environment of healing and recovery.

“I wanted to have them make something we could put in Junction City together and have it be a big community project,” said Louis. “They’re beading a waterfall to go above the two story sally-port.”

The waterfall, which will be made from a combination of many beaded strings of varying size, color and shape, will include inspirational words contributed by patients from the writing exercises.

“In another piece, these words will be etched into the glass walls of the building so that as people walk into the lobby they get to have a positive experience about what’s going on in their heads and in the hospital,” said Louis.

The inspiration comes from local waterfalls like Multnomah, Silver and Pinard Falls, and will be incorporated into a larger structural art fixture in the center of the lobby that’s based on a dandelion wish. The beaded rays of sunshine will be placed throughout areas of the hospital so that patients can see and live with something that they’ve worked on.

“It’s been really pleasing to the spirit,” Bird 1 resident Cheryl Kidd said of the project as she strung beads during a workshop Thursday, Jan. 23. “I think it would be good for other patients and help them be cheerful.”