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Artwork brightens empty storefront in Houlton

'Storefront Art' project began last July; local artists display work in vacant buildings


Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - A piece by Scappoose artist Jennifer Bolhofner, entitled 'Barriers of Enderism,' sits in the window of a vacant storefront on Columbia Boulevard. Bolhofner's artwork, which she said is inspired by the two years she spent in the Pacific island territory of Guam, is on display as part of a St. Helens Economic Development Corp. effort to repurpose empty storefronts in St. Helens as sidewalk art galleries.The work of a Scappoose artist is now on display for passersby looking through the windows of an otherwise empty storefront next to Houlton Bakery in St. Helens.

Mixed-media artwork by Jennifer Bolhofner was installed in the vacant storefront near the intersection of Columbia Boulevard and Milton Way as part of a “Storefront Art” project.

The project is a collaboration between the St. Helens Economic Development Corp. and the Columbia Art Guild. The woman behind it is Kannikar Petersen, who also chairs the St. Helens Arts and Cultural Commission. She said she got the idea from an Oregon Cultural Trust seminar several years ago.

“The original idea was more like a ‘conversation project,’” Petersen wrote in an email Monday, Aug. 11. “I wanted to display photos of locals and their thoughts about St. Helens in empty storefronts. But at that time, SHEDCO didn’t have any money so we borrowed paintings from artists of the Columbia Arts Guild to display instead.”

Bolhofner said she became a participating artist after reading about the project and contacting Petersen.

She and her husband moved to Scappoose in 2012 after living on Guam, the South Pacific island where Bolhofner’s husband was stationed with the U.S. Air Force, she said.

“The pieces that I have on display revolve a lot around being on Guam. It was an interesting experience, and I would never trade it, but it was also extremely isolating,” said Bolhofner. “It was a challenge for me. It took a good six months to really start fitting in or to feel like it was home.”

The Storefront Art project has given Bolhofner an opportunity to get involved with the local arts scene in south Columbia County, she explained — although the pace of her work has slowed since she and her husband welcomed a baby daughter, Olive, earlier this year.

“I’m just trying to kind of incorporate myself into the art world, or maybe make connections with other artists,” Bolhofner said, adding, “To be honest, I was never really able to get involved out here until just now.”

Bolhofner is only the latest artist to have her work displayed as part of the Storefront Art project.

The project began last July. Another artist whose work has been featured is Dee Vadnais, who lives in Deer Island.

As part of the project, SHEDCO is also displaying concept illustrations from a city project to plan for renovations along major street corridors, such as Highway 30, Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street. Those visualizations can be seen at the empty storefront next to Chase Bank, on Columbia Boulevard and North 19th Street in St. Helens.