Fall in love with local art at the annual Corvallis Festival
When the leaves start to fall, it’s time for the Corvallis Autumn Festival, where more than 160 artists set up their work in pitched tents.
The event attracts artisans from all over the region, and even as far away as Arizona and Florida. But for artists Marvin Jack and his wife, Margaret Jack, it’s a chance to unpack and share their work at home.
A place for the locals
For 34 years the Jacks have been selling their handcrafted puzzles at the Corvallis Fall Festival. The couple toured all over the country to sell their work at different festivals. Kansas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Kentucky. They brought their children with them and were able to see many wonders, said Marvin Jack.
But the Fall Festival holds a special place in their hearts. It’s their hometown show. And it’s more intimate. Most of the artists are from Oregon, many of them from Corvallis.
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“There’s nothing like being home,” said Marvin Jack.
He thinks Corvallis is a great place for artists of all kinds. At the Autumn Festival, there have always been potters, painters, jewelers and a variety of stalls, he said.
“A real community is one that comes together and enjoys art, music and food together,” he said.
Sometimes they see people who grew up playing with their puzzles as children and now have children of their own, Margaret Jack said.
Their puzzles come in a variety of colors and shapes, from autumnal leaves to seascapes of ocean creatures.
The couple started making puzzles for their children, and then as more people enjoyed their craft, Margaret Jack, a former preschool teacher, and Marvin Jack, who studied children’s art at university , have developed their activity.
Now they spend most of their time in their garage-turned-studio.
Sharpen the craft
This studio is covered in paint. Small splashes of all colors line shelves, tables, doorknobs and even the artists themselves. Margaret Jack dons a paint-covered apron while her husband wears a splattered hoodie. Posters of past festivals line the wall; many describe the previous years of the Corvallis Autumn Festival.
“We’ve pretty much reduced it to a science now,” Margaret Jack said.
Marvin Jack cuts the wood pieces in their studio, and Margaret sands the pieces and applies a base coat of paint before putting the finishing touches together.
The work table is the one their son designed. There’s air blowing across the round table, giving it the effect of a hockey table, he said. This allows him to use less pressure when moving the slab of wood around the thin blade.
“I’ll be a dying breed of this kind of puzzle,” said Marvin Jack. Many puzzle makers have switched to laser cutting rather than hand cutting, he added.
On the other side of the studio, Margaret Jack wears a mask attached to a tube that encircles the walls. It’s a connection to fresh air, she says, to protect her from paint chemicals.
Rows of colorful trays line the wall as the puzzle pieces dry. A separate set of shelves holds completed puzzles.
Some of the puzzles feature trees, vegetables, woodland animals, and personalized children’s names. Many of the designs used today are ones the couple created for their daughter in the 1980s, Margaret Jack said.
Children get creative
Their stand at the Fall Festival was always close to children’s activities, which Marvin Jack, as chairman of the board of directors of the art discovery zone, is passionate about.
This year they are launching a new collaborative project, he said. “Kids Create” will be a collaborative work of art where children can create their own multimedia work of art that matches the theme of the ocean.
After the festival, their art will find different homes in the town of Corvallis, where children can visit them, he said.
“It’s important for children to see themselves as part of the world,” he said. And art is a way to do that.
The festival will also have its own space for children to sell their artwork separately from adult artist stalls, Marvin Jack said.
“It’s so important that all children can be creative and think creatively,” he said.
The Autumn Festival has been an emblematic event in Corvallis for 49 years. But executive director Donele Pettit-Mieding believes the art may be more appreciated than ever.
“The past few years have taught us how central art is to our quality of life,” Pettit-Mieding said.
She said the pandemic may have changed people’s views on art and how to experience it.
“It brings us together; we come together to experience art, music and become connected,” she said. “Art makes us feel a greater human experience.”
The Corvallis Fall Festival will be held in Central Park in downtown Corvallis from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 24 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 25. Free entry.
Entertainment on two stages will take place throughout the weekend, including a performance on the main stage by The Macks, recently voted Portland’s best new band in a poll conducted by Willamette Week.
There will also be a children’s stage with puppet shows, an interactive drumming circle and a preview of the Majestic Theatre’s musical “Elf”. Children will also have the chance to perform by registering for the showcase of young artists.
On Saturday night, the Whiteside Theater will host a dance party featuring Chervona, a Roma-inspired polka band.
A free shuttle service to the festival will depart from Samaritan Square at 815 NW Ninth St. Further information is available at https://www.corvallisfallfestival.org.
Editor’s note: a correction has been made for the name of the event.