Jenny Green believes that art is for the masses and has spent her career dedicated to making fine art accessible. She has a master’s in fine and decorative arts from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London and has worked in galleries, museums and auction houses in London and San Francisco. She moved to Bend twenty-two years ago and has been a cultivator of the arts community in Central Oregon, most recently as a founder of the At Liberty Arts Collaborative. Green sat down with Bend Magazine’s Teafly Peterson to talk about art, community and ensuring that Bend’s economic growth benefits everyone.
On Finding Home at First Sight
My husband, Tim, and I moved here in 1994. We’re pretty different people, so we were trying to figure out where our divergent interests would meet up. We were living in Wyoming, and he came home one day and said, “I think I found the place for us. It’s called Bend, Oregon.” I went to the University of Wyoming’s library and looked up Bend, Oregon in the card catalog. And, of course, all the things in the card catalog were, like, skiing, fishing—all the things Tim was interested in. It was a small town, but it had the Sunriver Music Festival, a few restaurants and an art gallery. We came to visit in 1993 during that last huge snowstorm. We fell in love with the town and moved here.
My grandmother had art and jewelry and beautiful objects. I grew up in a family that wasn’t that interested in that kind of stuff. But for me, it was like finding treasures. These objects could have meaning beyond simply being an object—that someone could take the time to make it beautiful or to care enough to translate an idea. I remember going through her house, her holding my hand, and talking to me through paintings that were special in some way.
On the Democracy of Art
I wish that everyone understood that art is for the masses. I get really frustrated that people see it as elitist. We’ve had this professionalism take over the arts, where you will talk to someone and say “Oh, are you an artist?” or “Are you a musician?” and they will say no. And then you’ll ask “Do you ever paint or play the guitar?” and they say “Oh, yeah, every weekend.” But they will not call themselves an artist or a musician. If we start embracing that everyone has artistic means and capabilities and that all these things are available to all of us, then I think that would change.
Creating an Arts Collaborative
Kaari Vaughn, René Mitchell and I started At Liberty because we always dreamed of having a permanent contemporary art space that promoted the arts and lifted up other nonprofits by providing space for them. This kind of fell into our laps (while we had also been pursuing it for five years). There was already a history of BendFilm, Muse and other organizations using Liberty Theater as a hub, but we wanted to turn this into something that was more quotidian and that people would know as a space downtown where there is always something interesting going on.
I would like to see us embrace that small town feeling where we are concerned about our neighbors, where there is affordable housing and room for everybody. I get worried that we might become too homogenous in our economic sector. I want to see more room for different ways of thinking, different ways of being. I want us to hold onto that core piece that was here when I moved here, which was community first. I think we have an awesome community, and I want us to continue wrapping our arms around everybody here.
On the Rising Tide in Bend
I feel like the nonprofits and the arts are starting to blossom in these little pockets and are getting stronger. People have the impression of Bend as only an outdoor town, but there have always been these side interests, and those are finally starting to come forward a little bit more. I think that right now we have this rising tide in our community and I am just hoping that it lifts all the ships—the artists, the organizations, the community. If we are having this good moment for our town, I hope we make sure everyone is on board.