Jim and Nathalie Peterson left behind Scottsdale, Arizona, and bought the venerable Mockingbird Gallery in 2007. Sixteen years later, Mockingbird continues to reign as a jewel in the heart of downtown, attracting tourists and locals alike keen for an infusion of culture. The pair also runs Peterson Contemporary Art (PCA), a short walk away. In total, the galleries represent about 85 artists, peddling pieces ranging from whimsical bronze animals to large-scale abstract oils. Bend Home + Design talked with Jim Peterson about the galleries’ success, the current trends in Central Oregon art, and why Bend is a perfect spot to sell fine art.
Q: What are the challenges of running galleries, particularly in Bend?
A: High-end, collector-style galleries have to fit a certain demographic, a certain community. We all know about Scottsdale, Santa Fe, Carmel and Jackson Hole—communities that have built reputations as great areas for galleries to thrive. Frankly, when we came to Bend from Scottsdale, which is really a gallery community, one of our concerns was where are these art buyers going to come from? What is it about Bend that can support high-end art sales? Bend offers a microcosm of what Scottsdale offered us—that is, a well-balanced support system built on locals and tourism. This is a growth community, a growth economy. People are moving here because they want to be here, not because they have to be here, and they’re building really beautiful homes. So that supports our efforts, plus the secret is out on Bend as a tourist community.
Where do you see your role in providing the Bend community with cultural enrichment?
We have cultivated a group of exciting artists that we think really interest art buyers, collectors and viewers. We know our cultural role in this community is also a space where people can just come and get their art fix, and we thrive on that. We love those conversations. I know people who come by almost monthly, whose intention is not to come in and purchase art, it’s just to be inspired and maybe talk art. We love to make time for those people.
How are Mockingbird Gallery and PCA different, and how did that separation come about?
As we were building Mockingbird up and growing it, we had two different groups developing under one roof, and that’s really what led us to experiment with another location. Mockingbird would be considered the more representational traditional blend. PCA would be more contemporary and modern. That said, we have hybrid artists in both locations. The goal was never to take the edge out of Mockingbird, it was just to create another venue. At PCA we have abstract art mixed in with more representational touches.
What do Bend homeowners seem to look for in art these days?
A lot of these new homes being built are big. During the pandemic, people were building, they were at home, and artists were asking me, “Are we going to be okay? Do you want me to give you small pieces now?” And I said, “Opposite. Get us big works of art.” And that’s exactly what started selling. These large walls need to be filled up, and [homeowners are] looking for something fun.
Where do you see the art market going in Bend?
It’s only going up because Bend is growing. I talk to people in Scottsdale, I talk to people in Santa Fe, and I know that some of these more established art markets are trying to figure themselves out again. Not everybody in those larger art markets will tell you that all is well, but what I can tell people is that we have the right ingredients here in Bend to thrive. We have been thriving, and it’s exciting. I don’t see anything changing that because this is going to continue to be an appealing place to live. We’ve captured the spirit of the type of person who loves Bend and living here.
How to Get in Touch
869 NW Wall St. #10, Bend
Peterson Contemporary Art
550 NW Franklin Ave., Bend