Firepits to Film
by Cassidy Mantor
Photo Above: Tin Pan Theater Bend Film festival
While I was walking my dogs recently, I overheard a discussion between two older art collectors. One was asking the other if he had any interest in looking at some paintings done by an acquaintance who was trying to sell her work directly to collectors. He said she had been testing her work in some galleries and the paintings were priced at $25,000 each. “So, you know, it’s not weird art,” he said. I had to stifle a laugh as I kept walking, thinking about all the strange stuff that gets passed off as art and how awkward it can be when a piece of highly acclaimed art leaves us wondering what’s wrong with us if we don’t get it. Maybe nothing. Maybe it’s just weird, and the beauty of art is that that’s ok too.
This season, Western Home Journal profiles three unique artistic voices in Bend. First, read about the craftsmanship of WallsArt, a firm working in custom lime plaster and fine finishes to create atmospheric spaces exuding artistry. Next, read about the sculptural works from Weld Design, whose artwork is created with a focus on habitat and the relationship people create with the greater environment. Finally, dive into film with an exciting look at Bend Film Festival, Bend’s own indie event that is Academy-recognized and is celebrating its 20th year. From surfaces and environmental sculpture to film, we hope you have as much fun exploring Bend’s art scene as we did!
“From surfaces and environmental sculpture to film, we hope you have as much fun exploring Bend’s art scene as we did!”
–Cassidy Mantor, WHJ
Touch the Artwork:
Custom Italian Plasters & High-End Finishes from WallsArt
“Plaster adds dimension so when light hits the texture, the walls no longer feel like flat spaces. Instead, they become part of the greater design statement.”
–Juanita Perdomo, Founder, WallsArt
Although we know we can’t touch the art in museums or galleries, sometimes when we travel, we are compelled to run our fingers over the corner of a particularly beautiful ancient building in appreciation of the architecture. Touching a wall is an instinctive way to better absorb that history and form an intimate connection with one’s place in the present moment. Juanita Perdomo, founder of WallsArt, is acutely attuned to this concept and people can’t resist touching her work. She is an industrial and interior designer who creates trendsetting and custom-made decorative Italian plasters and a wide array of finishes for the entire home and commercial spaces. Her work utilizes modern applications and materials and occupies a space for those inspired by classic architecture, Italian villas, nature, and her fellow artisans and craftspeople. Part sculptural, part scientific, Perdomo’s work is intentional, creative, and made to last.
In the age of artificial intelligence and increased reliance on digital platforms for daily business, Perdomo’s work reminds us of how much people need the human touch to thrive. WallsArt transforms flat surfaces into dimensional spaces with warmth, bringing the walls to life. Incorporating Perdomo’s work into a house represents a wholehearted commitment to art. In a house with her high-end finishes and plasters, art runs so deep it is embedded in the walls. Whether a client is looking for white Venetian plaster, gold leaf ceilings, mineral finishes with warm coral tones, or organic skin textures, WallsArt has many options that are custom-designed to make a space feel like home.
“Plaster adds dimension so when light hits the texture, the walls no longer feel like flat spaces. Instead, they become part of the greater design statement,” Perdomo says. While WallsArt has an extensive portfolio of photos, the work must be seen in person in order to truly understand its value. “From wood grains and the bark of a tree to Italian villas, I try to translate textures from nature and classical finishes into modern-day life,” she adds. The effect is tasteful and timeless.
Many of the lime plasters Perdomo uses are made in the USA and offer a minimum carbon footprint. The material is a more consistent, permanent option than wallpaper. In Bend, grasscloth is a popular design choice. WallsArt captures the organic essence and aesthetic of grasscloth and recreates luxury wallpaper designs with paint and unique, specialized acrylic-based plasters. Unlike wallpaper that will have seams and unavoidable color variances from roll to roll, Perdomo’s finishes are seamless, making them the best choice for discerning clients designing high-end homes with precise attention to every detail. The quality of how plaster makes the space feel compared to wallpaper is obvious. The difference was expressed by a builder Perdomo recently met with who lamented that he wished he knew about her work before installing grasscloth wallpaper in a house he just finished.
WallsArt works with interior designers and builders to help bring the most creative ideas to life for their clients. They also work directly with homeowners who want to add fun walls into their already finished homes. The company does stencil and inlay work, lime plasters, and perhaps most excitingly, the Moroccan technique of tadelakt, a plaster application that is water- and mold-resistant and is used for entire showers and bathroom floors. Another benefit of plaster is that it helps with soundproofing, which has the subtle effect of reducing echo and making larger homes feel warmer and more inviting.
“We’re working on an 11-bedroom house in the Caribbean right now that involves 20,000 square feet of plaster,” Perdomo says. The house is light and airy, an aesthetic assisted by white plaster throughout. It is an architectural exercise in designing with stone, wood, and plaster, and it emanates nature. “Every surface, from the walls, ceilings, bathrooms and bedrooms, playrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and guest house is plaster,” she adds. Perdomo has been working on the project for a year and a half. Scheduling has been complex and involves partnering with the trades and coordinating timelines for various installs, not to mention adapting to changes and natural disasters. A hurricane hit the island several years ago that caused immense damage to the framing and necessitated a rebuild, setting them back years.
“Plaster unlocks the door to bigger creative possibilities,” Perdomo says. Indeed, working with WallsArt opens up endless possibilities to unleash a client’s creativity. Their plaster and finishes are time-tested materials that create ambiance. They elevate spaces while adding dimension, interest, and coziness.
Thirty years ago, sustainability was not yet as central to design as it is now. Back then, Perdomo’s senior thesis focused on environmental and sustainable materials in interior design. She did wall finishes, plasters, and moldings (gypsum), with an emphasis on natural materials, and focused on the relation of nature to interior design. After she graduated, she moved to Italy for more school where she studied materials and sustainability. She landed a job with a Colombian furniture company that ultimately sent her to Miami to work for them. She also began developing their products and accessories because the company recognized her aptitude for doing research and working with materials in beautifully innovative ways.
After living in Miami for two decades, Perdomo asked herself, “What am I doing here in Florida?” She needed seasons, mountains, adventure, and the great outdoors. She found her way to Oregon and fell in love with the state, first with Hood River and then with Bend. Destiny intervened; the following month, she had her first significant job in Bend and Perdomo thought, “I need to move.” About a year ago, she did. “I hope that all of my clients will explore outside their comfort zones,” she says, citing powder rooms as a great place to start. “Every day we have the opportunity to do something bold and different, and plaster is a way to make your guests in your house have an experience.” An entire house of her plaster and high-end finishes makes that statement.
WallsArt’s work is showstopping. From the same techniques that enable 700-year-old stucco buildings in Italy to stay relevant and well-preserved to experimental creations fueled by Perdomo’s artistry and curiosity, a home clad in WallArt’s plaster possesses character. It engages a connection with a shared history of artistic exploration and heritage. The effect feels wholesome, livable, and grounded – qualities that fortify a person and set them on the most exceptional journey to live up to one’s fullest potential.
“Every day we have the opportunity to do something bold and different, and plaster is a way to make your guests in your house have an experience.”
–Juanita Perdomo, Founder, WallsArt
In the Studio with Weld Design
“When the piece was installed, the following day a Kingfisher was using it. It’s an elusive bird, and I could not believe it was there. I never felt more satisfied as an artist, and I continue to learn from the piece.”
–Andrew Wachs, Founder, Weld Design
Portland-native Andrew Wachs formed Weld Design Studio in 2005. Over the last 18 years, he has built his multi-disciplinary art fabrication shop into a collaborative experience. He leads a group of talented contributing artists and creates harmonious fine art sculptures grounded in steel. The integrity of Weld’s work is guided by the Central Oregon landscape. Their designs seek to incorporate various patterns, formations, and compositions found in the natural world while using locally sourced and sustainably harvested materials. A career sculptor and welder, Wachs creates work that fosters community and documents a changing landscape.
Wachs’ vast portfolio showcases delicate metalwork that pushes the aesthetic boundaries of the medium with distinctive architectural fire pits, heirloom Americana-inspired furniture, and large-scale public art commissions. Wachs views his work as his way of recording a disappearing landscape. One piece closest to his heart is a functional habitat design intended to help the Kingfisher bird hunt after its riparian habitat was altered during the development of land near the Colorado Bridge. The Kingfisher Perch had immediate results; “When the piece was installed, the following day a Kingfisher was using it,” Wachs recalls. “It’s an elusive bird, and I could not believe it was there. I never felt more satisfied as an artist, and I continue to learn from the piece.”
“I wanted to build on the scenic beauty and create a 3D experience from what might be a traditionally flat presentation.”
–Andrew Wachs, Weld Design
As the Weld brand expands, Wachs and his team of skilled artists and craftspeople are seamlessly translating his vision into signature pieces. Weld’s recent works include a series of relief structure panels with architectural lines representing basalt strata seen in the local topography. The panels make a profound statement documenting the present environment. They are made of steel with a patina application that invokes an organic essence of both sky and glacial water. Shadows in the relief create an architectural aesthetic that is enhanced by sharp edges of cliffs, canyons, and mountains. “These pieces are inspired by the wonder of Central Oregon, as well as Central Washington, California, and Nevada, and my interpretation of the landscape that I love,” Wachs shares. “I wanted to build on the scenic beauty and create a 3D experience from what might be a traditionally flat presentation.”
Another exciting example of this collaborative process is currently highlighted in Square Loop, a geometric sculpture that was designed as an integrated system that is scalable, shippable, and installable. Initially inspired by the recent loss of Wachs’ father, Square Loop examines the idea of an infinite connection.
A classically trained sculptor, Wachs moved to Bend after school to work as a welder in the mid-‘90s. Seeking more opportunity, he moved to San Francisco and worked for (Moz) Designs doing projects for corporate clients like Disney, Google, and Oracle. Wachs then moved to Seattle and eventually found his way back home to Oregon in 2002. Three years later, he opened Weld Design Studio.
As Weld nears its 20th anniversary, Wachs reflects on the studio’s history as well as where it is headed, saying, “We have been refining our process for years and are honored to work with such skilled artists now who can build upon the vision and pivot with us to create pieces that are entirely representative of how we are living in our present environment.”
“We have been refining our process for years and are honored to work with such skilled artists now who can build upon the vision and pivot with us to create pieces that are entirely representative of how we are living in our present environment.”
–Andrew Wachs, Weld Design
Scene & Heard:
A Classic Coming of Age Story
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Bend Film Festival
“For a small, regional film festival, being associated with the industry’s most distinguished awards is a great honor.”
–Selin Sevinç, Director of Programming, Bend Film Festival
On the second weekend of October, Bend, Oregon, transforms from an outdoor recreation lover’s paradise to a small town possessed by the film industry. Celebrating its 20th year, the Bend Film Festival takes over downtown theaters, lecture sites, music rooms, and party venues and turns them into a cinematic experience of independent movies and their makers. Named as one of MovieMaker Magazine’s Coolest Festivals in the World, and one of 27 Academy-qualifying festivals in the country, winners in the Shorts (films) category are eligible for Oscar nominations. “For a small, regional film festival, being associated with the industry’s most distinguished awards is a great honor,” says Selin Sevinç, Director of Programming.
Twenty years ago, founder Katie Meritt arrived in Bend from San Francisco with a personal pipe dream and a sense of duty to realign filmmakers and festivals. An ardent film and independent film festival fan, Katie wanted to lighten the growing pains for Bend and help the town’s arts and culture scene keep pace with the greater industry. In addition to creating a festival that welcomed international filmmakers, Bend offered the possibility of a concentrated event. Each venue was walking distance or a quick hop away from the other – the physical experience of attending would not be diluted by urban sprawl. “Some of the great riches of a film festival are the serendipitous meetings amongst artists and fans when everyone’s packed into a tight footprint,” Meritt says.
“Yes, the theater is tiny and cute and a single room, but it’s a space where people who believe in the importance of cinema come together to share something beautiful.”
–Jared Rasic, Lead Programmer, Tin Pan Theater
Founded in 2003, the Bend Film Festival celebrates independent cinema’s unique power to enrich lives, promote diversity, and inspire change through vibrant educational programs and film festival experiences throughout Central Oregon. The festival showcases more than 130 professional and independent films and hosts more than 6,000 attendees for mentor sessions, filmmaker discussions, festival honors, and virtual and in-person screenings. Unlike going to a movie, the Bend Film Festival offers an opportunity to fully immerse in the experience of meeting the filmmakers, discovering new talent, and seeing films that would traditionally not be accessible.
Year-Round Community at the Tin Pan Theater
In 2019, the Festival’s parent organization acquired the Tin Pan Theater, a boutique arthouse cinema in downtown Bend. It has 28 old-fashioned movie seats, serves beer and wine, and is the year-round hub for building community around film. “It’s holy,” says Tin Pan’s Lead Programmer (and Nerd), Jared Rasic. “There’s a vibe that is genuinely palpable when you come through the door. Yes, the theater is tiny and cute and a single room, but it’s a space where people who believe in the importance of cinema come together to share something beautiful.”
Much like the last Blockbuster store, arthouse cinemas are where film lovers experience the joy and appreciation of independent film as a collective audience. “The fresh popcorn, the beer on tap, the Milk Duds, the way the lights go down when the movie starts are all part of the fabric that nourishes arts and culture in our community,” Todd Leiser, General Manager & Programmer at the Tin Pan Theater, shares. “We as humans want those experiences and at the Tin Pan we always enjoy giving that opportunity to our audience.”
“The fresh popcorn, the beer on tap, the Milk Duds, the way the lights go down when the movie starts are all part of the fabric that nourishes arts and culture in our community.”
–Todd Leiser, General Manager & Programmer, Tin Pan Theater
While it looks and feels like a boutique indie cinema, the Tin Pan is fortified for today’s cinematic experience and is an audio/visual powerhouse. Bend-based Home Systems Solutions generously donated a complete technology upgrade to the theater using equipment predominantly from the Pacific Northwest. A Dolby Atmos audio system using 13 speakers and 4 subwoofers was made by Triad in Portland, amplifiers were assembled by AudioControl in Seattle, and a large 145” screen and 4K laser projector from DPI round out the experience. A network-based Control4 automation system runs in the background and makes the theater hassle-free for all who host showings and events at the theater. The technology package sets the Tin Pan’s performance in a league of its own and creates an environment that must be experienced in person to truly appreciate.
“As long as people walk into Tin Pan and allow themselves to be transported into other lives, the theatrical experience will never die,” Rasic adds. In addition to a year-round schedule of movies, the Tin Pan also enables the Film Festival to expand its educational programs for adults and students. Offerings include providing scholarships and teaching local students filmmaking on iPads, free summer films for the community in the park, and topical films in partnership with organizations devoted to environmental and social causes. Bend Film offers in-person programming, a virtual catalog, and a healthy film guide that is easily searchable by genre or name.
More than a theater, the Tin Pan represents the hopes and dreams for the influence film can have on Bend’s broader cultural scene. In 2018, the organization honored director-producer team Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (Leave No Trace, Winter’s Bone) with their Indie Woman of the Year award. The tradition has continued and brilliant directors and producers have been brought to the Bend Film Festival since, including Christine Vachon (Carol, Boys Don’t Cry), Anna Boden (Captain Marvel, Half Nelson), and Tamara Jenkins (The Savages, Private Life). “This award gives us a great opportunity to highlight and celebrate the careers of women filmmakers still underrepresented in the film industry,” says Sevinç.
In the past few years, the Festival offered a $10,000 production grant to a BIPOC woman or non-binary filmmaker, which was made possible by The Starview Foundation, New Sun Energy, The Roundhouse Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, Braemar Charitable Trust, and Infocus Eye Care. This year, the grant has grown to $20,000 with additional support from Oregon Film. In addition to being able to help diverse filmmakers tell their stories, Sundance Film Festival’s former director of 10 years, John Cooper, joined the Bend Film Festival as a consultant.
“We hope to be a destination festival where audiences and industry professionals alike come from all over the world to see the movies…and have the best weekend of their lives.”
–Selin Sevinç, Director of Programming, Bend Film Festival
Community is critical to inspiring and motivating the careers of filmmakers. Started as a filmmaker’s festival, the Bend Film Festival goes above and beyond to make international filmmakers and diverse storytellers feel seen and heard. Looking ahead, Sevinç explains, “We hope to be a destination festival where audiences and industry professionals alike come from all over the world to see the movies, join the conversations, network, and have the best weekend of their lives.”