Naming the Clatsop College Art Gallery is a fitting memorial

Maurie Clark changed the face of Cannon Beach in the 1970s by making it an attractive home to artists.

In a different, but just as significant way, Royal Nebeker stimulated Astoria’s artistic culture. Nebeker’s leadership was acknowledged in a permanent way on Tuesday when the Clatsop Community College Board of Directors named the campus art gallery after him.

Nebeker made Astoria a serious arts community in a couple ways. Early in his tenure as chairman of the college Arts Department, Nebeker began a series of lectures and workshops to which he brought eminent artists from cities such as Seattle and New York. Speaking about that some four years ago, Nebeker said these visiting artists evoked two responses. Some local artists resented the presence of the big leaguers. But many others came to the lectures and workshops eagerly, to learn.

While Nebeker built the caliber of the CCC art faculty, he also gained an international following as a painter. His growing reputation put Astoria on the map.

What followed was a burgeoning group of artists who made Astoria their home. Then in the early 1990s, a gutsy entrepreneur named Corinne Ricciardi opened Astoria’s first major league commercial art gallery. It was a startling move in town that was stuck in a sort of lethargy. Today downtown is home to a number of galleries. The annual artists studio tour sponsored by Astoria Visual Arts includes a bevy of stops. And the college art gallery is home to a number of annual shows including Au Naturel, the student show and the faculty show that is now underway, including some of Nebeker’s works.

It is unlikely that many other towns of 10,000 felt the presence of such a large artistic figure as Royal Nebeker. He was a life force, making an indelible impression on all who knew him. The Royal Nebeker Gallery is an excellent memorial.

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