Like the National Endowment for the Arts, Coos Art Museum (located in Coos Bay, Oregon) is approaching its 50th anniversary. Coos Art Museum opened to the public on September 17, 1966, with an exhibition on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other works from various public and private collections in Oregon. At the time of our opening, the museum was one of only three art museums in Oregon. Today it remains the only art museum along Oregon’s Pacific Coast.
From the beginning, Coos Art Museum has made an effort to balance three activities; exhibitions, art education, and collection building. Aid from the National Endowment for the Arts came along at a crucial period in building our collection. It helped develop the long-term direction for growing our collections. The most significant portion of the permanent collection is an excellent selection of fine art prints by prominent regional and national artists which were acquired largely in 1973-74 through a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1972, the National Endowment made a $10,000 Challenge grant to Coos Art Museum, which we were able to match the following year.
Using this fund, and with the assistance of Dr. Gordon Gilkey, later to become the curator of prints and drawings at the Portland Art Museum, we were able to acquire 94 works by some of America’s leading printmakers. This acquisition forms the core of the over 580 artworks now in our permanent collection, which now includes 234 fine art prints, and sets the direction for the collection’s growth. Among the important artists acquired through the grant were Clare Romano, Warrington Colescott, Harold Altman, Will Barnet, and Garo Antreasian. Since that time, the collection has grown with the addition of fine art prints by artists the caliber of James Rosenquist, Larry Rivers, and Robert Rauschenberg.