The Columbia River Gorge's identity can be attributed to the unique relationship between the community and its artists. Art of Community was established in 2014 by artists Cathleen Rehfeld, Karen Watson, Mark Nilsson and CJ Rench to build on this dynamic relationship, engage the community with art and work collaboratively to further promote and develop public art throughout the Gorge making it available to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Cathleen Rehfeld, a longtime resident of the Gorge, is one of the premiere landscape, figurative and still-life painters of the region and sells her work internationally. She completed her Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Texas at Austin and attended Gage Academy in Seattle, Washington. Cathleen has studied with several well-known masters and now instructs throughout the Pacific Northwest. Cathleen is the founder of the annual Pacific Northwest Plein Air Event, Columbia Gorge Arts & Culture Alliance and a former long-time board member of the Columbia Center for the Arts.
Karen Watson is a California born award winning pastel painter and instructor. She attended the College of Creative Studies at the UC Santa Barbara, has been featured in Pastel Journal Magazine and is a long term member of Oregon Pastel Society. Karen travels, teaches and exhibits her artwork at fine art festivals throughout the country.
Mark Nilsson is a native Oregonian and a master of realistic, whimsical, and abstract art. His work, which ranges from large scale murals to intimate paintings, reflect his extensive travels, passion for nature as well as the Northwest's urban vibrancy. Mark's artwork can be found throughout the Gorge and in public and private collections throughout the world.
CJ Rench, originally from Illinois, is a self-taught industrial engineer and designer. He creates large scale abstract metal sculpture for both public and private collections. His work has been exhibited in Palo Alto, Colorado Springs, Napa, Orlando, Denver and Aspen to name only a few. CJ is currently working on a skate park installation jointly commissioned by the Seattle Parks and Recreation and Red Bull that explores the intersection of art, athleticism and imagination. Locally CJ is creating trail markers for Hood River Parks and Recreation.
Kristen Godkin, originally from Massachusetts, Kristen received a Bachelor of Art from Lewis & Clark College. After joining one of Portland's signature architectural design firms she returned to school to receive a Master in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus on community and economic development and continued marketing, business development and planning for Portland area architectural and planning firms for over fifteen years. Leaving to raise a family and focus on the Gorge Community, Kristen joined Inter-Fluve, an interdisciplinary firm that specializes in investigations, design, and restoration of rivers, lakes and wetlands. She also helped the Columbia Center for the Arts with fundraising and development where she started working with some of the Gorge's most talented and committed artists.