Inspire community engagement and helps create a sense of place, awareness, optimism, discussion, and identity throughout the Gorge.


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 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.

Board Members

Cathleen Rehfeld - Director

Cathleen, 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.

CJ Rench - President

Originally from Illinois, CJ 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 recently completed 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 designed and fabricated trail markers for Hood River Parks and Recreation.

DeeDee Hennessy - Treasurer

Originally from the great state of Iowa, DeeDee received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Iowa.   She first headed west to Portland to pursue a career in product management for Hewlett-Packard.  After moving to Hood River, she has become involved in many community groups, most recently in the role of treasurer for the school levy campaign which resulted in 3 million dollars in funds for the local schools. She spent 8 years as the PTO treasurer managing the 70K annual budget and fundraising activities for a local elementary school.  She currently manages accounts payable for the creative agency she co-owns with her husband.  DeeDee lives with her husband Brian, and their two girls in lovely Hood River.

Jan Meyer - Secretary

Jan moved here from the East Coast where she graduated with a BFA in photography and a BA in art history from Cornell University. She has been a professional graphic designer for over 20 years. She has served on the boards of the Hood River Cultural Trust, the gallery committee of The Columbia Center for the Arts, and currently serves on the board of Gorge Artists. Jan lives in Hood River with her husband Maui and three children.

Kristen Godkin - Director

Originally from Massachusetts, Kristen received a Bachelor of Art from Lewis & Clark College and Masters from PSU's College of Urban and Regional Planning focusing on community and economic development.  After years of working at Portland's leading architecture and planning firms, and fundraising development throughout the Gorge, she joined Inter-Fluve, an interdisciplinary firm that specializes restoration of rivers, estuaries and wetlands throughout the US and beyond as their Development Director.  Kristen lives in Hood River with her husband Collin and two girls.

MacRae Wylde - Director

Hailing from Boston, MacRae attended Colorado College, School at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, College of Santa Fe, International School of Art in Umbria, Italy and the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building. Fascinated by architeure, engineering and construction, MacRae has been building sculptures since a child.  With recycled steel from locale structures, he develops bold statements reflecting community and the environment.

Mark Nilsson - Director

Mark 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. 

Program Leaders

Alice Hellyar - BIG ART Program Director

Alice, originally from Western New York, received her Bachelor of Architecture with a Minor in Industrial Design from Virginia Tech. Practicing as a licensed architect, her work includes custom residential architecture, with a focus on small and efficient spaces, in addition to tensile structures. Alice is continually exploring the relationship between the natural world and the built world – and believes there is no better place to do so than in the Gorge.

Yasmin Arlette Acosta Gutiér-Myers - Out Reach Director