"The Fields Project" got its unusual name from collaboration between artists and farmers, whereby farmers would mow the artists' designs into 10 acres of tall prairie grasses. This was aided by using GPS technology. Airplane rides to view this "field art" were then offered to our artists and the public, bringing local pilots into the program. It was a unique, enthusiastic, popular event until 2011, when the program ended due to new regulations for CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) grasslands.
Nevertheless, the Fields Project flourishes because of the other unique features. We "Bring Art and Agriculture Together" by inviting artists from all over the country to live on working farms for 9 days, creating their art in a setting which has inspired artists for well over a century. Since its inception 15 years ago, about 200 Visiting Artists have participated in this plein air adventure, and over 50 farm families have shared their homes with these artists.
On the final day of our week, Visiting Artists are joined by Regional Artists for an art show and sale at Mix Park. The caliber of our local artists is a testament to the remarkable influence our heritage has had on this farming community.
Working under the Fields' Project umbrella is another sub-committee called The Community Art Legacy (CAL). Continuing the tradition of Lorado Taft, CAL conducts a sculpture competition each year at the festival. Their mission is to place "10 public sculptures in 10 years" in the Oregon area. The first of these sculptures was placed in 2005 and the eighth was placed in 2012. We anticipate reaching our final goal by 2014, bringing to 16 the total number of sculptures on the Oregon Sculpture Trail. Most cherished of these sculptures is Taft's 48-foot-tall statue of "Blackhawk", contributed to our community in 1910, and the Lincoln/Blackhawk statue, "Paths of Conviction, Footsteps of Faith", by local sculptor Jeff Adams.
The Oregon Public Library, a Carnegie library designed in 1909 by the architects Pond and Pond of the original Eagles' Nest Art Colony, has a top floor gallery which houses many precious pieces of art donated to Oregon by the original Eagles' Nest Art Colony members. Among these treasures are the maquettes of Lorado Taft's "Blackhawk" as well as a famous piece called "The Blind". Along with the Soldiers Memorial on the Court House lawn, these are a few examples of the legacy left to the community by Lorado Taft and the original Eagles' Nest Art Colony, In reference to his contributions, Taft said "The home town is the dearest place on earth; why not make it more beautiful?" And he did.
The Fields Project is an all-volunteer organization made up of artists, art lovers, farmers, business owners, educators and community leaders. In any given year it takes approximately 200 volunteers to implement the nine-day event.
Oregon, Illinois is a community of about 4,000 inhabitants, and is nestled in the scenic Rock River Valley amid sandstone outcroppings, three state parks, one state forest, prairies, farmland and wild life.