Apr 022016

Word is just beginning to make its way around the Newport area that one of its most treasured citizens has passed away after a lengthy illness. Word has come that Rick Bartow was surrounded by family and friends at his passing Saturday evening.

Mr Bartow, a nationally renowned and widely celebrated Native American artist for most of his 70 years on this Earth, was nationally acclaimed by the Smithsonian Institution in 2012 by commissioning him to produce a massive work of wood sculpture to tower above the entrance to the National Native American Museum in Washington DC.

Mr. Bartow was honored by the Newport City Council who congratulated him on that lifetime achievement. Here’s the story as it appeared in News Lincoln County that celebrated that evening in September of 2012.

Rick Bartow (L) Mable Mekemson (Rick's mother) C, Mayor Mark McConnell (R)

Rick Bartow (L) Mable Mekemson (Rick’s mother) (C), Mayor Mark McConnell (R)

Two large totems created by Rick Bartow that now stand in the National Government Mall in Washington D.C.

Two large totems created by Rick Bartow that now stand in the National Government Mall in Washington D.C.

In September of 2012, then Newport Mayor Mark McConnell read a proclamation recognizing local artist Rick Bartow for his life-long devotion to the arts and of his contribution to artistry as seen through the eyes of Native Americans, especially here in Pacific Northwest. His mother, Mable Mekemson, is pictured between Mr. Bartow and Mayor McConnell

Mr. Bartow was chosen by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. to contribute a defining piece of sculpture that will stand on the grounds of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. It will be among the first emblematic pieces that visitors will see as they approach and enter the museum.

These observations on Rick Bartow’s long and artistically productive life from Wikipedia:

Rick Elmer Bartow was born in Newport in December of 1946 to Mabel and Richard Bartow. His father’s family was of Yurok Indian descent of northwestern California. In Oregon, the family developed close ties with the local Siletz Indian community. When Rick was five, his father died. His non-Indian mother then married Andrew Mekemson, whom Bartow considers a beloved second father. He became interested in art at an early age, encouraged by his aunt Amy Bartow, who was studying art and art education at the University of Washington. His love for art continued through high school and extended to music when he took up the guitar and bongos.

Mr. Bartow attended Western Oregon University and graduated in 1969 with a degree in secondary art education. In 1969, he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. He served in the Vietnam war from 1969 to 1971 as a teletype operator and as a musician in a military hospital, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Mr. Bartow’s work can be found in several museum collections including the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts; Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana; the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC; the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon; the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; the de Saisset Museum; and the Portland Art Museum. In 2003 his works were exhibited at the George Gustav Heye Center, a branch of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.

Mr. Bartow’s carving The Cedar Mill Pole was displayed in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House in 1997. It had been designated one of the most highly regarded Native American public sculptures in the country. The pole was partially inspired by Bartow’s work with the Māori artist John Bevan Ford. Presented as a gift to the Portland, Oregon metropolitan community from Oregon’s Washington County and the Oregon College of Art and Craft, it was intended to help heal the controversy that surrounded an urban development project. The 26-foot-tall carving was created using one of the giant cedars that were removed for a road project.

Mr. Bartow’s monumental cedar sculptures “We Were Always Here” were commissioned by the Smithsonian National Museum, and sit on the Washington DC Mall, visually across from the Washington Monument, at the entrance to the National Museum of Indian Art. Dedicated on the autumn equinox, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 at 5:30 p.m., the towering works represent the pinnacle of Bartow’s accomplishments.

A man of national artistic stature and faithfulness to his roots and community, Rick Bartow will be missed by all who knew and admired him. But even those who didn’t know him will still be enriched by his artistic talents and vision, both for his Native American brothers and sisters, but also for those who seek to more fully appreciate those who were among the first original settlers throughout the North American continent. The majesty and the artistic insight revealed in Mr. Bartow’s life-long works will live on for generations upon generations of not only Americans, but especially for Native Americans still hungry to honor their traditions, cultural values and rituals that make every Native American tribe unique.

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