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It’s back to the drawing board once again for Columbia Center for the Arts in downtown Hood River, now entering its 18th year of operations. The arts center board of directors and a small group of community members are working to reinvent the organization and chart a path forward for full recovery after the pandemic-related shutdowns dealt a severe blow to the organization. Now operating with only one part-time staff member, down from a pre-pandemic staff of four full time people, the arts center is in dire need of rebuilding its volunteer rosters and is inviting new leadership to come forward to help plan the future of the non-profit community center.

“This is the perfect opportunity for a new beginning,” said Barbara Briggs, lead consultant for the Center’s strategic business planning project, now underway. “The name, Columbia Center for the Arts, speaks volumes. As a community arts center, it must focus on what the community wants and needs.” The effort to develop a new, community-driven business and operating plan for the Center is funded by grants from Union Pacific Railroad and the Oregon Cultural Trust.

The building, which houses a wonderful gallery, well equipped black box theatre and an open classroom space is owned outright by Columbia Arts, which launched a successful capital campaign in 2004. “Determining how to breathe life back into those spaces is the top priority,” said Genevieve Scholl, CCA board co-chair. “To find that out, we are asking a lot of questions of a lot of people about what they would like to see happening in the Arts Center.”

The first step involved engaging the community in discussions around how the arts center can best support arts experiences and expression. Because the center is a great facility asset in the community, outreach to groups in the gorge who may have ideas about use of the building will be a critical part of the public input process. Gaining input from the public has been achieved through public input roundtable sessions, online survey option and other outreach activities.

Outreach has included press releases in the local paper and sharing information with a variety of groups for their newsletters. We were on KIHR and Radio Tierra and talked with the Rotary and Lions Clubs, other arts organizations, and educators. More than 200 people shared their input through the online survey that closed on March 31st. Three in person outreach sessions were held at CCA in March as well as three Zoom sessions. About 90 people attended. All of the public input received is being reviewed and will be utilized to help inform the board of directors as they begin drafting the five year strategic plan.

More information about the process will be shared in coming weeks. To keep informed, enter your information below. We are currently sending intermittent email updates. Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

A great big thank you to the volunteers who are serving on the advisory committee: Abigail Elder, Desiree Amyx, Peter Cornelison, Ron Cohen, Leith Gaines and Irene Fields as well as the Board of Directors that include Genevieve Scholl, Judie Hanel, Ella Wolter, Jenny Harris, Linda Floyd, Tim Mayer and Cindy Walbridge. This group will help to guide the entire process as we work toward our goal of creating a strategic business for the Columbia Arts.

Thank you also to Union Pacific Railroad and Oregon Cultural Trust for funding this project.

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