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Refugia of the Blue Mountains Exhibit by Robin Coen & Marina Richie

June 13, 2025

Peering from the Prairie – Five Burrowing Owls seem to daydream on a summer’s day. But they are alert to every rustle of lizards, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mice, beetles, and the slide of a small snake. Hunters of day and night, the tiny, long-legged owls take shelter and nest within underground burrows dug by badgers and other animals. In the center of the Zumwalt Prairie, Burrowing Owls grace the day with their round, golden-eyed gaze.

Exhibit Open 6/13 – 7/28 2025

Opening Reception Friday June 13th 7-9pm

 

Refugia of the Blue Mountains Exhibit

Watercolor artist Robin Coen and award-winning author Marina Richie have collaborated to create an exhibit of images and poetic narratives to send a message of compassion and solidarity with the natural world. Together we hope to inspire others to join us in preserving refugia-the wild heart of the Blue Mountains.

What is Refugia?

From vast wildlands to tiny habitat pockets, refugia translates to safe havens and corridors for native plants and wildlife to survive dramatic climate changes. These places of refuge are essential for the future of life on this precious blue jewel of a planet.

Nestled between the Rockies and the Cascades, the Blue Mountains offer some of the last best refugia in the West and critical linkages for wildlife to move and find cooler homes as the climate warms up.

We invite you to take a journey into the Blue Mountains!

It is Oregon’s largest ecoregion and is a wildlife mega-corridor. The Blue Mountains bridge the Rocky Mountains to the East, the Cascades to the West, and the Great Basin to the South.

The Blues are the ancestral lands of the Nez Perce, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and the Northern Paiute. They are home to the Blue Mountains Trail. They are your home.

Follow us deep into the mountains, forests, rivers, ecosystems and communities of Northeastern Oregon.

A Storied Wind Reveals the Way of Beauty – A sagebrush-scented wind whirls up from the mighty Snake River flowing free through Hells Canyon, deepest gorge in North America. Bighorn sheep rams poised on a dizzying bunchgrass slope raise their heads, alert to the breezed scents of animal and plant kin. Far below the bighorns, endangered Chinook salmon battle upriver to their home tributary—a journey from the ocean of more than 500 miles and past eight dams. Some will spawn in the wilderness-fed waters of the forest-lined Imnaha River. Above the bighorns, a golden eagle spirals ever higher on rising columns of warm air. Two backpackers on the canyon rim hold hands in twinned wonder. This is refugia. Home. Shelter. Headwaters. Places still big, wild, and connected for birds, animals, and native plants to cling to life and to move to cooler realms as our climate heats up. Places with dark skies and solitude. Places indigenous people have known since time immemorial — honoring the intricate web of life and the seasonal round in ways of reciprocity.

 

Robin Coen

Artist Statement, Robin Coen

My love of “all things wild” emerged while growing up on a cattle ranch in the Elkhorn Mountains of Eastern Oregon. I shadowed my father through days of fence-mending, irrigating fields and the occasional early morning horseback ride up the mountain to see the sunrise. My passion for nature and the West continues from my home in Boise and at the Good Bear Ranch (the family home place). Painting connects me to what matters most. The watercolors are not mine, any more than the landscapes or wild beings in them are mine. They are expressions of what has been given to me, to us, to all who care to see.

I am honored to be working with award-winning author Marina Richie who amplifies our message of compassion and solidarity with the natural world. Together, we hope to inspire others to join us in preserving refugia—the wild heart of the Blue Mountains. 

Dipping my brush to find the right color, I deepen my understanding of the natural world. I paint small local wildflowers with native pollinators on a large scale. Portraying local wildlife and landscapes, I strive to reveal intrinsic values as well as threats. I believe art can influence others toward a deeper understanding of our role in recovering planetary health. When I paint, I feel the boundary recede between myself and all that lives. The intrusive edges of modern culture soften. I am unwrapping a gift, looking into the face of a generosity that knows no bounds, and experiencing a kinship that has no end. I hope this collection of images and prose inspires compassion and generosity toward the earth and for all beings, both known and unknown, for we humans have much to learn.

 

More About Robin Coen

After earning a degree in Forest Engineering from the University of Washington, Robin worked as a sales executive and lived in several cities before returning to her beloved part of the world. In Boise, she focuses on her family, watercolor painting, gardening, and managing the Good Bear Ranch property in ways that are environmentally progressive for forest, water, and range. The family home is now a vacation rental (goodbearranch.com) and the retreat site for the Wild Blues Artist in Residence. Robin is on the Greater Hells Canyon Council Board of Directors.

Snow Vixen – Her demeanor may appear delicate as she gazes through frosted grass of late winter snow. Her perked ears listen for the pattering of a vole. Her nose catches every whiff. Fox is a hunter. In her earthen den are five hungry kits to feed.
Marina Richie


Author Statement, Marina Richie

I am humbled to put words to Robin Coen’s watercolors, which exquisitely express the theme of Refugia of the Blue Mountains. Her paintings are so alive you can almost hear the rush of the free-flowing Imnaha River or the wind sifting through five-needle clusters of the oldest limber pine. Robin’s paintings remind me of why I write prose and poetry. I strive to connect people to the natural world—to be curious, to find the peace of wild things, and to speak up for all who converse in the languages of kingfisher, beaver, pika, marten, wolverine, salmon, and hummingbird.

Observing the intricacy of wild animal lives in wild places inspires my writing. Everywhere are relationships that are highly evolved over the eons, and many in concert with wildfire, wind, and floods. In this era of climate crisis and mass extinction, it’s critical to cut fossil fuel emissions and protect our carbon-storing and biodiversity-sheltering forests and other wildlands.

Refugia of the Blue Mountains brings the wilds to the people—and we hope motivates you to experience the wilds, whether observing a butterfly, sipping nectar from a native wildflower near home, or out hiking on the Blue Mountains Trail. 

 

Swimming the Gauntlet – Since time immemorial, salmon have shaped the culture and lives of indigenous peoples. What we do today to save salmon is a gift for many generations. The cyclical rhythms of salmon remind us we are one small part of circulating life. Our work is to flow and not impede passage.

More about Marina Richie

Marina is the author of Halcyon Journey, In Search of the Belted Kingfisher, winner of the 2024 John Burroughs Medal and a 2022 National Outdoor Book Award. Since residing in northeast Oregon in the 1980s and then writing an investigative journalism thesis focused on Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, she’s felt a deep connection to the Blue Mountains. After living in Montana for several decades, Marina returned first to La Grande in 2016 and a year later settled in Bend, Oregon. She’s served on the board of the Greater Hells Canyon Council since 2016.  A hiker, backpacker, and birder, she also tends a pollinator and bird-friendly yard.

 

In addition to Halcyon Journey, Marina has authored two children’s books, Bird Feats of Montana and Bug Feats of Montana. She’s worked as a journalist, writer of interpretive signs, wildlife viewing coordinator, and the communications director for the Sage Grouse Initiative. Her articles, essays, and poetry appear in literary and popular magazines, blogs, newspapers, and three book collections. She earned a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Montana and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Oregon. To read her bi-monthly blog “Kingfisher Journey” and learn more, visit her website: www.marinarichie.com

 

Spirit Lifter – Go to the realm of the Golden Eagle, from the free-flowing Snake River to the highest cliffs and escarpments. Hells Canyon—deepest gorge in North America—is refugia for this mighty raptor of see-forever wildlands and wild rivers. Lift your spirits here.



Details

Date:
June 13, 2025
Event Category:

Organizer

Arianna Olsen
Phone
541-432-0505 x2
Email
exhibits@josephy.org

Venue

Josephy Center for Arts & Culture
403 N Main St
Joseph, OR 97846 United States
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