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Large Art Celebrating Small Farms

An Art installation in Four Parts taking place in the Columbia River Gorge

  How this Project Came About

"With traditional small family farms under tremendous pressure from expanding suburbs and large agribusiness,

I wanted to bring attention to this issue.  My background as a commercial artist and arts organizer all came to bear

in bringing this project forward.   Farms and especially community supported agriculture have held my interest

over the years and for the last three years I had organized a Columbia Gorge Open Studios Tour to bring artists

and the public together. Working with organizations and bringing people from different walks of life was something

I wanted to continue.  The fruit ladders I saw driving around the orchards in my neighborhood seemed like the perfect

way to create art using a beautiful agricultural tool.

I imagined these ladders taken out of their usual workplace setting and painted in bright colors.  A line of them running

alongside major highways would generate interest and curiosity, I reasoned.  A group art show would be a good way

of bringing together artists, farmers and the public together. 

The two art pieces - ladders and group show - could move together from one area to another, generating interest from locals

and travelers alike. I hope this art project brings together artists, farmers and the general public to consider what is important

about family farms and eating locally and to have some fun at the same time.  The ladders symbolize aspiration, raising people

from one level to another, as I hope this project will do."

John Maher



Running Fruit Ladders

Project  Description

Dozens of wooden fruit ladders, painted in bright colors will appear alongside major highways

in the Columbia River Gorge in these temporary installations. This is large art, covering about 1/2 mile along major roadways

to celebrate small farms and bring art to the public.

The ladders will appear in four installations along the route. 

The first installation will be along Highway 35 in Hood River. (see:The Gorge White House)  

The second along Interstate I-84 near Mosier,

then near The Dalles Oregon see: Gorge Discovery Center,

followed by highway 97 near Goldendale see: Maryhill Museum in Washington state.


An art show call "Running Fruit Ladders - The Inside Edition"curated by Lee Musgrave, will feature

family farms and locally grown foods themes, see: The Dalles Art Center, and will be shown concurrently with the July outside installation at the Discovery Center during the month of July. See: Discovery Center.


      Ladder Painting by The Dalles High School Art Students

The ladders installation is art without walls. The project aims to surprise, provoke and delight drivers on the busy interstate highway – to shake them out of their usual routine and to help them experience their journey with fresh eyes. Moving these utilitarian objects out of the orchard and into an art context will emphasize the grace and beauty of their form. Varied heights and colors will evoke a sense of rhythm. Their placement will imply movement, perhaps running or dance.  These hardworking objects will get to display their playful side.

A celebration of small family farms and the need for their preservation will be the result of the “Running Fruit Ladders” art project.  The area’s farmers,  fruit growers, artists, citizens and travelers will all be a part of this large scale art installation and show.

The title “Running Fruit Ladders" pays homage to Christo’s “Running Fences” project in Marin County California in the eighties.  The ladders themselves symbolize the human need to aspire, the struggle to rise above our circumstances and climb to higher levels.  The ladders also bring together our regions’ economic tradition of agriculture and the “running” lines echo the currents in the nearby Columbia River, the lifeblood of the region for thousands of years.



Public awareness of the plight of small family farms, through magazine and news articles, would be the outcome of this project. .  Arts in the Gorge would also be promoted, with increased awareness of art in the Gorge through the large scale ladders installation.   Tourism agencies would be interested in partnering with this project for out of the region promotion.  The public at large would benefit by engaging with the art without having to leave their cars.  

The drawing together of the community through a heightened awareness of the plight of small family farms is the object of this art piece.