The creation of an arts and culture commission for the City of Wilsonville was first proposed by area resident Theonie Gilmore at a meeting of the Wilsonville City Council in August, 1993. At the direction of the council, Gilmore, a retired music educator, founder of the Center for Endangered Arts – MUSIC, and longtime arts advocate, conducted a community-wide cultural assessment in a series of public meetings which took place at the Wilsonville Library in 1993 and 1994.
Following this outreach effort, the City of Wilsonville appointed an 8-member arts task force charged with exploring neighboring arts agencies and developing a strategic plan for establishing its own arts commission. Some of the members of this task force became the first Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council (WACC). They elected officers, developed bylaws (May, 1996) and registered as a tax exempt 501c3 organizational nonprofit corporation with the State of Oregon (December, 1996).
WACC’s first major event was the Wilsonville Boones Ferry Sesquicentennial in l997-l998. For this initiative, WACC commissioned a musical theatre work, telling the story of Boones Ferry. The piece was performed by the Wilsonville Theatre Company at the Frog Pond Grange. The ferry was built by the family of Alphonso Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone, who, in 1846, claimed 1,000 acres on and around present day Charbonneau, which was on the main road between Oregon City and present day Butteville. The family cleared a path and laid a split log roadway north to Portland and south toward Salem. The ferry was propelled by oarsmen from the nearby indigenous Tuality tribe. Additional details can be found at the wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boones_Ferry).
Founded by Christopher Shotola-Hardt, the first Wilsonville Festival of Arts (WFA) was held in June 1998, but WACC didn’t take over production of WFA until 2001. Since then, the annual early summer Wilsonville Festival of Arts has long been WACC’s signature production. In 1999 & 2000, WACC produced two December festivals (the Millennial Winter Lights Festival) to celebrate the dawning of the new millennium. These winter festivals were hosted at Frog Pond Church.
Since the early 2000s, WACC has sponsored a Senior scholarship to benefit one or more visual or performing arts students graduating from Wilsonville High School or Arts & Technologies High School. In 2016, the scholarship was renamed “The Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council White-Berry-Meekins Memorial Scholarship.” The scholarship honors the memories of three vital, former WACC board members: Dick White, Sandra Berry, and Ana Meekins, who have all passed away. The WLWV School District and its Fine & Performing arts programs have been represented on the board by Christopher Shotola-Hardt and Joan Carlson, but with their recent retirements from the district, Angennette Escobar & Troy Mathews now serve as WLWV liaisons.
WE, along with community friends and other community organizations like the Wilsonville chapter of the Rotary Club, celebrated the many contributions of our Founding WACC Director Theonie Gilmore at the 2019 Festival of Arts. Kit Whittaker, a long time friend of Theonie and WACC Board member, coordinated the festivities and community outreach for this event, along with then-WACC President, P.K. Melethil.
The Wilsonville Festival of Arts
Let us gather together
to experience the uniting powers
of artistic expression,
the wonders of the mind,
made manifest in our presence
and our hearts,
the miracle that makes us special
in the unity of community.
‒ Theonie Gilmore
WACC Founding Director (now Director Emeritus)