AREA: 5.811 square miles POPULATION: 22,780 INCORPORATED: 1889 FOUNDER: Ewing Young NAME: Named after Neuberg, Germany, the hometown of the city’s first postmaster, Sebastian Brutscher.
A quick drive through Newberg easily reveals the two major forces shaping life in Yamhill County’s easternmost city — the wine industry and George Fox University. However, barely under the surface lies another side of the county’s second-largest community, one growing in scale and drawing in more and more visitors by the year.
It’s Newberg’s art community.
“We have kind of a burgeoning art scene that’s been developing for a while,” explained Nate Travers, owner of Rendered, a custom screen-printing operation based in Newberg.
There are numerous ways to take in the arts in Newberg (dubbed “The Gateway to Oregon Wine Country”), but one of the easiest and most sociable happens on First Friday, where downtown businesses open their doors to display both the region’s art and wine to visitors and locals alike.
It’s more like a big, social gathering of the community,” Travers said. “We welcome people from all over to come, grab a drink, hang out. It runs pretty much all of downtown newberg, its a lot of fun.”
“It’s nice to have that kind of consistent art-focused event every month,” added Erin Padilla, Arts and Public Programming Coordinator for the Chehalem Cultural Center. “The whole community comes out and enjoys the artwork.”
The center, based in a former school building, acts as one of the driving forces in the community. The massive gallery space shows everything from local, emerging artists to pieces from middle and high schoolers centered on the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos to internationally renowned Japanese painter Makoto Fujimura, whose work hung in the gallery in 2014.
“He’s a contemporary artist who works in abstracts and who’s studied the traditional Japanese style of painting called nihonga,” Padilla explained. “He’s a master of that form, and it’s very exciting for us.”
The performing arts have a strong base in Newberg, too; with multiple theater companies, the long running Tunes on Tuesday summer concert series and year-round concerts the cultural center plans, Newberg is asserting itself as the arts capital of the Yamhill Valley and a destination for all manners of artwork in Western Oregon.
“We’re a happening spot for the arts,” Padilla said. “Hopefully, people are starting perceive that.”
Newberg’s downtown core, already a walkable, friendly business district, is about to become even more charming to visit on foot after a major change in traffic routing through town. The Oregon Department of Transportation is finishing the elderly awaited Newberg-Dundee Bypass, which will reroute Oregon Highway 99W around the south side of the city onto a grade-separated stretch that will rejoin the current alignment west of Dundee, removing a large percentage of through traffic and commercial vehicles.
“It’s been in talks for a while,” Travers said. “There’s been a strong revitalization effort downtown, because we know that once the bypass goes in, it is going to take a lot of traffic from here, but it’s bad traffic. It’s going to allow people to come here as a destination.”
The city’s downtown improvement plan estimates both Newberg and Dundee could see as much as a 70 percent reduction in freight traffic through downtown cores.
The city’s improvement plan is yet in its opening stages but will likely progress rapidly once the first phase of the bypass opens in late 2017.