Bill Hoppe strides through a large art studio wearing blue jeans and a black sweater, white hair rakishly curled across his brow. His office is tucked into a corner of the Pence Building at Central Oregon Community College, and it's full to capacity with giant canvases of original work, as well as gifts from students. He clears space to show the design of "Love's Lost and Found," a sculpture to be co-created at WinterFest this weekend with the public and the Central Oregon Metal Artists Guild (COMAG).
This month, Hoppe is the juror of a gallery show, curating an upcoming exhibition, creating original work in his studio, guiding a collaborative public art sculpture and teaching art at COCC. At 70, the artist and professor is able to count thousands of former students. In his early years, he was a young art teacher and head of the gallery at Reed College, and chair of the exhibition committee at the Portland Center for the Visual Arts. Later, he went on to a long and successful career as an artist in Seattle, San Francisco and New York, where his brother was a playwright.
"I am very happy I chose a creative life," says Hoppe. "I feel very fulfilled."
Regarding "Love's Lost and Found," Hoppe explains the inspiration for the design came from an 11th Century Indian manuscript. The image of repeating squares at angles to one another was used as a mourning tool, writing the name of a love lost over and over again in between the lines. "I've always wanted to do something with it," says Hoppe.
The collaborative art piece between Hoppe, COMAG and the public will be created at WinterFest this weekend. People are invited to choose either a love lost or a love found to include, by hammering initials into pieces of metal that will be riveted together in chains and attached to the sculpture. The left side is for love lost and the right side is for love found. "I have more experience with the left side," says Hoppe. His first love lost was Agnes, at age 23, and that will be just one of the names he includes on the sculpture.
"I spent years alone raising a daughter," says Hoppe "and my forays into romance were not very successful." Fifteen years ago, a teaching position at COCC brought Hoppe to Bend. At the time, as a single father raising his daughter Maxamaris, he fell in love with the city and the two decided to make it their home.
Hoppe's world changed in Bend and today he shares his life with creative director Karin Roy. His zest for life includes challenging himself to new experiences. "I just started cross country skiing at age 65," he says.
"Love's Lost and Found" will have a permanent home in Bend as public art. All are welcome to include a love lost or a love found in permanent remembrance. Which side will be more popular? Hoppe says, "We'll see, it's up to the public."
Love's Lost and Found
WinterFest, 344 Shevlin-Hixon Dr., Bend
Festival admission: $10 adv., $12 door