((L-R) Fossil Bed Blues by Pamela Claflin, Three Sisters by Robert Moore, Summit Prairie by Robert Moore and Quakie King by Tyler Saunders)
Artist Pamela Claflin had already started up a gallery that became one of Bend’s most successful during her 19-year ownership. So why, after taking a decade away from that highly competitive world, would she decide to do it all over again — but this time in Prineville, a town better known for ranching and farming than fine arts?
First, some background. Claflin declared to herself as a teenager that “I am going to be an artist.” And once having set this goal, she pursued it through marriage, relocation, divorce, and raising two sons as a single mother.
Her second ambition, no less daunting, was to become a gallery owner. And she accomplished that with equal determination — first by running a gallery in Bend before accepting an offer to buy an existing gallery in Sisters.
Choosing the name Mockingbird Gallery, Claflin — who “had never owned a business before” — moved from selling prints to selling originals, along with bronzes, during the next four years.
But Bend always beckoned, eventually leading her into a remodeled building and a space that cost triple what Claflin had been paying due to its prime location on Wall Street. She subsequently took on additional square footage in the same building that was better situated to draw in foot traffic, designed it to her own specifications, and tripled Mockingbird’s sales that first year.
Aptly describing herself as a “run-it-yourself business lady,” Claflin doubled and doubled sales again each of the following two years — reaching the seven-figure mark during her 19-year ownership tenure.
This success took a toll, as her mother’s declining health had Claflin juggling caregiving, her own painting (a constant throughout these years), being in shows and national competitions, and running Mockingbird Gallery. “I got so tired that I finally gathered my artists, and told them that ‘I can’t keep doing this.’”
Through word of mouth alone, Claflin found an artistically compatible couple to buy Mockingbird Gallery, admitting, however, that “It was so hard to let go of my dream. But Mom was more important.”
And now the Prineville chapter of Claflin’s entrepreneurial saga. After Claflin’s mother passed away, Claflin ended up buying a home in Prineville, where she had lived as a child, and devoted herself to painting. “But painting fulltime is so reclusive,” she said. “it was driving me crazy, and I missed the people, the artists, and the excitement of the gallery world.”
Going back to Bend, however, wasn’t an option. “I wanted a small town, not a big city,” she said. “And I was living where I wanted to live.”
The building Claflin decided to lease, previously a pool and spa store, “was a mess, with the ceilings and floors torn out.” So she again designed the space to her own specifications, down to the pedestals.
According to Claflin, “because of my experience in the art world, and as a gallery owner, I was able to pick up the phone and call artists I knew — all of whom agreed to be in my new gallery.”
Rimrock Gallery — which celebrates its fourth anniversary this month — currently represents 24 award-winning painters and bronze sculptors from the Pacific Northwest, the United States, and Canada. Said Claflin’s son Craig Harvey, “The artists are here because of my mom — not the gallery’s location — which speaks volumes about who she is. Her wait list is a mile long.”
No less a testimony to Claflin’s acumen is her wide-ranging clientele. A strong believer in print advertising, “I really concentrate on all of Central Oregon,” she explained, “and am getting a lot of people who are moving here from other places — including California, Colorado and Texas.” Claflin also produces a newsletter, and stages 2nd Saturday openings that feature specific artists.
Throughout her time as a gallery owner in Sisters, Bend, and now Prineville, Clafliin has continued to paint. “Very few people can pull that off,” commented her son. He added: “I’m incredibly proud of my mother, who has worked so hard to accomplish what she has accomplished. It’s neat to see someone succeed in life at something they love.”
For her part, Clafliin said that “I didn’t even think about not being successful. I knew I could do it — I’ve done it before. And I wanted to see Prineville grow and enrich itself. Rimrock Gallery is my gift to the community.”