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Rick Bartow papers

Identifier: WUA126

Scope and Contents

The Rick Bartow papers document the art career and life of Rick Bartow from 1955 to 2016. Series I (Art career) contains gallery exhibition fliers, correspondence, resumes, artist statements, catalogues of Bartow’s works, publicity articles about Bartow and his art, and records of awards and fellowships. Series II (Personal records) includes drawings and correspondence from Bartow’s children and grandchildren, CDs and posters for Bartow’s bands, clothing and glasses, and an extensive collection of Bartow’s art supplies and tools. Series III (Correspondence) contains art-related correspondence concerning art purchases and exhibitions and personal correspondence with family, friends, and other artists including D. E. May, Tom Cramer, and John Bevan Ford. Series IV (Photographs and slides) contains photographs of Bartow, his family, and other artists as well as slides of Bartow’s art from the Froelick Gallery and the Jamison/Thomas Gallery. Series V (Books and periodicals) includes various books and magazines that were important to Bartow and represent his personal library.


  • 1955-2018


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical / Historical

Rick Bartow was a prolific Native American artist and blues and rock musician who lived and worked primarily in Newport, Oregon. He was a member of the Mad River Band of Wiyot Indians, an indigenous tribe of northern California, and maintained close ties with the Siletz tribe. Bartow was born on December 16, 1946 and died on April 2, 2016 from congestive heart failure.

In 1969, Bartow earned a Bachelor of Arts in secondary art education from Western Oregon State, now known as Western Oregon University. Before he could begin teaching, he was drafted into the Vietnam War, where he served from 1969 to 1971 as a teletype operator and musician in military hospitals. His traumatic military service experiences often influenced his art and music.

Bartow’s art career began with exhibitions at galleries in Newport, Oregon. In 1985 he was selected for a solo exhibition at Jamison/Thomas Gallery in Portland, Oregon. He exhibited at Jamison’s galleries in Portland and New York until Jamison's death in 1995. Bartow was then represented by Charles Froelick of Froelick Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Bartow's work can be found in museum collections throughout the United States including the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York; the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts; the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana; the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC; the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon; the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon; and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.

Bartow worked in a variety of media and created small and large scale art. His 26-foot tall carving The Cedar Mill Pole was displayed in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House in 1997. Bartow's pair of 20-foot tall cedar sculptures We Were Always Here were commissioned by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Dedicated on September 21, 2012, the sculptures are on display on the northwest corner of the museum overlooking the National Mall, across from the Washington Monument.

Bartow’s 35-year career as an artist was celebrated through the retrospective exhibition “Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” which traveled through various museums in the United States from 2015 to 2019. This exhibition opened in April 2015 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon and continued to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma; North Dakota Museum Of Art In Grand Forks, North Dakota; IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; Washington State University in Pullman, Washington; The Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho; the Schingoethe Center of Aurora University Aurora, Illinois; the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California; the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon; and the C. N. Gorman Museum at UC Davis, Davis, California.


23 Linear Feet (48 boxes)


The Rick Bartow papers document the art career and personal life of Rick Bartow from 1955-2016. This collection includes extensive materials concerning Bartow’s relationships with three Oregon galleries: Jamison-Thomas Gallery, Froelick Gallery, and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. It also includes sketchbooks and loose sketches, personal and art-related correspondence, family records, photographs and slides of Bartow’s art, and materials related to Bartow’s music and bands - Bartow and the Snub-Nosed Dullards and Bartow and the Backseat Drivers.


The Rick Bartow papers are arranged in six series, three of which have been further arranged into subseries. The contents of each series or subseries are arranged in original order and chronological order. The series and subseries arrangement of the papers is as follows: I. Art career, A. Jamison - Thomas Gallery, B. Froelick Gallery, C. Hallie Ford Museum of Art, D. Exhibitions, E. Art and sketchbooks, F. Awards and fellowships, and G. Publicity. II. Personal records, A. Family records, B. Music and writing, and C. Ephemera. III. Correspondence, A. Art-related and B. Personal. IV. Photographs and slides, V. Books and periodicals, VI. Oral history.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library
Guide to the Rick Bartow papers, 1955-2018
Additions to the finding aid processed by Stephanie Milne-Lane. Finding aid originally processed by Jennifer L. Gehringer.
© 2019
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Processed with funds provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission's (NHPRC) Access to Historical Records grant.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States