W ILSONVILLE SPOKESMAN, August 14, 2001, page 2
Drawing upon History: Former Wilsonville teacher sketches and learns from old
BY CINDY GARRISON
When old buildings talk, Alice Cotton listens. And she passes along what they
have to say about us, our community and our history.
Cotton has authored a new book called "When Buildings Speak." And this
week, she'll give a lecture on unique buildings in the Portland area, including
one in the Wilsonville area.
Cotton will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2 at the Clackamas County Visitor Information
Center, 29600 S.W. Park Place. The presentation, which is free, is being held
in conjunction with the Wilsonville Community Walk, set for Aug. 11.
Both events will benefit the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society. The
group would like to establish a permanent historical museum in Wilsonville. Donations
to the historical society will be accepted at the lecture.
"I want to inspire people about the preservation of historical architecture,
to get them excited and carry that energy to the historical society's project."
The historical society is trying to raise money for a building to house local
Attendees can learn about Oregon history through the buildings Cotton has drawn.
They will learn about architecture as an art form, what it means and how these
buildings can answer some profound questions about ourselves, Cotton said.
"These buildings came from an era when people still cared about the space
the buildings represented," Cotton said. "They connect us with our past
which deepens our feelings about our community."
Cotton expressed her concern about the lack of a feeling of community in the world
at this time, and she explained the old buildings could help bring back that sense
One building in Cotton's book is the Barlow House on Highway 99E in Barlow. The
Barlow home has very important links to Oregon history, according to Cotton.
"In my world, I see there's a problem," said Cotton. "I want this
(architecture) in my world. These buildings show you and tell you how it should
be. It's important for people to save this history and be reminded of it, so we
can make a difference in our environment."
There are a variety of ways in which buildings communicate, Cotton said. They
communicate visually, by touch, mathematically, through their presence or feeling.
and on a historical level. Artistically, they communicate through visual and sculptural
mediums. With sounds they communicate through auditory senses and through olfactory
senses with their smells.
Cotton began drawing historical architecture when she lived in New Orleans and
began concocting pen and ink drawings of local buildings. She was coached there
by local artists, and sold her original work.
"I just started drawing the buildings because they were there, and they were
so beautiful," she said. "New Orleans is so rich with old, evocative
Cotton has taken architecture graphics classes at Portland Community College.
Some local residents may know her, because she taught fifth grade for eight years
at Wilsonville Primary School. During that time. she got the idea of mixing art
and math for the children. "That started me thinking about architecture again,"
she said. "I got excited, so I took the idea to the math learning center
at Portland State University and started a class for teachers. It was called Artistic
Expression of the Mathematical Idea."
She started looking for examples of buildings to inspire creativity.
"They're here. They're all over, but they're hard to find, so I went to look
for them," she said.
She started creating a book. With 30 rolls of film, she picked twenty historic
buildings in the Portland area, conducted some research and wrote something about
each one. She included facts and her own perspective of each building. That has
become "When Buildings Speak."
Working on the book helped Cotton realize why architecture was so intriguing to
"I finally figured it out," she said. "I researched the roots of
architecture, and I discovered at one time art, math and science were all one
thing--like I believed it should be in the classroom."