Art and write-up by McMenamins artist Kolieha Bush
My trip to the White Bird Clinic was an inspiring and eye-opening experience. I’ve known of White Bird since the late 1970s as the medical and first aid booth at the Oregon Country Fair each year. I also saw them providing their services during the Further Festival at McMenamins Edgefield.
I did not know that that they did more than that. I had no idea that “Rock Medicine” was one of the ways White Bird raises money to fund all the other programs they provide for the Eugene community.
Ben Brubaker, the director of White Bird, took my friend and me on a tour of all the facilities. I was given information about its 50-year history and where it began.
The bluish-gray steeply gabled house on the far left of the painting with the address 738 Lincoln St. was the first location for White Bird. It started as a place where counter-culture and disenfranchised individuals could talk to someone in a safe place if they were too high or just having a hard time.
This initial volunteer group established a 24/7 clinic and call-in hotline that continues to this day. White Bird has expanded to operate multiple, crucial medical and mental health programs. It is a grassroots collective that operates by consensus.
They moved from Lincoln St. to the well-used blue-and-white bungalow house depicted on the right with the people on the stairs. It is now the main hub of White Bird Clinic. Called the Front Rooms, anyone needing assistance can go there for information. The Front Rooms provides an address and phone number for homeless people to use so they can receive mail, messages, and make appointments.
The beige building to the left of the Front Rooms is the Chrysalis House, which has services for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
To the left of the large central figure with outstretched arms is the Little Wing White Bird medical booth at the Oregon Country Fair. Standing in front of the booth is Chuck Gerard. Chuck was a long-time, much-loved member of the White Bird collective who passed away in 2019.
Another cherished volunteer who is no longer with us was Hershel Bloom, who passed away in 2016. He is shown with an upraised fist. He always had a sketchbook at hand during White Bird’s communication skills workshops. One of his sketches is shown in the upper-left corner, portraying seven workshop attendees. Hershel’s quirky philosophy and dedication was highly influential to the group.
Below Hershel’s sketch is the unusual, round building that is the medical facility. The newly remodeled dental clinic is shown to the left of the medical building.
Below the dental clinic is the beautiful Craftsman-style home that houses the Community Crisis Center. It provides counseling services and a calm space for people in crisis. On the very left under the Lincoln St. house is the stuccoed Homeless Advocacy House.
The white CAHOOTS van is one of a small White Bird fleet. CAHOOTS stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets. This program assists people in crisis before police intervention becomes necessary. CAHOOTS is a skilled corps of people who bring calming energy to situations that could easily become volatile. This is a very successful collaboration with local law enforcement and is being used as a model for other cities.
Helping Out Our Teens in Schools, HOOTS, is another ongoing outreach program that White Bird provides for schoolkids dealing with difficult life situations. This is depicted in the emblem in the far lower right.
The stained-glass windows, the hanging lamp, and the rose-colored couch are actual elements from the houses. The welcoming woman in the center with the dove perched on her arm represents the overall compassion and dedication I experienced touring the many facets of White Bird.
The tall kid looking over his shoulder with the backpack is asking, “Is this the place?”
I used photo references for the people in this painting, but did not strive for likenesses, except for Chuck and Hershel. There have been so many amazing people involved with White Bird over the years that I didn’t want to choose anyone over anybody else to portray.
Along the bottom… Ben Brubaker’s desk upstairs in the main clinic house, one of the stained-glass windows, a list of all the services provided by White Bird, a counseling session, White Bird’s mission statement, and finally, their fundraising Cleveland Chicken booth at the Oregon Country Fair.
While on the tour outside the Community Crisis Center, a strong wind came up and pelted us with acorns from the large oak tree. That tree is depicted in the upper right corner and one of its acorns is somewhere in the painting.
White Bird’s slogan – Until the Revolution – represents their commitment to service until society has evolved to fully take care of its own. Learn more and donate to: whitebirdclinic.org