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One Siberian Bear in Oregon

There are approximately 30,000 black bears in Oregon — plus one Siberian bear! The Sister City Bear created in 2003 by Janet Higgins is part of the Grants Pass BearFest. It commemorates the Sister City relationship between Grants Pass, Oregon and Rubtsovsk, Russia, now nearly in its 30th year.

Like Grants Pass, Rubtsovsk has a river and bridges.

The Grants Pass Sister City Committee was formed in 1990, after white-water rafters from Rubtsovsk and Grants Pass met at an international competition in Siberia during the late years of the Cold War.

The Sister City Bear is illuminated with scenes from Rubtsovsk.

Artist Janet Higgins is a graduate of UC Berkeley. She has taught sculpture at Rogue Community College and has a number of public art pieces in the city of Grants Pass. Janet has also participated in a number of Evergreen Bank’s projects including Bearfest.

Agriculture is an important part of the economy.

Originally created in 2003, Evergreen introduced BearFest with 20 life-sized, fiberglass bears displayed as public artwork in downtown Grants Pass. The bears were such a hit that Evergreen commissioned local artists to create more bears in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2014-today.

Throughout BearFest over 182 bears have been created. Half of the bears have been auctioned to raise over $250,000 for local nonprofits. Evergreen shares the remaining bears as public artwork that can be seen on the streets of Grants Pass during the summer and at Evergreen’s Bear Hotel the rest of the year.

Matryoshka dolls, a popular souvenir for Russians and Americans.

Rubtsovsk is in southern Siberia, four time zones east of Moscow, near the point where Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan and Russia meet. It has a population of about 150,000 people and was founded in 1892.  It was built on the Siberian steppe (plains), where rich black soil produces wheat, sunflowers (for cooking oil), and grazing for dairy cattle. Not far from the rugged Altai Mountains to the south where rich mineral ores are found, it became a manufacturing center in the mid-20th century.

The Rubtsovsk Sister City Bear by artist Janet Higgins 2003

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