About Us

How We Began

In 2002 the community of Albany, Oregon became interested in creating a hand carved carousel similar to projects recently completed in Missoula, Montana and Salem, Oregon. As a matter of fact it was a visit to Missoula by our board president, Wendy Kirby, that brought the idea of a carousel to Albany. Wendy was attending an Altrusa conference there where the carousel Missoula had done as a part of their downtown’s revitalization was one of that conference’s presentations. This was the spark that began Albany’s journey toward creating truly a one of a kind carousel!

Our Vision Statement

Our project’s Vision is to “enchant young and old alike with the finest carousel in the world, promote the artistry of carousel building by sharing our skills and talents and build community by opening our venue to events and activities”. With this Vision in mind we opened our carving and painting studio to anyone from the age of fourteen and up regardless of skill or background and began the process of getting animals adopted, carved, and painted.

Details About The Carousel

This carousel will have 52 animals and, being a menagerie style unit, will have a variety of animals ranging from a seven foot plus tall giraffe, to dogs, cats, zebras, unicorns, dragons, and yes, even lions, tigers, and bears, (oh my just to name a few)! The animals will be situated on three rows where the outside (large animals) will be standers while the middle and inside row animals (medium and small sized respectively) will be jumpers. Each row will also have two replacement animals and we also have five seasonal animals planned, bringing our total to sixty-three animals.

We also were fortunate to have a 1909 Dentzel Carousel Corporation mechanism donated to our project. Our initial plan was to purchase a new mechanism that would hold 32 animals. However, Bill Dentzel who is the great grandson of Gustav Dentzel, the founder of Dentzel Carousel Corporation, heard of our project and arranged for an antique mechanism to be donated to us. We owe a great debt of gratitude to both Bill Dentzel and the American Carousel Association, who in fact owned the mechanism prior to it being donated to our project through Bill Dentzel.

Our mechanism has taken over ten years to restore to working order. The lead engineer on this aspect of the project is Carl Baker, who with a fine crew of volunteers has done a fantastic job in turning this truckload of “oh my word, what have we gotten ourselves into” into the marvel it is today! In fact, the mechanism is now fully operational and temporarily set up at an alternative work site in North Albany – way to go Carl and crew!

The Project's Intent

One intent of this project is to be one of the anchor attractions/businesses encompassed within and supporting Albany’s downtown revitalization effort. The other intent is to be a hub of community giving and family and community activity. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit we seek to give back to the community that supports us. We teach carving and painting skills, offer tours to school, senior and every group in between, we provide community service opportunities to school and other civic needs programs, we provide an outlet for volunteer minded community members as well as for those drawn to artistic endeavors. We are an anchor business for Albany’s downtown revitalization effort, we offer a carousel museum for those with a love of all things carousel past as well as a fantastic place for visitors from near and far to spend time creating their own family memories and falling in love with the highly personalized and detailed animals we are creating.

We offer these opportunities to a vast “community” that extends from Montana itself (where one of our volunteers travels two or three times a year to help carve on this project), to California and the Oregon coast (where other carvers “commute” from), to a larger base of local volunteers who regularly travel as far as 50 miles to contribute to this amazing project.

Getting Involved

Much of the carving taking place is done by individuals that have never carved a thing in their lives. For beginning carvers we loan out tools, start you on a beginning project, give brief introductory carving instruction and discuss safety, and we turn you loose! Everyone advances at their own pace and there is always somebody around that is willing to answer any question you might have. The painting is also performed by volunteers and, like the carvers, they start on beginning projects and advance at their own pace. We are using traditional carving techniques where everything is hand carved. We are also carving highly detailed true-to-life animals that match both the anatomy of the creatures they represent as well as the style of the Master Carvers of the Dentzel and other premier carousel manufacturers of the day.

The painting process is called “stippling” and it is time consuming and exacting. We use oil paints and document what paints are used where on each animal so when the time comes when an animal needs to be repaired we will have our paint mixtures for each animal at hand. We also have both a lead painter and carver who perform incredible work guiding the work of these volunteers.

Our museum is staffed by volunteer docents who spend time learning about our museum display pieces, informing the visiting public of the history behind those items, and speaking in general about the project. Sometimes docents even give tours of the project but only if that is within their personal comfort level.

We invite experienced carvers and painters to join us, and provide instruction for inexperienced volunteers into hand carving and painting techniques that were once common place but now considered “old-world” and we provide this to anyone over the age of 14 who demonstrates both the desire to learn and to adhere to our safety standards and general policies. We welcome anyone who wishes to volunteer as a Museum Docent and again, train these individuals about our project, how to give tours, and how to work in our gift shop. We provide the opportunity to meet new friends and learn new skills that will last a lifetime and even possibly inspire others in your life to participate in.

How We Operate

The Albany Historic Carousel and Museum is a private 501(c)(3) organization whose funding is primarily through sponsorships of the decorative elements of the carousel itself (animals, rounding boards, mirror panels, figurines, and chariots) as well as donations, grants, and other fund raising efforts. The city, too, has made forgivable loans from its Central Albany Revitalization Area (CARA) program for the purchase of the land on which the carousel building will be constructed as well as for architectural fees. Beyond the decorative elements of the carousel is the mechanical drive unit for the carousel and the new building that will be built to house the carousel complex. Funding options also exist for each of these elements of this project.

We extend our tax deductible fund-raising to those interested in carousels in general; to those with interest into the mechanical world since our antique mechanism is a finely tooled working piece of art as well as an amazing technical accomplishment to both create and now to restore considering its age; to those interested in teaching and providing new skills to a community; to those interested in volunteerism for we have over 200 active volunteers and our entire volunteer base has donated over 150,000 recorded hours over the past ten years to this project; to those interested in the redevelopment of a small and somewhat forgotten through time downtown of one of Oregon’s first cities of the Willamette Valley; to those interested in museums and preserving history which for us means both our downtown and the antique carousel mechanism as well as our growing family of antique animals; and to those interested in supporting a family friendly entertainment venue that caters to the community that supports it.

Our Success

The success of this project, including our numerous volunteers, our passionate visitors, as well as local, regional, and national media coverage is due to a multitude of factors. First is the initial spark and passion that brought the concept of a carousel to Albany. Next is the volunteers who have given over 150,000 recorded hours (and counting) of their time to making this carousel a reality. Then there is the passion of the community at large that supports this project in numerous ways ranging from “adopting” animals to word-of-mouth sharing of the fine detail and realism put into the carving and painting of our animals. Additionally is the “every day” support that ranges from donating necessary everyday supplies that help to keep us running to visitors who make gift shop purchases, make donations, and bring in family and friends to see our working studio and museum where all the animal magic occurs.

Media coverage for our project has been exceptional and includes local papers, regional news, Oregon Public Broadcasting who featured us on their program “Oregon Art Beat” (episode 1404), numerous documentaries that can be found on-line (mostly YouTube), right on to now being featured in Parade Magazine, which, on July 14th, will place our project in the 33 million served by 6oo of the countries newspapers.

Our Timeline

Carving began on this project in June of 2003 in a small store front next to City Hall in downtown Albany. Within two years we needed a larger studio and moved into a two story brick structure on Water Street. Within the next two years we had outgrown that space and began a search for a new place, hopefully a permanent home. Our goal was to be located within historic downtown Albany and the site we eventually found met our requirements and then some! In 2007 we moved to our new, and permanent home, on the west end of downtown Albany. Our current structure is insufficient for the needs of the carousel and its supporting elements which include the Museum, gift shop, carving and painting rooms, community and function rooms, a food court, and storage needs. We are in the process of raising funds specific to our new structure through our Capital Campaign project for the new building. Our hope is to have the fund raising complete and new building constructed within three years.

The People That Make It Possible

Voting Board Members

John Boock – Vice Chair

Mary Ellen Eagles – Secretary

Don Brudvig – Capital Campaign Chair

Sharon Edwards – Painter Liaison

Connie Lepin – Carver Liaison

Stella Reimers – Building Committee Chair

Linda Hart – Fundraising Co-Chair

Jenny Bouman – Fundraising Co-Chair

Ruth Sellon

Mary Morgan

Non-Voting Board Members

Gwenn Marchese – Lead Painter

Jack Giles – Lead Carver

Kurt Christensen – Lead Artist

Carl Baker – Mechanism Lead

Jenifer Weinmaster – Operations Director

Al Shattuck – Building Facility Manager

Gary Richards – Safety/Facilities Coordinator

Rebecca Bond – AVA Liaison

Capital Campaign Committee

Don Brudvig – Chair

Wendy Kirbey

Ron Loney

Mark McNabb

Dianne Neglay

Brian Oare

Dick Reid

Chris Scariano

Father Steve Soot

Skip Throop

Staff

Carl Baker – Mechanism Lead

Jack Giles – Lead Carver

Gwenn Marchese – Lead Painter