Confluence Project in transition

Director takes over as nonprofit faces new address, focus

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter




Completed sites

• Vancouver Land Bridge

• Sandy River Delta (Troutdale, Ore.)

• Sacajawea State Park (Pasco)

• Cape Disappointment State Park (Ilwaco)

To be completed

• Chief Timothy Park (Clarkston), in 2015

• Celilo Park (The Dalles, Ore.), in 2016

To help

• The Confluence Project just kicked off its Continuing Confluence Contributor campaign to enlist regional support. Go to

During his radio career, Colin Fogarty liked to tell stories about Northwest history.

Now he has a different way to share those stories, as head of the Confluence Project.

The longtime public radio journalist was named executive director of the Vancouver-based nonprofit in February. He succeeded Jane Jacobsen, who left after 12 years as the founding executive director.

Fogarty is taking over just as the Confluence Project heads into a transitional phase, including a partnership with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The Confluence Project is moving its office into the historic Pilots' Headquarters Building, just west of Pearson Air Museum and next to the Chkalov flight monument. The move will put the organization in good position to shift its focus in a couple of years.

The Confluence Project, which explores the confluences of art, culture and history along the Columbia River system, is best known for its series of outdoor art installations. Four are finished, including the Vancouver Land Bridge that connects the fort site with the Columbia River. That leaves two to go, near Clarkston and at Celilo Park near The Dalles, Ore.

"We've been focused on raising money to build," Fogarty said during a recent walk on the Land Bridge. "Hopefully, we are two years away from ending that."

And at the point, "We need to transition to programming," Fogarty said.

"A lot of people assume we build these things and give them away," he said. "But it became clear that we have to manage them as one work of art in six places."

In the next phase, the Confluence Project and its partners will be storytellers of the Columbia River region. It's a role that appeals to Fogarty.

As an OPB radio reporter and Northwest News Network editor, "The stories I was drawn to had to do with history, and the role it has in our lives," Fogarty said. When the Confluence Project job came open, "It seemed like a fascinating idea."

In a Confluence Project news release, Jacobsen said she was confident that Fogarty will provide excellent leadership as the building phase is completed and the organization "moves forward into a new phase of stewardship and programming."

The agreement with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is a big part of that. It includes annual educational events like the Confluence Project's "Gifts from Our Ancestors" program. It connects Northwest Indian artists and storytellers with students in hands-on projects based on the Columbia River system.

The expanded partnership "seemed a natural fit," said Tracy Fortmann, Fort Vancouver superintendent.

"It gives us the opportunity to raise our visibility," Fogarty said.

That could result in expanded interpretive opportunities, like walking tours this summer from the "workers village" across the Land Bridge to the Columbia River.

"We have on occasion had rangers do impromptu tours," Fortmann said, but Fort Vancouver doesn't have the staffing to make it a regular feature.

The Confluence Project and Fort Vancouver also are interested in developing exhibits together.