Living Rock Studios invites visitors for holiday tours
Howard B. Taylor created The Living Rock Studios in Brownsville as a personal ministry, a way of revealing the glory of God in the mid-valley’s very rocks and trees.
So it makes perfect sense, said his daughter, Nancy Bergerson, to send a special invitation to the public to tour the 30-year-old museum during the Christmas holidays.
“Daddy wanted to showcase the local rocks and show the beauty of God’s creation in this local area,”said Bergerson, who co-owns the studios with sisters Penny Mackey of Albany and Gail Koozer of Newberg.
The Living Rock Studios is a two-story building made of petrified wood, agate and flagstone. Located at 911 W. Bishop Way in Brownsville, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Tuesday through Friday. Donations are accepted, but no admission is charged.
The museum will be open especially for the holidays from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight and two more Fridays, Dec. 11 and 18.
Children are invited to look for each of the 12 Bible verses tucked in and around the studios. All finders may choose a rock from the treasure chest to take home.
Bergerson and her sisters came up with the Christmas tour idea in 2012, during the heart of the recession.
“It was one of those years when everyone was losing their homes, everyone was losing their jobs … They weren’t coming to even look, because they didn’t have money to spend,” Bergerson said.
Even though admission is never charged, Bergerson said, people sometimes feel they need to contribute a donation for her time as tour guide.
“We thought, let’s do a free event when they can just come,” she said.
Even though The Living Rock Studios observed its 30th anniversary this past October, much of the mid-valley still doesn’t know it exists. “Half of Brownsville has never been here,” she quipped.
Bergerson relishes her role as guide and caretaker of her father’s legacy.
The family moved to Brownsville in 1952. A surveyor and forester for a local lumber mill, Taylor spent much of his time outdoors and had access to multiple sites where agates, petrified wood and other natural treasures could be found.
In 1985, he built Living Rock, complete with a soaring “Tree of Life” made of petrified wood and spiraling hallways of stone, agate and crystal.
“He estimates we have 800 ton of decorative rock in the building,” Bergerson said.
Visitors can see hundreds of timeless artifacts throughout the building, including an antique pump organ, Indian artifacts, photographs and heirlooms from the family’s pioneer ancestors and Taylor’s 114 paintings of birds of prey.
The real treasures, however, are the rocks themselves. Visitors can use flashlights to illuminate fist-sized crystals or create a glow in agates bigger than grapefruits. Bergerson will points out sections of scoria — “Foamy stuff off the lava,” she explains — just around the corner from a thunderegg the size of a beach ball.
The highlight of the tour are the seven Living Rock paintings. Taylor created a series of rock “paintings” of various Biblical scenes, using wafer-thin slices of marble, jade, obsidian, sand agate and other rocks, glued mosaic-style to a sheet of glass and illuminated from behind.
Each painting bears a full description and a family statement about the artwork. “The hard times in our lives,” one reads, “are often the growing times of our faith. And our faith makes us worthy servants of God,” Taylor wrote.
Faith is what keeps The Living Rock Studios going, said Bergerson. “I’ve asked the Lord for 10 more years,” she said.
After that, she doesn’t know. Nobody in the family so far has expressed an interest in maintaining it. Anyone who would be interested would need to abide by the family’s wish to keep it a ministry, Bergerson said.
“That’s what Daddy built it for, was to glorify the Lord,” she said.
Article by Jennifer Moody for the Albany Democrat-Herald, published on December 03, 2015.