Ora E. “Andy” Anderson (1911-2004) was both an honored proponent for the arts in Southeastern Ohio and an accomplished artist himself – he honed his craft as a wood carver over the course of 50 years in which he created more than 1,000 bird carvings.
He began his art career by carving bird decoys for hunting; he turned this hobby into a prolic side career carving songbirds, mostly out of basswood, and painting them in a realistic portrayal of the live specimens. He exhibited his carvings in a number of venues, including the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens.
Today the Dairy Barn is a cornerstone of the southeast Ohio arts scene, hosting juried exhibitions that showcase works by artists from around the world. But it almost never came to be. In 1977, the Dairy Barn was slated to be razed along with other building that were part of the grand but aging Athens Lunatic Asylum grounds (later known as the state mental hospital). Within little more than a week of the slated demolition, Harriet and Ora Anderson leapt into action and it is Ora’s personal plea to his friend, Gov. James A. Rhodes, that is credited with saving the barn from demolition. But that was just the first step. The Hocking Valley Arts Council – Harriet and Ora were core members – then raised the necessary funding to establish the arts center.