A western heritage art gallery and museum inspired by the memory of Arvo Ojala, a gun-slinging actor from “Gunsmoke,” is slated to make its debut for Round-Up week.

Inga Ojala, Arvo Ojala’s daughter, said she’s been renovating 339 S Main St., with Kym Ojala, her sister, and Rick Winnett from Pilot Rock since July. The three artists will sell their western paintings and hand-made memorabilia in the gallery, a faux general store Ojala will build with her set-designing skills. A specialty item will be silver gun holsters Inga Ojala will craft after the technique her father used to make holsters for Hollywood films in the public eye of the store window. All will be housed under the high ceilings inside the museum.

Inga Ojala’s goal is to create a scene that transports visitors to the old West with features like an old-fashioned jail cell, and a mock canyon with a covered wagon drawn by a horse sculpture. To make sure everything is historically accurate, she’s referencing photographs from the Pendleton Public Library, the Pendleton Underground and Keith May, director of the Umatilla County Historical Society president.

“So you’re going to be able to walk in as if you’re going back to the 1800s,” she said.

Ojala said admission will normally be $5, but she might just ask for voluntary donations during Round-Up.

Winnett, who creates acrylic paintings on cattle and elk bones, said he partnered with the Ojalas for the museum because he needed work.

“I really think it was a great idea,” he said. “It fits this area perfect and it’s right up my alley.”

Arvo Ojala was from Seattle, and was a fast-draw gun coach for actors in western flicks such as “Silverado,” “Fire Creek,” and “Legend of the Lone Ranger.” Inga Ojala said her father, who died in 2005, said he’d either create a western movie set in Pendleton or Hood River if he had the choice.

Ojala said she searched the nation for a place to build the museum, looking in places like Dodge City, Kansas, the basis for the movie “Gunsmoke,” and chose Pendleton because of its strong western identity.


Contact Chris Rizer at crizer@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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