Finding her bliss: former legislator concentrates on her art

Political life behind her, Camas artist Liz Pike focuses on painting, farming and ‘living best life ever’

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Sunflowers are the theme of Camas artist Liz Pike's July art show at the Camas Gallery. Here, a nearly finished piece waits for Pike's final touches at an art studio located on the former legislator's Fern Prairie farm.

Former state legislator Liz Pike is sitting on the floor of her art studio, petting her golden lab dog, Maxie, and talking about the organic farm she’s built from scratch just outside the studio doors.

“This was my sanctuary away from politics,” Pike says of the farm and the “politics-free zone” art cottage, which is bursting with Pike’s farm life-inspired oil paintings. “I wanted this to be a place of peace and happiness.”

Asked if she’s succeeded in finding her bliss on this 2-acre Fern Prairie farm just north of Camas, Pike, who is covered with Maxie’s fine yellow dog hairs and wearing a gardening hat — a big departure from the power suits and perfectly coiffed hair she sported in Olympia — just laughs and nods.

“Yes. Politics was killing me. Life is so much better in my art studio,” she says.

Pike, 59, is returning to her roots in her post-Legislature life. Having grown up in a family of 13 children on a dairy farm in Brush Prairie, Pike is used to the round-the-clock demands of keeping farm animals — there are no cows at her Shangri-La Farm, but she does have scores of chickens, a few sheep and a peacock — and making sure the crops are well tended.

“Growing up on a farm, and in a big family, is part of what makes me who I am,” Pikes says. “Everyone had their tasks. It helped me develop good work habits.”

Pike and her husband, former Delta pilot Neil Cahoon, bought the Fern Prairie property in 2010, about two years before the former Camas City Council member was appointed to her first term representing Washington’s 18th Legislative District in the House of Representatives. She was elected to the role in November 2012, and served three terms before announcing her departure from politics entirely in January 2018.

The property was barren when Pike got her hands on it. Slowly, deliberately, she transformed the land into a working, organic farm that produces enough food to feed Pike’s own family and sell at an on-site farm market.

On a recent June day, Pike was advertising honey, eggs, kale and berries from the farm as well as locally roasted coffee and kombucha brewed by her adult son, Richard.

Pike has also crafted several small buildings on the property, including her art cottage, a greenhouse — parts of which are made from Pike’s old campaign signs — the farm market and a Japanese style tea house, in which Pike often sits to watch the sunset.

There are several seating areas sprinkled throughout the farm, including a ladybug-themed fire pit with a circle of chairs painted a bright, “ladybug” red; seating for dozens on one side of Pike’s home near her outdoor canning station and beer tap; a covered seating area where live bands set up during farm events and parties; and an indoor art-education studio where Pike hosts her “Sip & Paint” classes.

When she was still working as a politician, Pike, a conservative Republican, used to host an annual “Hootenanny” fundraiser at the farm each August. This year, the hootenanny is still on, but the focus has shifted to reflect Pike’s new passion.

“This year it will be a Hootenanny for the Arts,” Pike says.

The proceeds will go to Artstra, a nonprofit Clark County arts advocacy organization that hopes to “elevate the arts, build greater arts awareness, reward creative excellence and expand arts accessibility,” according to the group’s mission statement.

The Hootenanny for the Arts will be held from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at Pike’s Shangri-La Farm. Parking is at the Grove Field airport. A flat walking path connects the farm and airport, but Pike has taken steps to help visitors who can’t navigate the path — obtaining a used golf cart that seats six to nine people, upgrading its electric-powered battery, buying new tires and turning the little vehicle into a work of art with a roof mimicking a sunny, cloud-spotted sky and the sides transformed into a sunflower field.

“Everyone loves sunflowers,” Pike says. “So this is the ‘Sunflower Mobile.’”

Visitors to the July 5 First Friday celebration in downtown Camas will see the cart parked outside the Camas Gallery on Northeast Fourth Avenue, where Pike is featuring her latest collection of art — “Field of Sunflowers” — and giving a live oil painting demonstration.

“(She) is one of our prominent artists at Camas Gallery,” said gallery owner Marquita Call of Pike. “She brings her subjects to life and this show is no exception. We are excited to present her new work.”

The popular Camas First Friday celebration, which regularly draws hundreds to the city’s downtown streets and businesses, owes its start to Pike, who served as a Camas City Council member from 2003 to 2007, and owned an art gallery in the city’s downtown core from 2005 to 2008.

It was Pike, after all, who first suggested that Camas could use an event like Portland’s art-centric “First Thursday” in the Pearl District.

“We didn’t want to compete with First Thursday, but thought First Friday could work. I knew some artists who agreed to show their work, and we asked the merchants if they could stay open a little later,” Pike recalls of the very first First Fridays in Camas.

Today’s First Friday celebrations still feature art openings and artist receptions at Camas’ three main downtown galleries — the Camas Gallery at 408 N.E. Fourth Ave.; the Attic Gallery at 421 N.E. Cedar St.; and the Second Story Gallery located on the second floor of the Camas Public Library at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave.

“Art always brings people together,” Pike says. “It creates community.”

Although Camas has done a great job promoting its First Friday celebration and art openings, Pike says she would love to see the city catch up to Washougal when it comes to public art displays.

“Washougal is doing a fantastic job with public art,” Pike says. “I would love to see Camas have more murals … and maybe more art festivals downtown.”

Pike recently agreed to partner with the city of Washougal to host two “Sip & Paint for Good” events at Reflection Plaza in downtown Washougal to benefit local animal and art organizations. She also has summertime “Sip & Paint” classes at her Shangri-La Farm scheduled throughout June, July and August.

“I feel like all roads led me here,” Pike says of her new “art farm” life. “I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but between raising my twins, running a business and then being in politics, there was always something else I had to do.”

Now, Pike gets to slide into the peacefulness of her art studio whenever she feels like it.

“I love it,” she says. “I’m living my best life ever.”

‘Field of Sunflowers’ art show
What: An art show featuring Pike’s recent collection of sunflower-themed art
Where: Camas Gallery, 408 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas
When: Showing at the gallery throughout July with an artist reception and live painting demonstration from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Friday, July 5

Sip & Paint for Good
What: Fundraisers to benefit the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS) and Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance (WACA), featuring a painting demonstration with Pike
When: 6 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 10 (WCGHS benefit) and Wednesday, Aug. 14 (WACA benefit)
Where: Reflection Plaza in downtown Washougal
Cost: The $45 tickets include a painting lesson with Pike, art supplies and a painting to take home as well as coffee or lemonade.
More information: To register, call 360-281-8720 or email

Hootenanny for the Arts
What: Country-style fundraiser to benefit Artstra
When: 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30
Where: Pike’s Shangri-La Farm with parking at Grove Field airport, 632 N.E. 267th Ave., Camas
Cost: Tickets are $50 per adult. Children are free. Ticket includes a western barbecue dinner and homemade pie plus live bluegrass music. Donations are tax deductible and all proceeds benefit Artstra program in Clark County.
More information: To RSVP and register, visit For more information, email or call Jean at 360-823-9101.

A sign advertising fresh produce, eggs, honey and locally made drinks hangs at Liz Pike’s Shangri-La Farm.
A sign advertising fresh produce, eggs, honey and locally made drinks hangs at Liz Pike’s Shangri-La Farm. Photo