Photo First: Nrityotsava 2019

Ways to preserve: Friderike Heuer takes her camera to Kalakendra's showcase of 11 Indian dance groups and records how they keep traditions

Photo Essay by FRIDERIKE HEUER

Kalabharati School of Dance

I could have kicked myself. Here I am friends with one of the most formidable dance critics around, ArtsWatch’s own Martha Ullman West, and yet it did not occur to me to drag her with me to the dance performance I saw last Saturday. Just as well, though, since no matter how learned a tutorial I’d have gotten, it would have been but a drop in the vast sea of my ignorance about dance.

Continues…

Portland State will not acquire Oregon College of Art and Craft

After testing the feasibility of swallowing OCAC, PSU declines to move forward

After a week of thinking about it—or in the business parlance of our times, after conducting a “feasibility study” or “due diligence”—Portland State University officials informed Oregon College of Art and Craft officials on Thursday (January 24) that the university had decided against acquiring the college and its bucolic acres on Southwest Barnes Road.

That was some pretty fast due diligence (or at least “official” due diligence), because the university publicly announced its interest in OCAC only on January 17. (For those coming to the story late, the arts and crafts college’s discussions with Pacific Northwest College of Art about a possible merger concluded in mid-December without a deal.)


Outside the kiln at Oregon College of Art and Craft/Photo courtesy of OCAC

The key paragraph of the PSU statement, attributed to PSU president Rahmat Shoureshi: “We explored this because we were excited about the potential opportunity that an acquisition would honor the legacy of art and craft at OCAC, support the arts in our region and bolster our own College of the Arts. But our study of different acquisition scenarios, including those involving private philanthropy, showed the potential costs would be too high for PSU.”

I reached out to OCAC to find out the college’s view of PSU’s decision and how the art college might proceed from here. I haven’t received a response from OCAC yet (after holding this story for a couple of days), so perhaps they are still pondering.

*****

OregonLive’s Jeff Manning has been the chief media contact for PSU in this matter, and he might have phoned in a story with just that information—”no deal because acquisition costs were too high.” But Manning is an excellent reporter, and he didn’t get that way by phoning in stories. So he continued reporting and answered some questions at both ends of the core information: how the idea came up in the first place and what a possible resolution might look like going forward.

The idea came from developer Jordan Schnitzer, who gave PSU $5 million to start a campus art museum in 7,500 square feet over two floors of Neuberger Hall last spring. According to Manning, Schnitzer encouraged Shoureshi to pursue the acquisition of the college, but Shoureshi’s statement indicates that the philanthropic dollars weren’t there to shoulder the costs of absorbing OCAC (or maintaining it going forward), from Schnitzer or anyone else PSU checked in with. (Which would be an interesting thing to know—how extensive WAS PSU’s search for money to acquire OCAC?)

At the other end of the story, Manning revealed that Portland developers Jim Winkler (whose son sits on the OCAC board) and Bob Niehaus had offered to buy the property and lease it back to the school. “A sale-leaseback would give them some time to get their act together,” Winkler told Manning.

I reached out to Winkler for confirmation and elaboration. “I made an offer to purchase and lease back the OCAC campus to the school in order to give the school a longer runway to work out the terms of a merger,” he responded. “My objective was to help the school by providing it a patient and interested landlord. The offer included a right of repurchase by the school. I am deeply saddened by the potential loss of another important arts institution in our community.” He also said that OCAC hadn’t responded to his offer (as of Monday).

The campus is a considerable asset. The college has listed the campus as worth around $10 million on its federal 990 forms, though the Washington County tax assessment for the property is $13,840,620: $5,087,810 for the land and $8,752,810 for the buildings. These days, those assessments seem to run a little on the light side, because real estate values generally are going up.

*****

In his story, Manning speculates that OCAC could be near the end as a functioning college: “The school has struggled financially, and it’s unclear how long it can continue to operate,” he writes.

I don’t think we have a clear picture of OCAC’s finances, because OCAC hasn’t revealed anything about its financial condition or why it has been pursuing various merger and acquisition scenarios. Therefore, we don’t know to what degree it has “struggled financially.” Most Oregon arts organizations in the state “struggle financially” to one degree or another, of course, but unlike most Oregon arts organizations, OCAC owns a valuable piece of real estate. It also is supported by the Oregon College of Art and Craft Foundation, which had net assets of $1,930,700 at the end of its 2015-16 fiscal year, according to its federal 990 form that year, the last one available to me.

In his first story announcing that PSU was considering the acquisition of OCAC, Manning painted a dark picture of OCAC’s finances: A 2017 budget deficit of $685,649 with a large debt of $1.5 million coming due. But it’s common for companies of all sorts, even nonprofits, to spend more money in a year than they will make in order to invest in revenue-building activities. So, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that in 2017 OCAC invested money in a plan to build enrollment numbers, say, by developing new programs or increasing its recruiting efforts. The deficit number without the context doesn’t really mean much, especially since the OCAC foundation had sufficient funds to cover the shortfall. The same with the loan: It’s also possible, even likely, that the payment on the loan has been forgiven in the past and that OCAC expects whoever holds that note to continue the practice.

Inside the 2017 BFA Thesis Show at OCAC./Photo by Beth Conyers

The reason I’m proposing “even likely” is simply because former OCAC president Denise Mullen, who left the college in September citing personal reasons, has a reputation as a careful administrator, and I doubt that she’d run an unplanned deficit that large with an imminent debt payment of that magnitude. At this point neither Mullen nor OCAC is talking for the record about these matters, so this is speculation on my part.

So, until OCAC talks more about its financial situation, we simply don’t know how close to the edge it is. Manning covers that for journalistic purposes with his “it’s unclear” construction, but the overall impression he leaves through the two stories is that OCAC’s situation is dire. Which it might be—we just don’t have enough information to know. And we don’t know how palatable to OCAC the offer from Winkler and Niehaus might be, just that they haven’t responded so far.

*****

In my first story about OCAC’s search for partners, I talked a little about why I thought the cultural fit with PNCA was, at the very least, problematic. Still, PNCA and OCAC are both small, independent art schools. They are a little like Portland and Seattle, different in some ways but more similar to each other than they are to most other cities. PSU is the “other cities” in this simile. It’s hard for me to imagine a PSU acquisition scenario that would have preserved any of the DNA of OCAC, in which case the last of Portland’s major design institutions might well have disappeared inside a much larger institution with different ideas about arts education.

McMinnville’s gallery scene primed to expand

An old house gets new life as a destination for arts immersion; plus, on the arts calendar: gallery shows, arts walk, a film festival, and poetry on the radio

There’s a buzz in McMinnville concerning an 84-year-old house on the corner of Baker and Northeast Seventh Streets, which marks almost the exact center of town. In the last decade or so, it’s functioned as a florist, a salon and a home-goods store. Now, there’s great news for art fans. Come spring, it will reopen as the McMinnville Event Center for the Arts.

Holli and Mick Wagner will open the McMinnville Event Center for the Arts at 636 N.E. Baker St. in March. Photo by: David Bates

MECA is owned by Holli and Mick Wagner, who also run nearby vacation rentals. They will open the gallery at 636 N.E. Baker St., a few blocks north of the city’s downtown district, as a home for visual art, as well as readings, live music, and classes. I got a sneak peek behind the papered-over windows last week as they prepare 2,500 square feet of space for a stage and works from more than two dozen artists.

“The mission here is really to create a destination space for people to come and immerse themselves in the arts,” Holli Wagner told me. In recent years, Yamhill County’s wine industry has exploded, with one result being a downtown district that is thick with restaurants and tasting rooms. Wagner sees a future with an equally active gallery scene. Already, more than a dozen can be found just in McMinnville.

“Not only are we a destination for agriculture and wine,” she said, “but now we have an opportunity to set ourselves another goal and become a destination for art.”

They’ve set a March 9 opening date, and they’re dishing out teasers on the usual social media. Check them out here.

Continues…

DramaWatch: a new place to play

Lewis & Clark prof Stepan Simek opens a small, flexible studio space. Plus: Openings around town and in Fertile Ground.

Stepan Simek is a professor of theater at Lewis & Clark College, a director, and an accomplished theatrical adapter and translator. Now he’s also a real estate developer.

Well, in a manner of speaking. Simek recently opened a small studio space for “actors, directors, musicians, singers, teachers, coaches, and anybody who may need a beautiful, affordable, flexible, and warm place to rehearse, teach classes, do small performances, concerts, readings, meetings, pop-ups, auditions, and whatever else may strike your creative need or fancy.” Or, as he put it during an open-house event earlier this month, “Everything is allowed, except amplified music and Bible study.”

The 2509 is a new studio space in Northeast Portland, open for rehearsals, performances and other creative uses. Photo: courtesy of Stepan Simek.

The place, a handsome 600-square-foot daylight basement, is named after its street address, 2509 NE Clackamas St., in a part of Portland known as Sullivan’s Gulch. Simek hopes it will help, in whatever small way, with the general space crunch afflicting so many Portland artists. But that wasn’t the project’s original purpose.

At first, Simek was setting out to repair his house’s crumbling foundation, which would require raising it on jacks. He and his wife Esther Saulle-Simek, a musician, decided to have a lower-level addition built as an apartment, or what’s known these days as an “accessory dwelling unit.” But the construction process turned out to be more than twice as long, and more than twice as expensive, as originally planned. Eventually they reasoned that they’d stand a better chance of recouping their costs with piecemeal rentals, even at low rates.

Still, though, the 2509 has a homey feel, with a gas stove along one wall opposite a small wet bar. It has a full bathroom and curtained-off area at the back that can be used as a bedroom for visiting artists. A grid attached to the middle of the ceiling holds a small LED lighting system, double-paned windows minimize sound for the surrounding residential neighborhood, and there’s room to seat an audience of 50 or so.

Already Hand2Mouth Theatre has used the 2509 for rehearsals, the renowned Portland actor Michael O’Connell has used it to teach classes, and Orchestra of the Moon — a band that includes Saulle-Simek and plays what it calls “early music for modern times” — performs there this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Simek hopes the place will stay busy. (Reservations can be made by email: simek@lclark.edu) After repeating his line about it being open to everything but amplified music and Bible study, he says simply, “I want it to feel alive. I want life!”

Continues…

The unexpected potential of venetian blinds in the forest

A review of Rebecca Reeve's "Sun Breathing" at Upfor Gallery

By LUSI LUKOVA

New York-based artist Rebecca Reeve debuts new photographic work in Sun Breathing, her first solo exhibition at Portland’s Upfor Gallery. In her archival pigment prints, Reeve imposes grid-like forms or painted elements on the natural environment. She then photographs these optic interventions, intentionally muddling the internal and the external as a means to explore the dichotomy between restraint and unbounded potential.

Readily recognizable foliage and nature scenes form the crux of Reeve’s content. The addition of vibrant reds, yellows, and blues made by Reeve’s brushstrokes and not readily visible in the prints, are what distort these standard photographs into more fantastic and illusive scenes. Organized chromatically on the three main walls of the gallery are two sets of two prints and one of three, each grouping separated by the primary colors painted into them. On the wall opposite the set of two red prints is the final piece of the exhibition, Sun Breathing #8 (2018), which is the only work that combines all three of those colors to create an artificial rainbow resting on the vegetation. Although the inclusion of these vivid colors obfuscates the realistic quality of the land forms, they simultaneously serve as bold hooks that drive the audience deeper into the image. Where naturally-colored foliage typically camouflages itself in the wild, allowing for a much hastier overall portrait, the reds, blues and yellows painted by Reeve and then photographed in situ make the viewer precisely aware of each individual leaf and twig that might otherwise have been missed. Pushing against unfocused, cursory glances, the longer one studies these landscapes the more forcefully the applied colors come to feel as natural as the background shades of green.

Rebecca Reeve, “Sun Breathing #4,” (2018) archival pigment print, 30 x 37 inches, edition of 5. Photo by Mario Gallucci, courtesy the artist and Upfor.

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Echo’s otherworldly dance for all

What's happening in Oregon dance now

I recently spent three marvelous hours watching Echo Theater Company members negotiate a system of harnesses, ropes, and pulleys to move a butterfly with gigantic opalescent wings and a mad, spiky hermit crab-like monster around a stage. The atmosphere was electric: it was exciting to watch the collective synapses fire as the company, in an egalitarian way, created art in real time. “Whatever information set you have, you just lend it to the group to try to make the thing,” said creative director Aaron Wheeler-Kay. “The collaboration is constant and ongoing,”

Wheeler-Kay, a Portland native and Jefferson dance alum, directs ETC, which specializes in acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater. He has created an otherworldly new family-friendly work, It’s Like This, in collaboration with education director Wendy Cohen, deaf composer Myles de Bastion, ARC in Movement founders Alicia Cutaia and Russ Stark, and Rebound Movement instructor Laura Cannon for the upcoming Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which runs January 24-February 3. The festival features new artistic work in various stages of development, from workshopped to fully formed, in dance, theater, comedy, film, and everything in between. (Check out Bob Hicks’s breakdown of festival offerings beyond dance in Speed-dating at Fertile Ground.)

You don’t often get to see the mechanics behind the theater magic, but in this production it’s all out in the open. The curtains are drawn to reveal the performers or riggers who hold the ropes propelling the central characters. The butterfly is attached to a four-pulley system that hoists her up and flies her around; the crab monster only needs a two-pulley system, because her movement is lower to the ground. The riggers need to remember the choreography and the timing of the ropes: it’s just as entertaining to watch these folks pulling, flying, and tumbling along with the performers.

The whimsical, gravity-defying creatures that slither, bounce, float, and pounce through It’s Like That are enhanced by imaginative costuming, music, and lighting. The show is designed to be accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers (and performers, two of whom are deaf). Composer de Bastion, a hardware/software designer, conceptual artist, and musician, founded CymaSpace, which specializes in equipment that translates audio information into sight (through light) and touch (through vibration). The music he has envisioned for It’s Like This, both improvised and composed, combines electronic and guitar sounds, he told me when we spoke through an ASL interpreter on Monday. A group of volunteers and a programmer worked with him on the software program he uses to track the music when he plays. Viewers will be able to feel the sound, thanks to a mechanism installed under some seats that creates low-frequency vibrations. American Sign Language interpreters will work all of the performances, and LED light panels installed on the back wall of the stage will use color to represent tone and blinking to represent rhythms.

Echo Theater Company will present its new work at Essentials, a program it will share with Tempos Contemporary Circus’ Underneath, a piece about living a good and fearless life. Essentials lasts an hour in total and will take place at Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave.

Performances this week

The MAC Dancers perform “The Project Approach” at Groovin’ Greenhouse Feb. 2.  Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 24-February 3
Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse and Fertile Ground websites for locations and times
The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, including its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse (hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre), unfolds in venues around town with new performance works in various stages of development. Choreographers and companies presenting movement-related work in this year’s festival include Novoa Dances, Michal Schorsch, Hannah Downs, Polaris Company, Polaris Junior Company, NEO Youth Company, NW Fusion, the MAC dancers, Vitality Dance Collective, ELXR Dance Company, A-WOL Dance Collective, PDX Contemporary Ballet, ELa FaLa Collective, and Ballet Fiesta, Echo Theater Company, Tempos Contemporary Circus, and Living Room Circus.

“The Cutting Room” by BodyVox Dance Company. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Cutting Room
BodyVox
January 24-February 9
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Multiple movie genres (action, comedy, drama, sci-fi) and memories of favorite films inspire BodyVox’s cinematic, virtuoustic dance performance The Cutting Room. Former BodyVox dancer Jonathan Krebs returns to perform with the company; look for new company member Jessica McCarthy and apprentice Coltrane Liu as well.

Sankalpa Dance Ensemble is one of 11 groups performing at the fundraising event Nrityotsava. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Nrityotsava 2019 /Fundraiser
Indian Classical and Folk Dance Event
Hosted by Kalakendra
5 pm January 26
Lakeridge High School, 1235 Overlook Dr., Lake Oswego
Kalakendra’s mega Indian classical and folk dance fundraising event will feature 11 area professional and student groups performing dance styles including Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Gaudiya Nritya, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Assamese, Punjabi, and more. The Portland-based Kalakendra promotes performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances.

Kudo Taketeru performing at The Tiny Theater PDX. Photo by Sophia Emigh.

The Art of Seeing: The Masculine Dancing
Anet Margot Ris
The Tiny Theater PDX
4 pm January 27
The Tiny Theater PDX, 3306 SE 65th Ave.
New to the performance scene is The Tiny Theater PDX, a home for radical performance curated by Anet Margot Ris, the theater’s founder and self-described “artistic directress.” Ris, a multi-disciplinary performer and former member of Daniel Nagrin’s The Workgroup and The Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble, among others, launches the theater’s 2019 Sunday series The Art of Seeing with The Masculine Dancing, an evening of film and video depicting 20th- and 21st-century male dancers/choreographers. Screenings will be followed by a conversation about how the masculine is portrayed. The series continues through May with sessions devoted to The Feminine Dancing, clowning, drag, and performance art.

Vancouver, B.C.-based Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art brings its cross-disciplinary work “Telemetry” to Portland. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Telemetry
Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art
Presented by White Bird
January 31-February 2
1 pm February 2, master class with Shay Kuebler at Floor Dance Center, reservations recommended
Vancouver, B.C.-based choreographer Shay Kuebler and his company Radical System Art draw from martial arts, hip-hop, contemporary ballet, modern and tap to create theatrical, highly physical work. In the 65-minute work Telemetry, Kuebler and award-winning tapper Danny Nielson (who performs as part of the eight-member cast and contributes the work’s rhythmic score), explore the science of telemetry, a communications process by which measurements and other data are collected and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring. Kuebler extends that idea to the human body, using it, he says, as “a device—a tool—that translates, relays, and communicates intangible and unseen processes. Dance [uses the] body [to] translate an audible form into a visual form.” In short,Telemetry focuses on how the human body serves as a kind of antenna for sound, energy, and memory.

Upcoming Performances

February 2019
February 5-19, Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 6, Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power, a panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
February 8-10, The Gift, PDX Dance Collective, choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer
February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 14, Fall In Love With Flamenco, Espacio Flamenco Portland
February 15-16, Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance, Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
February 21-24, Anicca/Impermanence, Minh Tran & Company
February 22-24, Alembic Resident Artists Performance, Performance Works NW
February 23-24, Left of Center, AWOL Dance Collective
February 24, Bharanatayam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Sweta Ravisankar
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March
March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Shakti, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

Eugene Symphony: earning attention

Orchestra’s fall 2018-19 season includes strong performances, contemporary repertoire, engaging community events

By DANIEL HEILA

After the Eugene Symphony’s 2018-19 season opener, high like only a classical music geek can be and thoroughly lit by a stunning performance of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony, I wandered around the Hult Center’s cathedral-like atrium. Eventually, I paused in front of a blackboard-sized whiteboard that stood in the center of the lobby. A question scrawled across the top asked: How did the concert make you feel? Without hesitation, I grabbed a marker and wrote, Like I should be paying more attention to the ESO.

Eugene Symphony Orchestra

Then a niggling worry crept into my head. Yes, without a doubt, it was the best performance of Shostakovich’s masterpiece I had ever heard (live or recorded). And yes, I had given myself over to the shameless, spine-shivering, scalp-tightening response that such performances elicit, even jumping to my feet and joining my fellow concert goers in the all-too-common standing ovation (and I meant it, goddammit!). BUT! Could this level of excellence be maintained? Now, having attended all the concerts in the season’s first half and many of the orchestra’s excellent concert-week community events, I can confidently say…no…and yes…and thank goodness for that!

Continues…