Round-up: Wiggers steps down and a choir’s missing records

An eventful day in Portland arts: Namita Gupta Wiggers won't head the Museum of Contemporary Craft and Oregon Repertory Singers' case of the missing money data

Oregon Repertory Singers is missing its financial records.

Oregon Repertory Singers is missing its financial records.

Yesterday in the arts was “eventful,” though most of the events we heard about aren’t complete and certainly not our understanding of them.

OK, that’s not very concrete. How about: In Portland yesterday, we learned that Namita Gupta Wiggers was leaving her dual posts of chief curator and director of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and that the Oregon Repertory Singers couldn’t find its financial records or some of the money it thought it had.

Eyes at the Oregon Repertory Singers turned toward to Jed Shay, former executive director, who left the choir in January to lead the Portland Youth Philharmonic, though no charges have been filed and it may all be a big misunderstanding. Or not. The investigation is just starting.

The press release announcing the departure of Wiggers (actually, it said she was going to stay connected to the museum and Pacific Northwest College of Art, which has essentially run MoCC since 2009, while pursuing independent projects) didn’t go into the whys and wherefores. Whatever the circumstances, the loss of Wiggers, who has worked at the museum since 2004, is a major one. Her curatorial vision is sharp, and her agility and inclusive thinking about “craft” led to the first West Coast of work by Ai Weiwei, the dissident Chinese artist, and a series of exhibitions both forward-looking (like the recent This Is Not a Silent Movie) and foundation building (I’m thinking of the shows featuring Northwest ceramic icons Ken Shores and Betty Feves).

I’m seeking further comments from PNCA and Wiggers, and the things I want to know are pretty basic. Are the issues that led to her departure internal and bureaucratic? Financial? Just part of her organic path toward more nutrients and sunlight? And then: What plans does PNCA’s Tom Manley have to replace her, and is he thinking about making changes in the direction of the museum at the same time? Pretty simple. I’ll let you know.

The case of the missing financial data and possibly missing money (hard to tell without the record!) at the Oregon Repertory Singers is disturbing. You can read the details at OPB (where I saw them first), Willamette Week (which adds considerably to the basic report) or The Oregonian (where my old colleague David Stabler rounds up and adds to what we know). Even if you read all of them, you won’t know exactly what happened, because that’s under investigation. You may be more distrustful of Oregon Repertory Singers or, more likely, you may be pleased that the fine choir seems to be managing the missing ledgers with full attention to detail now.

My observation: We forget how central a role trust plays in small organizations, because it’s difficult and expensive to provide “proper” financial oversight over them. And without that oversight, when things go awry, it’s difficult either to exonerate the person in charge or decide that person has played fast and loose with the books. And for every little youth soccer association that has its bank account raided by a treasurer with a gambling problem there are hundreds (at least) where trust works just fine. Same with arts organizations.


How about some jollier news?

The Drammy Awards, Portland’s nearest equivalent to the Tony Awards, take place Monday, June 9, and actor/director/YouTube sensation Isaac Lamb will emcee. That should be…jolly!

Once and future Portlander Wade McCollum (hey, it’s hard to stay away!) will open a new musical in Seattle on April 18, Ernest Shackleton Loves Me. It will come as little surprise after his bravura “I Am My Own Wife,” perhaps, that he plays multiple characters! He will share the stage with singer-songwriter-electric violinist Valerie Vigoda, who provides the music, and plays Kat, “a present-day, sleep-deprived single mom who has just been fired from her day job as a video game composer when the historic, legendary gentleman-explorer, Ernest Shackleton makes contact with her through her video blog.” Good luck to Wade.

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