Connecting artists and visitors along 363 miles of coastline

So far, the inventory for the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail includes 125 works, including sculptures, murals and functional art, in 27 communities.

The Oregon Coast is a natural draw for artists, some of whom return the favor by creating a piece of public art. If you live nearby, it’s easy to find these public works, but vistors might never see them. Plans are afoot to change that, with the coast-wide, self-guided Oregon Coast Public Art Trail.

Marcus Hinz, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, came up with the idea while traveling the 363-mile coast.

“I would see public art in random places and wondered how anyone would ever find them,” Hinz said. “After a while, it dawned on me that one, there is a lot of public art on the Oregon Coast, and two, that our agency has never done a great job partnering with the coastal-art-culture community. The goal of this project is to help residents and visitors connect with artists, gain a deeper sense of place, and improve artists’ livelihoods.”

Georgia Gerber’s pair of Tufted Puffins roost near City Hall in Cannon Beach. Photo: Oregon Coast Visitors Association

He hopes it will also serve as a marketing tool, attracting tourists at times of the year when they wouldn’t normally visit.

What art will be featured on the trail hasn’t been decided. Kevan Ridgway, founding partner of tourism marketers Minds Aligned Group and a resident of Cannon Beach, has been charged with finding the pieces.

So far, he’s reached out to 27 communities along the coast and put together an inventory totaling about 125 works, including sculptures, murals and functional art, such as benches or trash cans. To be included on the trail, the art must be accessible by the public 24/7. But beyond that, the criteria are still being worked out. Ridgway is encouraging people with information about a
public art piece to email him at oregoncoastarttrail@gmail.com.

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Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium: concentrated wisdom

An Oregon composer's experience of the biennial University of Oregon music composition incubator

by CHRISTINA RUSNAK

Editor’s note: this is the second of our two-part coverage of the Oregon Bach Festival’s Composers Symposium. Read Gary Ferrington’s story here.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium (OBFCS) led by renowned composer and University of Oregon professor Dr. Robert Kyr. Over the course of two and a half weeks, from June 25 to July 13, more than 100 composers like me, performers, and conductors – many wearing multiple hats – converged for a unique experience of collaborative performance and learning. Geared toward emerging composers, attendance represented a wide range across the age and experience spectrum. Many of us wrote new pieces specifically for the Symposium.

Christina Rusnak’s new composition was performed at the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

One of the most enticing aspects of the symposium for us composers was the opportunity to both attend concerts by and have your work performed by guest artists of the highest caliber, including musicians from the New Mexico Philharmonic, Juilliard School, Oregon Symphony and more, as well as the star performers at the University of Oregon. (See Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch report on this aspect of the symposium.) We were immersed in a diversity of pieces that included everything from vocal works and guest artist’s solo performances to chamber pieces, collaborations with Korean Instrumentalists, and improvisation.

We heard 53 premieres by participating composers in 22 concerts performed by a mix of participants, guest artists and Sound of Late, the Northwest-based ensemble in residence. There was so much to do! Like with any other conference one can’t do it all, though some people – very sleep deprived by the end— certainly tried!

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All the Bard’s plays, three actors, one wild night

Willamette Shakespeare and Portland Actors Ensemble ride the whirlwind of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" in Dayton this weekend

If we’re keeping score, I have six titles to go before I’ve seen all of Shakespeare’s plays on stage at least once — Merry Wives of Windsor, Titus Andronicus, Two Noble Kinsmen, and the three parts of Henry VI. But that claim requires an asterisk: In 2009, I saw The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at Gallery Theater in McMinnville. This enormously popular play, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield and first performed by them in 1987 in Scotland, hilariously and cleverly crams all 37 of the Bard’s plays into about two hours. And it touches down in Yamhill County on Friday, courtesy of a joint effort by Willamette Shakespeare and Portland Actors Ensemble (PAE).

Sara Fay Goldman (from left), Landy Hite and Joel Patrick Durham play all the roles in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” Photo by: Gary Norman

The show opened last weekend on the Concordia University Green in Portland, and this weekend you can find it in the hills between McMinnville and Newberg. The free performance will be held at Stoller Family Estate in Dayton at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4, and 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5. Like so much of summer Shakespeare, it’s a lawn-chair-and-blankets outing, family-friendly, and there’s wine,  because that’s what we do out here. If you can’t make one of these performances, fear not: Four more weekends are scheduled around the Willamette Valley through Labor Day. Details to follow at the end of this week’s column.

Willamette Shakespeare was founded in 2009 by Daniel and Sydney Somerfield. They kicked off with a three-weekend run of As You Like It, rehearsing in a barn on a Newberg-area llama farm. Since then, the company has done mostly lighter fare, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Love’s Labor’s Lost, and The Taming of the Shrew, while also throwing in Shakespeare’s most audience-friendly tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, and The Winter’s Tale and Pericles.

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Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium: big tent

Biennial University of Oregon event offered performances, constructive creative feedback, and advice from veteran American composers

Story, photos and video by GARY FERRINGTON

When the 105 invited composers in last month’s 25th Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium asked the veteran composers in residence for advice about how to forge a career in music, over and over again one concept kept coming up: diversify. Be open to diverse cultures, search out new experiences and ideas through reading, travel, and collaboration (such as forming musical ensembles), explore other art forms like dance and theater.

“I created the symposium as a ‘big tent’ for an unbounded range of creators and performers of new music: we welcome participants from every part of the broad spectrum of the styles and ideas that constitute our new music culture today,” symposium founder and director Robert Kyr told ArtsWatch. “But that is not all. We are seeking to create a wealth of opportunities for the future of music, which from my perspective, must be rooted in the greatest diversity of creativity and co-creation possible.”

All 4 Sound (percussion duo) with Kathie Hsieh.

The University of Oregon symposium itself practiced what its mentors preached. The composer/performers who arrived in Eugene June 24 with musical instruments in tow and freshly composed scores in hand hailed from across the US and 10 other countries. Over the next three weeks at the UO School of Music and Dance, they became a cadre of individuals with diverse interests and cultural backgrounds, eager to share ideas, learn from one another, and form co-creative and collaborative relationships in music. They quickly found themselves engaged in a seemingly endless schedule of daily activities with on-going rehearsal sessions, numerous concerts, guest artist performances, small group mentoring sessions, master composer seminars, and late night brew and burgers at McMenamins East 19th Street Cafe.

Composers eagerly anticipated the opportunity to have their own vocal and instrumental music publicly performed. After hours of rehearsals and mentoring by guest artists, the pieces were presented in any number of events including the American Creators Ensemble afternoon concerts, Guest Artists Showcases, Vocal Fellow programs, Composers Film Festival with screenings of films scored by composers; some with live music, and the Wild Nights concert series that started at 10:00 pm! All together there were 22 concerts and live music events that involved 60 vocalists, instrumentalists and conductors performing 92 compositions — including 53 world premieres.

As a correspondent and advocate for new music, I was excited to attend my third OBF Composers Symposium. I knew right from day one, when participants were encouraged to explore collaborative and co-creative endeavors, that this wasn’t going to be a showcase for egos. The symposium proved to be a transformative experience as a diverse cadre of men and women ranging in age from late teens to early senior years, came together to create and perform new music here at end of the second decade of the 21st Century.

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Out of Sterno: heroine’s journey

Rosie Rose Productions brings a clever, timely play to The Siren Theater.

Out of Sterno, the Deborah Zoe Lauffer play that concludes its run at the Siren Theater on Sunday, July 29, manages to teach (and not preach) us how to be better citizens.

Dotty, the heroine of Out of Sterno, has never left the walls of her small and very pink home. Her life is centered on her husband Hamel. She spends her time preparing dinner, doing his laundry, and rewatching video footage of the first time they met. Dotty’s call-to-adventure is literally an unexpected telephone call from Hamel’s mistress, Zena.

At first, Dotty smiles and denies the unpleasant truth of the affair: “As Momma always said, ‘there’s nothing so horrible it can’t be explained away.’” Dotty leaves her home, and witnesses Hamel and Zena embracing and smooching. Nevertheless, she proceeds to see the best in Hamel. She even befriends Zena. Eventually, Dotty’s agency and personal power materialize after an absurd yet tender journey through the manifold obstacles in her way.

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FilmWatch Weekly: Brazil nuts rejoice

A pair of distinctive Brazilian efforts, "Araby" and "Good Manners" play at the Northwest Film Center

The Northwest Film Center has just wrapped up its epic, weeks-long centenary tribute to Ingmar Bergman. I was going to write “iconic Swedish director Ingmar Bergman” or “canonical philosopher of cinema Ingmar Bergman” but, you know, if you’re reading this column and need to have Ingmar Bergman identified for you, you might be in the wrong place.

Anyway, having concluded this remarkable service on behalf of Portland’s cinephiles, the Film Center is returning to its (ir)regular programming. Up this weekend, by chance or design, are a pair of Brazilian films with distinctly different vibes but some interesting commonalities.

“Araby” (no apparent relationship to the James Joyce story in “Dubliners”) is an intimate, class-conscious story about a working-class stiff for whom very little goes right, at least for very long. Co-directors Joao Dumans and Affonso Uchoa have constructed a two-tiered, bifurcated narrative, the first act of which focuses on teenaged Andre (Murilo Caliari). Under the opening credits, Andre steadily bicycles up a steep mountain road towards the ramshackle dwelling he shares with his younger brother and his aunt. As he does, the haunting lyrics of Jackson T. Frank’s “Blues Run the Game” play behind him: “Wherever I’ve gone, the blues are all the same…”

That sentiment dominates the film. Andre, a few scenes later, happens upon the victim of an unspecified accident at a nearby factory. Told to fetch the man’s handwritten journal, Andre ends up sitting down to read it. And, twenty minutes in, we’re presented a title card for “Araby” as its main story begins. The journal’s author, Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), talks us in flashback through his journey across southern Brazil, working (mostly as a fruit picker), loving, singing, and frequently suffering. It’s never clear whether what we are seeing is a “real” flashback or simply Andre’s imagination, prompted by the increasingly lyrical diary entries he reads.

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David Ludwig: telling the earth’s story through music

Composer’s Chamber Music Northwest commission inspired by ancient Earth, threat of extinction from human-caused climate change

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

We chamber music devotees were gathered in Lincoln Performance Hall for one last night of concerti—a program of modern works closing Chamber Music Northwest’s Winter Festival—and the CMNW crew were all in paradoxically high spirits. When Executive Director Peter Bilotta came on stage for his customary introduction, he explained why: the SW Macadam building which housed CMNW’s Portland offices had burned down the previous evening, sometime between the Telemann and the Bach. Although the organization kept backup files of essential documents and whatnot, the physical and psychic result was utter devastation. But the show must go on, and Bilotta explained the staff’s optimism and perseverance.

“Because what we are about,” he said, gesturing toward the stage with its piano and music stands, then turning to include we audients, the waiting musicians off stage right, family and staff down front and all along the aisles, “is this.”

Chamber Music Northwest performance of ‘Pangaea.’ Photo: Tom Emerson.

This attitude made the evening’s concert an act of cheerful defiance, and the program of ersatz concerti happened to serendipitously match the night’s complex mood. Weber’s Grand Duo Concertante for Clarinet and Piano, played by Anne-Marie McDermott and CMNW artistic director David Shifrin, might have seemed incongruously cheery in Lincoln’s demi-gloom, but in this setting it sparkled. Two immigrant songs followed, a cheeky Stravinsky piano-violin duo and a very American trio by Ingolf Dahl. The show’s main event—the West Coast premiere of David Ludwig’s Pangæa—transcended its primeval roots to address extinction ages, the largest of which we are currently living in.

More on Pangæa in a moment.

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