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2023 in Review: Remembering those we lost

Katherine Ace, Yaki Bergman, Margaret Chapman, Walt Curtis, Darcelle, Cai Emmons, Michael Griggs, Donald Jenkins, Henk Pander and more: Oregon arts figures who died in 2023.

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Oregon lost several significant arts figures in 2023, diminishing the cultural life of the state and leaving gaping holes in the lives of their friends and families.

Among those who died during the year were the visual artists Henk Pander, Katherine Ace, Martha Banyas, and Peter Teneau; artist and Alberta Arts District gallerist Susannah Kelley; Donald Jenkins, renowned curator of Asian art at the Portland Art Museum for many years and for a time the museum’s director; writer, professor, and champion of Pacific Northwest artists Roger Hull; and collector Duane Snider.


2023: A Year in Review


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In the literary world, Oregon Book Award-winning novelist Cai Emmons of Eugene and Walt Curtis, “unofficial poet laureate of Portland,” died. Ballet dancer and teacher Barbara Remington Ellicott died.

Theatrical figures Darcelle/Walter Cole, known as the world’s oldest performing drag queen; comic actor Andrew Harris, known for his work with The 3rd Floor sketch comedy troupe; Robert Holden, actor and cofounder of Portland’s CoHo Theatre; costume designer deluxe Margaret Louise Chapman; and Michael Griggs, director and artistic director, died.

Musical figures who died in 2023 included Yaacov “Yaki” Bergman, conductor and music director of Portland Chamber Orchestra and the annual Siletz Bay Music Festival on the coast; Royce Saltzman, cofounder of the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene; David Bernstein, founder of Cascade Composers; and Harold Gray, longtime pianist in The Florestan Trio and cofounder of Portland Piano International.

Read more about each of them below:

Cai Emmons

Cai Emmons, author.
Cai Emmons, author.

Cai Emmons, an Oregon Book Award-winning novelist and short story writer who lived in Eugene, died Jan. 2 under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. She had been living with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and was 72.

“I have had a rewarding life and I love everyone who has been a part of it,” she wrote in an open letter to friends and readers shortly before she died. “Remember me with joy.

“My body has become so weak that I have lost agency over my life and need help for most activities. We all have a line we draw in the sand regarding how much helplessness we can take, and I have reached mine.

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“I do not dread death. In an unexpected way I have come to look forward to it. I have no idea what awaits me–my only regret is that I won’t be able to share it with you.”

Carolyn “Cai” Eddy Emmons won the Oregon Book Awards’ Ken Kesey Award for Fiction for her 2004 novel His Mother’s Son, a psychological drama about an emergency room doctor and her 6-year-old son, who begins to exhibit violent behavior; and was a finalist for the 2023 Kesey Award for her novel Sinking Islands, a followup to her earlier novel Weather Woman, focused on the story of a meteorologist “who discovers she has the power to change the weather.” Her other novels include The Stylist, one of the early novels to feature a transgender character; Unleashed, set against the backdrop of California’s wildfires; and Livid, about a woman who’s placed on the same jury as her estranged ex-husband. Her short-story collection Vanishing won the Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

Invariably, her books were well received. ““With an ominous air and well-crafted prose, Emmons’ stories are both immersive and challenging,” Kirkus Reviews declared.

She dipped into the worlds of film and television, theater, and university teaching, as well as fiction. Emmons earned a B.A. from Yale University, and M.F.A.s from New York University in film, and the University of Oregon in fiction. She taught fiction and screenwriting at the University of Oregon from 2002 through 2018. Her plays have been produced at Playwrights Horizons and elsewhere, and she wrote several teleplays for the CBS series The Trials of Rosie O’Neill.

Michael Griggs

Michael Griggs, man of the theater. Photo: Owen Carey
Michael Griggs, man of the theater. Photo: Owen Carey

Michael Griggs, director, teacher, administrator, and one of the most admired people in Portland’s theater and performance communities, died Jan. 24, 2023, in a respite care facility. He was 76, and had been living with diabetes.

Michael came to Portland in 1985 to take over as artistic director of the old New Rose Theatre, a classically based company. He had peripheral vision artistically – he saw large pictures and made often brilliant connections – and over the years he played many other roles in Portland.

He started and ran an invigorating international performance festival at Portland State University, taking advantage of connections to Eastern European, Hispanic, and other companies and performers. He was for several years executive director of the Japanese drumming and performance troupe Portland Taiko. And he taught for several years at the professional theater school The Actors Conservatory, whose founding artistic director, Beth Harper, recalled that he “directed me in two of my favorite theater experiences: The Cherry Orchard (New Rose) and A Texas Romance (A.R.T.) … but, most importantly, he was my friend and I shall miss him with all my heart. He was the best of us.”

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“Michael was a visionary – a talented director, producer, administrator and actor,” his brother Andy wrote. “He made a mark wherever he worked, and has built a far-ranging community of friends, colleagues and collaborators in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, CA, Portland, OR, Omaha, NE, and internationally.”

Michael loved the often unseen or ignored corners of the performance world, where he found a wealth of worth, from puppet theater to subversive comedy to agitprop to the international offerings of Boom Arts to overlooked classics by Brecht and Ibsen and others, including one of his first shows for New Rose, Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba – “13 women and one Michael,” as performer Marilyn Stacey fondly recalled. “It was a fantastic experience to be guided by him. He was a completely caring, creative person.”

Michael also was a member of the board of Oregon ArtsWatch, providing valuable counsel and experienced advice. “Michael and I were friends, and would meet regularly for breakfast and general catching-up, often at the old Helser’s Café on Alberta Street or the Cadillac Café or somewhere else,” ArtsWatch editor Bob Hicks wrote. “He liked to meet people for breakfast, lunch, or coffee, sharing something nourishing for both body and spirit. Our meetings were often a mix of business and pleasure. …

“He was an extraordinary man: quiet, perhaps, but deep, and widely read, with a fine intellect, a gentle and well-tuned sense of humor, and a kind of fierce generosity of spirit: He would do what needed to be done, and what should be done.”

Andrew Harris

Andrew Harris, comic actor and writer known for his work with The 3rd Floor sketch comedy troupe.
Andrew Harris, comic actor and writer known for his work with The 3rd Floor sketch comedy troupe.

Andrew Harris, a longtime Portland performer and sketch writer who excelled at sketch comedy and was perhaps best-known for his long membership in The 3rd Floor sketch comedy troupe, died Jan. 24, 2023, after suffering a cardiac event two days before. Harris was a brilliant comedian known for his irreverence and his ability to invent pop-cultural parody riffs (as in the outrageously amusing Weekend at Bernie’s: Live Onstage), and his death came as a shock to his many friends and fans.

“Our sweet, hilarious, charming, ultra-talented, insanely lovable Andrew Harris has passed,” his longtime creative partner Ted Douglass wrote. “… I am truly devastated. He was one of my very very best friends, my comedic muse, my partner in performance and production, and, most importantly, my brother. I will miss making each other laugh over truly stupid things. I will miss writing things for him to spin into something even better. … “He was always the first person I thought of and my first call when I would have an idea for a sketch, a show, a play, a short… whatever. … His loss leaves a very big hole in my life and in the creative community in Portland.”

The 3rd Floor dominated Portland’s sketch-comedy scene for two decades, and Harris’s ability to leave not only audiences but his fellow artists convulsed in laughter was legend. As Todd A. Robinson noted, “The first time I ever saw Andrew Harris in action, I was a grip on a shoot for a Rosie Awards Show bumper starring Andrew and Ted Douglass as young advertising executives. It was some of the funniest improv acting I had witnessed. So funny, in fact, that I nearly ruined a take by snort laughing and was asked to leave the set.”

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Even on fellow professionals, a great comedian can have that sort of effect.

Robert Holden

Robert Holden (right) with Gary Cole, co-founders of CoHo Theatre.
Robert Holden (right) with Gary Cole, co-founders of CoHo Theatre.

Robert Holden, Portland actor, teacher, and cofounder of CoHo Productions, died in late January. Holden was the latter syllable to partner Gary Cole’s former in the name “CoHo,” a company that the two launched in 1995 with a production of the play Bodyhold in a basement room of the Benson Hotel downtown. Cole, who later turned to writing novels, wrote the script. Holden directed, and the production, according to the company history on CoHo’s webpage, “enjoyed a colorful and successful run, in part fueled by solid beverage sales and the arrival of the Portland police one evening in response to a hotel guest’s worry over hearing gun shots (the play was set in the middle of a Third World revolution).”

As an actor, Holden was a large man who moved gracefully onstage, often in comedies or classic plays. He was smart and genial and invariably a pleasure to engage in conversation. He had a sparkle about him, an enthusiasm that suggested life and the theater were to be embraced and shared and enjoyed.

Actor Kevin-Michael Moore remembers Holden as “a mentor, a friend, and a damned funny man,” and in particular recalls performing with him in the late 1980s at the old Sumus Theatre in a production of The Hound of the Baskervilles in which Holden played an excellent Dr. Watson.

“My favorite story from this show involves Bob throwing his hat at the coatrack with his first entrance,” Moore recalled. “He had no intention or belief that the hat would ever land on the hook, but he would, without looking, throw the hat, then generate a facial expression that said, ‘damn, I’m good’.”

And, like so many artists, Holden did other things to help pay the bills. Don Horn, founder and producer of Triangle Productions, noted: “Some people might not know, but he worked as a dispatcher for Viking Industries, a window manufacturer. I was the scheduler and Bob was the dispatcher. We worked side by side for several years. We’d talk about theater more than moving windows.”

Margaret Louise Chapman

Margaret Louise Chapman (center) with her son Stephen Chapman and stepdaughter Amanda Skinner. Photo courtesy Portland Civic Theatre Guild.
Margaret Louise Chapman (center) with her son Stephen Chapman and stepdaughter Amanda Skinner. Photo courtesy Portland Civic Theatre Guild.

A lot of people talk about “a life in the theater,” but few have managed it as completely as Margaret Louise Chapman, a Portland theater stalwart known and admired for decades as one of the city’s finest costume designers.

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“Margaret worked at Portland Civic Theatre full time from 1972 until it closed, and that WAS her day job,” Adair Chappell, president of the Portland Civic Theatre Guild, in which Chapman was an active leader for years, recalled. “Then she started at Portland Community College full time running the costume department and teaching. As I add it up, it was a clean 50 years of consistent work in her field. I can’t think of anyone who has accomplished this, whether in directing, management, or costuming, in this town.”

Chapman died on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. She was 71, and had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

“Another giant of the Portland theater community has fallen, and I am shaken,” veteran actor and director Antonio Sonera said. “Margaret has costumed hundreds of shows and probably thousands of actors. … I was costumed by her when I was a young actor, and fortunate enough to work with her in 2018 on Inherit the Wind, where she costumed 42 actors. She was sweet, funny, kind, lovable, and patient. Not to mention, a great costume designer.”

Chapman was a Portlander through and through, and grew up in lockstep with the city’s theater scene. She was a graduate of Centennial High School, and received both her undergraduate and masters degrees from Portland State University. She began her career at the old Portland Civic Theatre and was at various times resident costumer for Oregon Children’s Theatre, and an instructor and designer at both PSU and Portland Community College, in addition to designing hundreds of shows around the city. She was known professionally as Margaret Louise Hetherington before marrying Rocky Chapman, who predeceased her.

Actors and directors get most of the attention in the theater world, but to people who actually work in Portland theater, Chapman was a legend. Owen Carey, the veteran theater photographer, put it in perspective. “When I enter a theater space for a photo call and see the team that is there collaborating–the behind-the-scenes designers who make the magic happen … especially the costume, scenic and lighting designers who create the atmosphere and magic onstage in which the actors live–to see those familiar faces I have worked with time and time again, who have given me countless gifts from their deep wells of experience and talent, I smile and lovingly think or even say out loud, ‘Good to see the usual suspects again,’” he said. “Because, given the hugeness of their talents and abilities, I suspect I am going to have plenty to work with photographically. Margaret was indeed one of the ‘usual suspects’ … always creative, soft-spoken, and kind. … We spoke in between acts during a photo call for the Winter Revels, thinking about the many shows we worked on these many years, talking about making a list of that history or herstory.”

Darcelle/Walter Cole

Darcelle XV, captivating Portland. Photo: K.B. Dixon/2015
Darcelle XV, captivating Portland. Photo: K.B. Dixon/2015

Walter W. Cole Sr., better known in Portland and around the world as Darcelle XV, died on Thursday, March 23, 2023, and another light in the city’s constellation of stars went out. He and she were 92, and had been a vital part of the city’s heart and soul for a good half-century and more.

Darcelle was, of course, a drag queen — in 2016, Guinness World Records officially declared Cole the world’s oldest performing drag queen — but he was much more than that. As the veteran Oregonian writer and editor Grant Butler put it in his excellent obituary, he “became an unofficial ambassador of goodwill for the city, supporting a variety of charities over the decades, appearing in numerous Rose Festival and Pride parades, and receiving the Spirit of Portland Award from the city’s mayor.”

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Walter/Darcelle was also a progressive pioneer, winning over just about anyone he and she encountered, helping ease a sometimes hidebound city’s fear and stigma of gay people, cross-dressers, drag performers, and anyone who fell outside the borders of restrictive “normalcy.” Darcelle helped her city understand that, after all, people are only people, and if they’re not exactly like you, you’re not exactly like them, either, and, well, so what? She did this with a wink and a smile and a friendly hand and a husky voice — when she was performing she loved to sing for himself rather than lip-synch — and she helped the city relax a little and laugh a little and broaden its thinking and just grow up.

“For more than 50 years,” Butler wrote in his obituary, “Cole entertained generations of tourists and bachelorette parties at his Old Town nightclub, where the entertainer told bawdy jokes in elaborate makeup and beaded gowns, while acting as master of ceremonies to a parade of other drag queens and dancers.”

By the early 1970s Darcelle’s nightclub was an established attraction, if still treated with resentment and hostility in some quarters of the city. But it was definitely on the upswing, changing minds one college kid and young newcomer at a time: Darcelle XV and the nearby late-night culinary draw Hung Far Low were must-gos if you were in your 20s or 30s. Darcelle tossed glitter across the conservative ramparts of the town, spreading it with benevolence, humor, and love, and changing the city in the process.

Royce Saltzman

Royce Saltzman, cofounder of the Oregon Bach Festival, upon OBF’s 40th Anniversary.
Royce Saltzman, cofounder of the Oregon Bach Festival, upon OBF’s 40th Anniversary.

One of the giants of Oregon’s musical landscape, Royce Saltzman, died April 3 at age 94. Besides co-founding (with longtime artistic director Helmuth Rilling) what became the Oregon Bach Festival in 1970 and serving as its executive director for more than three decades, Saltzman was also president of the American Choral Directors Association, founding member and president of the International Federation for Choral Music, a board member of Chorus America, advisor and mentor to many, many other choral music institutions worldwide. Beginning in 1964 until his retirement, he also served on the faculty of the festival’s parent, the University of Oregon, where he was a beloved music professor. 

“This is a moment of true heartbreak for our festival, the university, and the entire choral community,” said Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Dean of the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance. “Royce was a giant in his field, highly regarded for his decades of commitment to music and education. His passion reverberated across international borders and through multiple generations.”

“(F)or all his renown in the choral music world, Saltzman never sought the spotlight,” Brett Campbell wrote for ArtsWatch. “He always foregrounded Rilling and the artists whose work and careers he nurtured as he led the festival to become one of Oregon’s pre-eminent international cultural institutions, while always maintaining its focus on education. OBF components Saltzman helped create, including the Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, the Berwick Academy and the Organ Institute, remain fixtures at UO.”

“It’s important to remember that Royce was not only a gifted administrator but also a fine musician,” said Tom Manoff, author, former NPR classical music reviewer, and longtime OBF attendee. “He was determined to keep OBF at a world-class level, and was equally responsible in that regard as Rilling.” 

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Campbell recalled interviewing Saltzman in 1996. “(T)he toughest part was getting past his soft-spoken, even self-effacing matter-of-factness so that I could appreciate just what a gracious powerhouse he was,” Campbell wrote. “His personal warmth, many international contacts, expansive vision, and passion for choral music drew scores of supporters, both financial and volunteer, and their efforts helped put UO and Eugene on the world cultural map.”

Henk Pander

Henk Pander in the studio. Photo: Friderike Heuer
Henk Pander in the studio. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Henk Pander, the Dutch-born visual artist who came to Portland at age 27 in 1965 and became one of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent artists, died on April 7, 2023. He was 85, and had been diagnosed in January of this year with inoperable brain cancer.

In his almost six decades in Oregon Pander produced a prodigious amount of challenging, often raw and provocative but also beautiful work that was rooted in his deep classical training in the Netherlands, his childhood experiences of living under Nazi occupation during World War II, and his reactions to being an immigrant in the United States, where he felt himself at once a keen cultural observer and a restless outsider.

Pander was born Nov. 21, 1937, in the Dutch city of Haarlem, the oldest of ten children of Hendrica Smedes Pander and Jacob Pander, known professionally as Jaap Pander, a graphic artist, painter, and Bible illustrator who set an artistic example for the entire family.

Henk — Hendrik Pieter Pander — followed that example enthusiastically. He drew, with great skill, from a very young age, and as a student and young man was a rising star in the Dutch art world. He’s had several exhibitions in Dutch museums, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, one of the world’s great museums, has a large number of his works in its permanent collections, including his 1997 watercolor New World, a 40- by 60-inch depiction of a field of abandoned fighter airplanes, which the museum has named one of the “Top 100” works on paper in its massive collection.

Pander found himself transported to Portland by happenstance. In Amsterdam he met Marcia Lynch, a fellow artist, who was from Oregon, and they married. In 1965, he and Marcia and their infant son Jacob moved to Portland. Later Jacob was joined by Arnold (who was also born in the Netherlands, during a sojourn back in Pander’s home country), and both boys became artists, too: In their projects together they’re known as The Pander Brothers. The marriage didn’t last, but Henk stayed in Oregon, in large part to be close to his sons, and made a life.

His introduction to Oregon and the United States came at a heady and perilous time, just as the nation was beginning to undergo a massive cultural revolution prompted by growing public disillusion with the Vietnam War. Pander joined right in, painting large works throughout his career about cultural flashpoints and other disasters, from street protests to the sinking of the New Carissa freighter off the southern Oregon coast to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York City to the Portland standoffs between protesters and police during the 2020 social justice protests. He also painted portraits of prominent Oregonians, including Gov. Tom McCall, and often turned back to his childhood memories of the terrors of living under Nazi occupation during World War II.

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Pander consciously took cues from the past. But he was no nostalgist. He saw the past, especially its tragic parts, echoing into the present and the future, and he followed relentlessly where it was leading. Why toss tradition, he appeared to believe, when you can use it to hold a merciless mirror to the contemporary world? In much of his work, or so it seemed, only the grotesque could adequately convey what he wanted to reveal.

“Trying to pin Pander down is like trying to trap light in a butterfly net,” ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks wrote in an appreciation of Pander’s life and work. “… In the world of Pander’s art, tradition means nothing and everything. Radicalism means nothing and everything. They flow into one another. They are one and the same.”

Katherine Ace

Katherine Ace in the studio. Photo: K.B. Dixon/2016
Katherine Ace in the studio. Photo: K.B. Dixon/2016

Katherine Ace, a leading Oregon artist for more than 30 years, died on April 17, 2023, in Portland, following complications from rapid and aggressive metastatic breast cancer. She was 70. She was known, among other things, for her painterly evocations of scenes and characters from classic fairy tales and for her quiet yet determined advocacy for women in the art world.

“She was a great painter, a very intelligent woman who possessed a singular (quirky) personality,” fellow artist Margaret Coe said. “Kat cultivated lots of different interests but her main passion was paint. She had an astounding knowledge of pigments.”

Ace’s paintings are figurative but not realist. As Bonnie Gangelhoff wrote for a 2006 story in Southwest Art magazine, she “focuses on representational art but approaches the canvas in an abstract style reminiscent of Jackson Pollock. ‘I throw paint at the canvas and sculpt the surface using painting knives, nails, pins, bottle brushes—anything that is lying around—into the surface,’ she explains.”

Ace painted stories, sometimes mythological and sometimes more straightforward. And she was a firm supporter of women artists. “We women don’t paint the same,” she declared at a gallery talk with all nine artists depicted in her 2019 painting 9 Portraits, a 10-foot-wide diptych portraying her and eight other prominent Oregon woman artists, which is now in the collections of the Portland Art Museum. “We’re individualists. … (but) we’re a small enough market that we’re also a community.”

Ace saw her art as existing on a broader plane than the canvas it was painted on. “I always do political work. Life is politics,” she commented in 2022. “Which plant gets to get root space? Which other lifeforms get the power of ‘now’? And life is a fairy tale. … All fiction are fairy tales. Actually all living life is a fairy tale. There are truths in fairy tales.”

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Life seemed full for Ace in the studio, on her own, grappling with the mysteries, working her way through the thicket. “My favorite part of being an artist is about three-fourths of the way through a painting,” she told the gallery crowd at that 2019 9 Portraits talk. “You think it’s going to work. It’s talking to you. It’s the hunt. I like the hunt.” Happily, the hunt liked back.

Duane Snider

Duane Snider, at home with art in Waldport in October 2022. Photo: Lori Tobias
Duane Snider, at home with art in Waldport in October 2022. Photo: Lori Tobias

Duane Snider, who began to build an impressive collection of works by contemporary Oregon artists 40 years ago while he was working as a modestly paid eyeglass lens technician in Portland, died May 26, 2023, following a lingering illness.

In her story The Collection of a Lifetime, ArtsWatch’s Lori Tobias wrote in October 2022 about Snider’s quest to find a home for his collection after doctors had initially told him his disease was fatal. At the time Tammy Jo Wilson and Owen Premore of the nonprofit arts organization Art in Oregon were helping to catalog and seek a landing spot for Snider’s collection of more than 240 works.

“The singular things that are unique about the collection (are) the length of time it covers for Oregon artists in such a wide scope,” Wilson told Tobias. “And just Duane’s own collector voice as far as leaning toward the surreal, kind of magical, but then also just wanting to capture the Oregon art feeling and artists that are important to the state as a whole.”

Snider, who moved with his wife, Linda Dies Snider, from Portland to Waldport on the Oregon Coast in 2018, had a good eye, and followed his instincts. Working on a tight budget, he looked for art that appealed to him and bought what he could afford. He didn’t buy out of financial speculation — he was not a wealthy man — but out of pleasure, and he liked to make connections with the artists whose work he bought.

Premore called Snider an “art collector, historian, writer, friend, and unmatched advocate of Oregon art and artists. … His favorite artist was unquestionably Chuck E. Bloom. Duane loved Chuck and his paintings. Chuck and Duane stayed in contact to the end.”

Peter Teneau

Peter Teneau - Sculptor, 1980, gelatin silver print. Photo by Robert Miller, gift of the artist to the Portland Art Museum, © Robert Miller, 2012.164.24
Peter Teneau – Sculptor, 1980, gelatin silver print. Photo by Robert Miller, gift of the artist to the Portland Art Museum, © Robert Miller, 2012.164.24

Peter Teneau, a prominent Northwest sculptor and college art professor at Everett Community College and Linfield College for many years, died June 30 in Portland. He was 94. Teneau was active in a pair of notable contemporary-art organizations in Portland: the legendary Portland Center for the Visual Arts, or PCVA, which brought leading national and international artists to town as well as providing opportunities for local artists; and Northwest Artists Workshop, a center for contemporary art in the 1970s and ’80s.

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He was “a life-long learner, teacher, inventor, activist, sculptor, drummer, master gardener, and artist,” his widow, the artist Nancy Cushwa, wrote in his obituary for the North Portland community newspaper North Peninsula Review. “With a great sense of humor, he brought joy to everyone he encountered. He was an avid environmentalist and played an instrumental role in protecting the wetlands in North Portland.”

Teneau, whose large public sculptures can be seen in Eugene, Monmouth, Salem, Corvallis, and Portland, was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., and served in the Army in Korea during and just after the Korean War. His work is in the collections of the Portland Art Museum and elsewhere.

David Bernstein

David Bernstein, composer, music professor, and founder of Cascadia Composers.
David Bernstein, composer, music professor, and founder of Cascadia Composers.

David Bernstein, who died July 13, 2023, at age 81, “could have relaxed into retirement,” ArtsWatch senior editor Brett Campbell wrote. When the composer and music professor moved to Oregon in 2006 after retiring from academic faculty positions in Georgia and Ohio, he could have spent his days writing music and exploring the natural beauty that had drawn him to the area in the first place. 

“But Bernstein was too community-minded for that. When he arrived in St. Helens, he noticed that the state lacked a place where its many composers could share ideas and music. He’d seen such groups in other states, but no one had succeeded in creating one open to all composers. So the newcomer made some calls, held some meetings — and, in 2008, made it happen. 

“He leaves an enduring institution, Cascadia Composers, that provides the state’s most valuable forum for contemporary music in the classical tradition. … Within a year of arriving in Oregon from Ohio, where he’d retired from the music faculty at the University of Akron, Bernstein had succeeded in doing what no one else in memory had done: started a viable organization of regional composers. Within three years, Cascadia built a roster of top local musicians they paid to perform their works in seven-plus concerts a year.”

Campbell’s appreciation of Bernstein’s central role in Oregon’s contemporary classical scene includes several appreciations from members of Cascadia Composers.

And Matthew Neil Andrews, ArtsWatch’s music editor, wrote his own appreciation of Bernstein, which reads in part: “In the case of Bernstein, we’re bummed that he never got the kind of enduring exposure that Tomáš Svoboda has been getting the last couple of years — meaning album releases. We can certainly hope for that, and it would be a worthy endeavor for Cascadia to gather up its archived Bernstein recordings and release them in some durable format. Even if that means no more than a curated and mastered digital release, it’ll be more than currently exists (aside from a fine but mostly forgotten 2011 recording released by North Pacific Music). Like many academically inclined composers, David didn’t even have his own website.”

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Harold Gray

Harold Gray, pianist, professor, and co-founder of Portland Piano International.
Harold Gray, pianist, professor, and co-founder of Portland Piano International.

One of the most beloved and visionary leaders in Oregon classical music, Harold Gray, founder of the recital series Portland Piano International, died Aug. 7, 2023. He was 79. Gray led PPI, which brings leading international pianists to perform in Portland, for more than three decades before retiring after the 2012-13 season. For many years he was also the pianist for Portland State University’s sterling resident classical group the Florestan Trio.

“45 years ago, as a fresh, young new professor of piano at Portland State University, Harold felt it important that his students and the wider community be given the opportunity to hear the great music of the classical piano played by its greatest performers and, thus, founded the PSU Piano Recital Series,” Bill Crane, PPI’s current director, wrote for Brett Campbell’s ArtsWatch gathering of appreciations by Crane’s friends and fellow musicians. “He directed the series artistically for 35 years, convinced the very greatest artists from all around the world to come to our town for recitals, shepherded it through many changes when it became Portland Piano International, and was unfailingly encouraging to all who have kept this star in Portland’s musical scene bright and shiny.”

Cellist Hamilton Cheifetz, who with violinist Carol Sindell joined Gray in the Florestan Trio (Janet Guggenheim became the group’s pianist after Gray’s retirement) described Gray as “the ideal colleague: a kind and thoughtful person, patient, very consistent as a musician, steady. Carol and I are a bit more temperamental than Harold was. Sometimes we’d be acting out, and Harold would sit there quietly watching this go back and forth. He was brought up in Georgia to be a very polite person. It helped to level things out in the group.”

Sindell added that Gray, who was a high-level solo pianist, was also “a magnificent ensemble player, always supportive, very sensitive and collaborative in his approach. He was a team player and a joy to play with.”

“Since he died,” Cheifetz added, “I have only heard kind words about Harold. Everybody loved Harold — colleagues, students, friends. How many people can say that? I think Harold lived a really good life.”

Walt Curtis

What may be the last photo of Walt Curtis, taken Aug. 8, 2023, by poet and friend David Hedges.
What may be the last photo of Walt Curtis, taken Aug. 8, 2023, by poet and friend David Hedges.

“Walt Curtis danced to his words,” Curtis’s friend and fellow poet Leanne Grabel wrote in this personal reminiscence for ArtsWatch. “His hands, his body, his voice, they were all swooping and soaring, loud, rhythmic, theatrical. And his words were setting the beat. I couldn’t believe it. His words were as beautiful and as ugly as they could be, all colors, dark, light, sodden, smoldering—some of them even glowing. He was a tetched preacher, offering his poems to us as if they were absolutely necessary.”

Curtis – “poet, novelist, and self-described ‘primitive painter’ whose long-standing stature in Portland’s literary community earned him the title of ‘unofficial poet laureate of Portland’,” as ArtsWatch literary columnist Amy Leona Havin wrote – died Aug. 25 in a Portland hospice. He was 82.

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Curtis was a star of Portland’s active spoken-poetry club scene in the 1970s and ’80s, and, as Havin wrote, he “often read with arms waving passionately, a page of poems in hand. He could be recognized from blocks away on his nighttime strolls; a head of mussed gray hair, kinked mischievous smile, and layers of shirts, coats, jackets, and scarves piled atop his slim frame, sometimes accented by a bright red necktie. His thick mustache danced enthusiastically above his mouth as he stopped to chat with strangers, friends, and people asking for change, occasionally exchanging a firm handshake.”

Curtis’s 1977 autobiographical novel Mala Noche was the source for director Gus Van Sant’s 1985 debut feature-length movie of the same title, in which Curtis played a co-starring role, though not as himself. He wrote prolifically, publishing several volumes of poetry, and painted with similar fervor. His poetic and artistic styles, Havin wrote, “melded surrealism, humor, grit, and sexual energy, coming from a place of autobiography and the relationship he had with Portland’s underbelly.”

“Often owning his nickname as a ‘dirty word poet,’ Curtis never shied from the controversial,” Havin added. “He played intellectually seductive games of cat and mouse with his audience, dedicated himself to writing about street culture, and credited the Beat era as one of the great liberating movements of his lifetime — helping him discover personal joy, freedom of sexuality, and a revolutionary spirit that he felt was in contrast to his conservative Christian upbringing.”

Grabel concluded her essay: “His death still seems unfathomable. He seems unfathomable. How did such a being—a beat/bohemian/blasphemous poet—come out of Oregon City High? And how did I find him?”

Donald Jenkins

Donald Jenkins, former curator of Asian art and for a time director of the Portland Art Museum. Undated photo courtesy of Portland Art Museum.
Donald Jenkins, former curator of Asian art and for a time director of the Portland Art Museum. Undated photo courtesy of Portland Art Museum.

Donald Jenkins, former curator of Asian art at the Portland Art Museum, for a time the museum’s director, and a legend in the Portland art community and the larger museum world, died Aug. 30, 2023. He was 92.

For decades Jenkins, who as a young man considered a life as a poet, was a quiet and reassuring source of institutional energy in the halls and galleries of the Portland Art Museum, softly exerting his influence as he helped build the museum’s Asian art collection into one of its strongest specialties. He was in many ways an old-fashioned gentleman, admired and beloved: Long and lean and amiable, he seemed to have time for everybody, and spoke with a soft and attentive voice that belied the authority of his accomplishments.

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“A tall, lanky man with the reserve and propriety of a prep school teacher, Jenkins has fulfilled many roles since arriving at the museum in 1954, including jobs as an assistant, curator and director,” D.K. Row wrote in a compelling profile of Jenkins for The Oregonian in 2004. “He’s also presided over many of its crucial moments: As director, he helped save the museum from bankruptcy in the late ’70s. He oversaw the development of the Asian art collection and has been the museum’s most outstanding scholar of the past 30 years, cultivating an international reputation for his work with Japanese prints.”

Bruce Guenther, Portland Art Museum’s former chief curator, stressed Jenkins’ importance to the growth and maturation of the Portland museum itself. “His great institutional achievement was bringing the Gilkey print collection into the museum and creating the Gilkey Center,” he said. “At another point he and Brian Booth, board chair, went public with a funding crisis at the museum and started the important dialogue about the museum’s place as a public cultural institution in the state and the need for widespread funding.”

Jenkins was also, Guenther noted, an important advocate for the building of Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, and a fervent believer in the quality and beauty of Asian art: “He made the poetry of objects come alive and the spirit of the Japanese culture vividly present in his talks and exhibitions.”

Jenkins, who retired in 2003, spent almost a half-century at the Portland Art Museum. His notability, Row wrote in his 2004 profile, was built to a great extent on his personal qualities: “No one at the museum inspires the affection and praise that Jenkins does. And for good reason: When Jenkins left, so, too, went a particular attitude, a thoughtful, transcendental way of looking at life. It’s a direct and honorable spirit that has always served the museum well, though at times at the expense of Jenkins’ ambitions and happiness.”

Susannah Kelly

Portrait of Susannah Kelly. Image courtesy of Neil M. Perry.
Portrait of gallerist and curator Susannah Kelly. Image courtesy of Neil M. Perry.


Susannah Kelly, Portland artist and co-founder/curator of the Alberta Arts District galleries Antler and Talon, died Sept. 2, after falling ill suddenly on Aug. 31. She was 36. Her partner, fellow artist and gallerist Neil M. Perry, said that “she passed peacefully, surrounded by our family and her closest friends.” 

Kelly painted and made ceramics, Shannon M. Lieberman wrote for ArtsWatch, but “graphite drawings became her primary medium. She characterized her drawings as investigations of relationships–with oneself as well as with other people, other animals, and, with nature itself. Susannah explored a broad range of subjects, but a consistent theme throughout much of her work is the bittersweetness of the passing of time and the ways that nature is persistent; life goes on, even when that seems impossible.”

She poured her creativity equally into her work as a curator and gallerist, Lieberman added: “She had such a powerful partnership with her spouse Neil that it’s hardly even possible to talk about one without mentioning the other. As budding artists, Susannah and Neil worked together, scooping ice cream at Salt & Straw. During a break one day they decided to see some art before heading back to work. They strolled down NE Alberta to visit a favorite gallery and were shocked and dismayed to find it had permanently closed. The idea to start their own gallery was born. As the pair once put it, ‘we decided it was time to do something other than bemoan the loss’.”

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“As their ideas crystallized,” Lieberman continued, “Antler became a showcase specifically for art responding to the natural world. They gained interest, and then renown, for showing work that was totally unlike what was on view elsewhere in Portland. In 2017, Susannah and Neil founded a second gallery in Portland, called Talon, right next door to Antler. They wanted to be able to show an even broader variety of artwork without diluting Antler’s existing focus on nature-themed work. But they always saw the spaces as connected, variations on a theme or, as the former scoopers once told me via email, ‘like different flavors of the same ice cream’.”

Yaacov “Yaki” Bergman

Conductor and music director Yaki Bergman. Photo courtesy John Gingrich Management.
Conductor and music director Yaki Bergman. Photo courtesy John Gingrich Management.

Yaacov “Yaki” Bergman, a creative musical conductor who loved to collaborate with artists from other disciplines and who led two Pacific Northwest ensembles and one annual music festival for many years, died Sept. 20 in a Portland hospital.

“The high-energy, Israeli-born musician, who had a robust laugh and room for anyone who came into his life, was 78,” ArtsWatch’s Angela Allen wrote. “He passed away from complications of cancer and a heart attack at the Siletz Bay Music Festival on the Oregon Coast, where, in his signature collaborative and inclusive style, he had brought together numerous musicians performing a range of music from Latin jazz to hip-hop to Indigenous works to classical and Broadway hits.”

Bergman lived in New York City with his wife, pianist and teacher Joan Behrens-Bergman, but spent a great deal of time in the Northwest, where he led the Portland Chamber Orchestra for 21 years, the Walla Walla Symphony for 36 years, and the Siletz Bay summer festival in Lincoln City since 2009. He was a frequent guest conductor of orchestras around the world, and had been musical director of the Colorado Springs Symphony, the New York Heritage Chamber Orchestra, and the 92nd St. Y Symphonic Workshop Orchestra in  New York City.

Bergman reveled in stretching the boundaries of the classical music world, not just in the music he chose to play but also through his creative collaborations. “(H)e loved combining diverse arts into multimedia projects,” Allen wrote. “He incorporated spoken words, such as in the 2021 My Words Are My Sword into a composition by pianist and composer Jasman Daya Singh. He used photographs and poetry in the stunning 2022 collaboration Celilo Falls: We Were There with composer/cellist Nancy Ives, photographer Joe Cantrell (Cherokee) and poet/playwright Ed Edmo (Shoshone-Bannock).

Both Cantrell and Ives said the three-year Celilo collaboration about the midcentury flooding of the Columbia River’s Celilo Falls that decimated Native fishing grounds was a highlight of their lives. “It was one of the most profound and meaningful things I will ever do in my artistic life,” Ives said; and Cantrell called it a “crowning achievement and one of the most important episodes of my  life. … Yaki and I were brothers. We bonded.”

“Wherever he was,” flutist Amelia Lukas, who played under his direction in the Portland Chamber Orchestra and the Siletz Bay Festival, said, “Yaki attracted wonderful people and was a connective force, building communities in which music thrives.” 

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Added composer and cellist Ives: “He led with his heart, and what a huge, open heart it was!”

Roger Hull

Painted portrait of a man in a dark suit and scarf with paintings, including a Renaissance portrait by Piero della Francesca on the wall
George Johanson, “Portrait of Roger Hull,” 2010, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 43.5 inches, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund, 2010.

Roger Hull, a leading art historian, teacher, and advocate of 20th and 21st century Pacific Northwest artists who also played a key role in the creation of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, died Oct. 5, 2023, in Salem. He was 79 years old, and had been dealing with cancer for the past decade, according to John Olbrantz, director of the Salem art museum, which is part of Willamette University.

“Roger suggested the idea of a museum of art on campus and was the driving force behind its creation in 1998,” Olbrantz wrote. Hull took an active role at the new museum, serving as its senior faculty curator and creating a series of valuable exhibitions by major Oregon artists, often also writing extended essays for the exhibits’ accompanying catalogs.

“The life of Roger Hull … is a testament to what can be accomplished when one embraces rootedness, community, and quiet persistence in a world that so often forgets the power of a slow burn,” Hull’s onetime student Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, now a curator and co-director of the Asian American Art Initiative at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, wrote in this personal reminiscence and appreciation for ArtsWatch. Writing about mentorship, museums, and “the magic of Roger Hull,” she added: “(F)or me, who he was as a person is inseparable from his work, and to speak only of his vocations is to miss the fundamental joy of knowing and learning from Roger.”

While he taught broadly about art history, lecturing on Renaissance, American, and Modern art, Hull was perhaps best-known outside the classroom for his vivid and penetrating writings about notable Oregon artists, including, among others, Louis Bunce, Amanda Snyder, Charles Heaney, Harry Widman, Nelson Sandgren, Manuel Izquierdo, George Johanson, Jack and Barbara McLarty, Clifford Gleason, Henk Pander, and Myra Wiggins. His writing was always flavorful and human, never dull or dry.

Born in Tennessee and raised in Idaho, he moved to Salem in 1970 to begin his teaching career at Willamette. He was married for 54 years to the artist Bonnie Hull. “He was a true gentleman and a scholar, as well as being a loving husband, father, and grandfather,” Olbrantz wrote.

Martha Banyas

Artist Martha Ann Banyas, at the Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy Banyas family.
Artist Martha Ann Banyas, at the Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy Banyas family.

Martha Banyas, a prominent enamel artist and Ohio native who had lived in Oregon since the 1970s, died at her home in Oak Grove on Oct. 26, 2023, following an extended bout with cancer. She was 79.

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Since the late 1960s Banyas had worked in enamel and cloissoné, a discipline that demands both artistic vision and intense technical skill. Over the years she became known for her mastery of the form, creating pieces that were at once colorful, sturdy, and delicate, and lecturing and leading workshops at prestigious art centers across the country. In 2022 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the national Enamelist Society.

She also became a world traveler in pursuit of her art.

“In the early 1980s Martha became interested in Balinese (Indonesia) mask carving, and received a grant to study with a Balinese master carver,” her sister Rebecca Banyas wrote in a memorial statement. “This began a long and rich relationship with the Balinese people. She returned year after year to make art and collect artworks, artifacts, everyday objects, jewelry and textiles. In 1985, she established Apa Ini, a folk art and import business, and held seasonal sales of ethnographic and tribal arts and crafts. She gained a dedicated following of people who appreciated her eye for the rare, unusual and beautiful items she collected. She travelled throughout Indonesia and south Asia, establishing long-term relationships with artists, crafts people, and locals who appreciated her interest in their lives, arts and cultures.”

In 1983, Rebecca Banyas wrote, Martha connected with an old friend, Michael Hoeye, a writer of children’s books known for his mystery-novel series the Hermux Tantamoq Adventures, about a watchmaker mouse. Hoeye “invited her to go to Paris on a first date,” Rebecca Banyas wrote. “It was the beginning of a loving and enduring relationship. They married in 1994 and settled in a stone house in Oak Grove, Oregon, where together they created a beautiful, light-filled art studio and transformed a large yard into a gorgeous flower and native plant garden. She looked out on her garden from her studio and was inspired by the natural setting and the variety of birds who visited her feeding stations regularly.”

Barbara Remington Ellicott 

Barbara Remington Ellicott, ballet dancer and teacher.
Barbara Remington Ellicott, ballet dancer and teacher.

Barbara Remington Ellicott, one of the state’s most influential teachers of classical ballet, and the founding director of the School of Pacific Ballet Theater, a predecessor of Oregon Ballet Theatre, died in October at her home in Portland. 

She was born December 29, 1936, in Ontario, Canada, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Ballet lessons began at age 7, and at 17 she started her professional career, in which she danced soloist and principal roles with American Ballet Theater, The Joffrey Ballet, the Harkness Ballet, the English Royal Ballet, and The Netherlands Dance Theatre, with which Oregon Ballet Theatre’s current artistic director, Dani Rowe, also danced. Remington was seen in Portland dancing the role of the Lilac Fairy in the Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty when the company toured here in 1964, with the legendary Margot Fonteyn as Aurora.  

Remington (she was known professionally as Barbara Remington) arrived in Oregon in 1973 with her husband, architect Thomas Ellicott. The couple met when both were dancing with the Joffrey, where Remington received accolades from New York Times critic Clive Barnes for her performances in a wide range of ballets, including Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony, Jerome Robbins’ Moves (danced in silence), Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations, and Joffrey’s Astarte.

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Her teaching career began in Eugene, where she headed the ballet division of the University of Oregon’s physical education department, and she trained a number of dancers in the fledgling Eugene Ballet. The couple moved north to Portland in 1980, where Remington opened the first of several dance studios. In the mid-eighties, she and Ellicott were instrumental in bringing Joffrey dancers James Canfield and Patricia Miller to Portland as guest artists with Pacific Ballet Theatre, and when Canfield took over the artistic directorship from Greg Smith (he left to found Ballet Magnificat in Mississippi) a number of her students joined the company, including Elizabeth Lewis, who was to become a principal ballerina with OBT. Canfield appointed Remington the first director of PBT’s School, but soon replaced her with Joseph Wyatt.

Remington was ballet mistress of the Spokane Ballet from 1979 to 1980, and also taught at Portland State University and Reed College, passing on the technique and artistry she had learned from her own teachers and coaches, who included Fonteyn, Sir Frederick Ashton, and Erik Bruhn. Her commitment to OBT was such that Ellicott, in his obituary notice for The New York Times, requested that gifts in her memory be sent to Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Tom Webb

Tom Webb former director of the Newport Visual Arts Center.
Tom Webb former director of the Newport Visual Arts Center.

Tom Webb, former director of the Newport Visual Arts Center and passionate supporter of the arts, died unexpectedly Dec. 9 in Newport. During his tenure from 2014 through 2022, he curated and promoted more than 150 exhibitions featuring the work of artists including Rick Bartow, Sandy Roumagoux, Erik Sandgren, and Henk Pander, according to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts. He was 58 years old.

Sandy Roumagoux worked closely with Webb both as an artist and as three-time mayor of Newport. She remembered him as an “excellent writer, knowledgeable about the arts and helpful.” She added: “He came on board with a certain vision for the VAC, which was to expand offerings for exhibits and to take full advantage of the gallery space, plus outreach and working with other VACs up and down the coast.”

Webb was deeply concerned about protecting the environment and made it his life’s work to elevate public awareness and appreciation for environmental stewardship through the creative arts, the writer Scott Weber, Webb’s longtime friend, said. Before moving to Newport, Webb was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bear Deluxe, a publication of Orlo, an environmental-arts organization based in Portland.

***

MORE “2023: A YEAR IN REVIEW” STORIES

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2 Responses

  1. 2023 also saw the passing of Portland filmmaker and ritual theater director Antero Alli. He passed away on November 9th from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 70.

    1. Thanks for bringing Antero Alli’s death to our attention. He was born in Helsinki, Finland, and lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years before moving to Portland in 2015.

      Here’s a link to his Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antero_Alli

      And here’s a link to his own website: https://www.paratheatrical.com/pages/bio.html

      And some links to ArtsWatch stories on Alli and his work in Portland:

      https://archive.orartswatch.org/soror-mystica-review-breaking-the-frame/

      https://archive.orartswatch.org/bardoville-review-bukowski-in-bardoville/

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