LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION, the real-estate mantra goes, to which we might add: Availability, availability, availability. Price, price, price. As greater Portland’s real-estate market heats up, prices are rising and affordable places to use for performance halls and galleries are becoming scarce: In a city that’s staked its future on the creative economy, many of its creative groups and people are finding the landscape tough to negotiate.
In his story Arts groups play the real estate game, architecture and planning writer Brian Libby, who knows the city’s development scene through and through, takes ArtsWatch readers into the space squeeze and the many ways that artists and cultural groups are coping with it. “The erosion of small performance spaces seems to indicate how a booming economy can be a curse for struggling arts organizations as much as a blessing,” Libby writes. This is the first of several stories Libby will be writing for ArtsWatch on the complex topic of space and art: Watch for more.
IN BREAKING NEWS, the Regional Arts and Culture Council has announced a major reshuffle of the way it does business, shifting its emphases to fundraising, advocacy, and outreach. In the process 15 jobs are being eliminated, to be replaced by 15 new positions reflecting the priorities of the tri-county agency’s new direction. Barry Johnson reports here on the basics of the reshuffle, which raises many questions. Will some of the laid-off workers be rehired in new positions? Will the agency’s increased emphasis on fundraising put it in competition with the nonprofit cultural groups it’s charged to help? The reshuffle shifts oversight of RACC’s Right Brain Initiative, which integrates arts programs into school curricula (and which Danielle Vermette has been following for ArtsWatch), to the nonprofit group Young Audiences. How will that work out, and how will YA pick up any added costs? “We will be digging into the changes and the reasoning behind them in future reports,” Johnson writes. “Stay tuned.”
STAGE: FERTILE GROUND’S SIREN CALL OF THE NEW
THE ELEVENTH ANNUAL FERTILE GROUND, greater Portland’s come-one come-all festival of new works in theater, dance, media arts, and pretty much anything else you can think of, kicks off today and runs through Feb. 9 in pretty much any space producers can dig up (see the real estate game, above). It features about 75 programs and more than 120 works at all stages, from readings to workshops to world premieres.
In DramaWatch: Uncommon Ground, Marty Hughley talks with festival director Nicole Lane and makes a few picks of shows to catch. (He also, in looking at the week ahead, advises you to rush right out and catch Profile Theatre’s Sweat before it closes over the weekend.) Did we mention a space shortage above? “It’s amazing,” Lane told Hughley, “that when we’re in this space crunch there were 43 different spaces available.” And in Fertile Ground: the scramble begins, I immerse myself in the festival’s media speed-dating night and live to tell the tale about it. Dozens of tales, in fact.
- HEROES AND VILLAINS. Meanwhile, there’s still lots of theater that isn’t part of Fertile Ground. Bennett Campbell Ferguson reviews Up and Away, the affectionate superhero-parody musical comedy at Broadway Rose: “Like most superhero tales, Up and Away has a happy ending. Unlike most, it earns its idealism.”
VISUAL ART: ECKARD’S BRAIN, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH
“I SAW DAVID ECKARD’S EXHIBIT, Placards and Placeholders, at the North View Gallery on PCC’s Sylvania Campus just before and after a scheduled artist Q & A with a sizable crowd of PCC students and faculty,” Patrick Collier begins his review The Brain of the beholder. “For nearly an hour, Eckard took questions from the audience about the meaning of the title, his use of materials in his craft, and his biography as a midwestern farm boy and art teacher. Oddly, the art seemed to be the proverbial elephant in the room; no one wanted to ask how to read or understand it.” Collier then proceeds to grapple with the art.
- ‘AU NATUREL’: ART LAID BARE. “We all necessarily inhabit our own bodies,” Kristin Shauck, director of Astoria’s Royal Nebeker Art Gallery, tells Lori Tobias. Shauck is talking about this year’s edition of the Clatsop Community College gallery’s nudes show, Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century, which is curated by Portland master painter Henk Pander. Tobias talks with a few of the artists about how and why they approach the subject, and what it means in contemporary society.
MUSIC: GETTING DOWN WITH THE FEDERALES
MATTHEW NEIL ANDREWS CHATS WITH COLLIN HEGNA, founder of the Portland supergroup Federale, which plays on Saturday at Polaris Hall with “desert surf” act Plastic Cactus. In MusicWatch Weekly: Federale February, Andrews gets the lowdown about 2019’s No Justice – “one of those albums that made us stop everything and sit down to just listen” – musical influences, and other things.
DANCE: HOPE & JOY, EVERYTHING & NOTHING
WHEREVER PEOPLE ARE, DANCE IS THERE. Photographer and writer Friderike Heuer found it in abundance in a showcase of dancers from Faubion and Harriet Tubman schools that highlighted the talent and promise of a new generation. Read and see what she discovered in her photo essay Photo First: Hope and Joy.
- EVERYTHING AND NOTHING. Elizabeth Whelan goes behind the scenes to talk with Bharatanatyam dancer Subashini Ganesan and Odissi dancer Yashaswini Raghuram about their collaboration, Listening to Silence, which they’ll perform Friday through Sunday at New Expressive Works. “Before this project, I thought silence meant no noise, no movement,” Raghuram said. “Now, I find silence in everything and anything.”