Washougal Art & Music Festival

ArtsWatch Weekly: Doubling down

In Oregon this week, the arts go marching two by two (and sometimes to the beat of a different drummer).


IT’S BEEN A BUSY WEEK HERE AT ARTSWATCH. Our writers, photographers, and editors have been scurrying all over the map, discovering stories as they pop up. And one thing we’ve noticed is how often the people making the stories come in pairs. Sure, making art can be a solitary undertaking. But we are social creatures, and often it’s collaborative, too.

Sankar Raman (left) of The Immigrant Story and photographer/storyteller Jim Lommasson at the opening of the Oregon Historical Society’s DREAMs Deferred. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Essayist and photographer Friderike Heuer discovered that truth in a pair of stories this week. She dropped in for the opening of the exhibit DREAMs Deferred at the Oregon Historical Society, a show that underscores some of the worst and best aspects of our current cultural situation. As the United States cracks down on its “Dreamer” immigrants, two men with dreams of their own – Sankar Raman of The Immigrant Story, which tells the tales of Oregon’s many newcomers; and photographer Jim Lommasson, who is nationally known for his investigations into the aftermaths of wars, the mementos of Holocaust and other genocide survivors, and the things people bring with them when they leave one culture for another – have assembled a small but stirring exhibition on what it means to make a new life in a new place. The exhibit asks, in Heuer’s words, “what happens to those who came to the United States from Mexico or Latin America as young children of undocumented parents.”

Then, in New art territory in Oregon City, Heuer learned about another partnership, this one at the small Museum of the Oregon Territory. There, museum director Jenna Barganski and Tammy Jo Wilson, of the organization Art in Oregon, with the considerable aid of donations from many artists, have arranged a mutual fundraiser and auction to aid both organizations. It begins with a preview party on Friday night, and the donated art can be viewed and bid for online, too. 

In a time of anger, divisiveness and isolation, it’s good, the notion strikes me, to get together and tell the stories of who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how we get along. What more can art do?

Jenna Barganski (left), executive director of Oregon City’s Museum of the Oregon Territory, and Tammy Jo Wilson, president of Art in Oregon. Photo: Friderike Heuer 


PassinArt’s 2016 production of Langston Hughes’s musical retelling of the Christmas story, Black Nativity. Photo courtesy PassinArt: A Theatre Company

IN OREGON, THE ARTS ALSO SOMETIMES GO MARCHING 20 BY 20. ArtsWatch has been kicking off the year 2020 by publishing Vision 2020 – twenty stories over twenty days with arts and cultural figures around Oregon, creating a group portrait of the state of the arts in the state. It looks at where we’ve been, where we are, and what might or should happen culturally in the 2020s. Multiplicity is at work here, too: While most of our interviews are with a single person, several have been with teams of two (and in one case, even three).

We’re listing links below to the seven Vision 2020 stories that we’ve published in the past week. Now we’re entering the final stretch. Who will we hear from on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and the series’ final day, Monday? Check in each morning to find out – and in the meantime, catch up with the stories you might’ve missed.

  • Molly Alloy and Nathanael Andreini. “There’s a notion in Portland that anyone living outside Portland is a Klan member. … in fact the small towns and rural communities here are incredibly vibrant and resilient.” A new generation of leaders takes Washington County’s renamed Five Oaks Museum deeper into the arts and into the diversity of culture around it.
  • Ella Ray. “There is this level of resistance coming from formerly colonized people who are marginalized, and I feel something bubbling under the surface,” the art historian and museum activist declares.
  • Martin Majkut. “The current generation of concert-goers is the last one with solid music education in schools.” Rogue Symphony Orchestra’s conductor talks about audiences, money, and music for troubled times.
  • Ka’ila Farrell-Smith. The Southern Oregon artist, mentor, and anti-fracking activist creates visual art “rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism.”
  • Sean Andries and Carissa Burkett. The leaders of Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center provide “a fertile ground for people of all walks of life to cross paths and connect,” from performances to visual and culinary arts.
  • Yaelle Amir. A promising curator makes her mark and then her job disappears. She rolls up her sleeves and makes her mark again.
  • Connie Carly and Jerry Foster. Almost four decades in, the leaders of PassinArt: A Theatre Company continue to set a strong stage for Black theater in Portland.


Playwright Bonnie Ratner (center) and actor Jason Glick (in gray) of Blind at Monday night’s Fertile Ground press evening at The Armory. Blind premieres this weekend at Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, getting a jump on the new-works festival as a whole, which runs Jan. 30-Feb. 9 in spaces across the metro area. Photo courtesy Fertile Ground Festival 

DID I MENTION THAT THE ARTS GO MARCHING TWO BY TWO? On Monday evening at The Armory I chatted with playwright Bonnie Ratner, whose newest play, Blind, opens this week at Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, and actor Jason Glick, who’s in the cast of Blind. It was media night for this year’s Fertile Ground festival of new works, and they were on hand to talk about the play, which is directed by William Earl Ray and is about the tensions between a Jewish shoe-store owner in the 1960s and the predominantly Black Brooklyn neighborhood where he works before heading home to Long Island every night. 

Opening on Saturday at Imago, where Profile Theatre is taking up temporary residence, is Profile’s production of Lynn Nottage’s brilliant drama Sweat, which premiered in 2015 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and won the 2017 Pulitzer drama prize. It’s about what happens in a once-thriving blue-collar town when the jobs start disappearing. Profile’s show, which sports a terrific-looking cast, is directed by Christopher Acebo, late of the Shakespeare Festival.

And here’s a different sort of double-down: Oregon Children’s Theatre is opening two shows this weekend. The perfectly rational-sounding fantasy Dragons Love Tacos (well, who doesn’t?) opens Saturday in the Newmark Theatre downtown. And in the company’s Studio Theatre on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, OCT’s adventurous and talented Young Professionals company of teen actors gears up for Friday’s opening of Impulse, its latest round of improv comedy.


CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

Raphael Likes and Phillip Wells in Oregon Children’s Theatre’s Dragons Love Tacos, opening Saturday. Photo: Owen Carey  


Choreographer and performer Linda Austin premieres a world, a world on Thursday. She’s pictured in 2017’s Part 3 of (Un)Made. Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

LET’S HEAR IT THIS WEEK FOR THE ONES WHO KNOW THE ROPES. Young talent’s exciting, but there’s a special thrill about seeing experienced performers continuing to push against the edge and discover something new. The combination of deep skill and constant exploration can be exhilarating. In Linda Austin’s ‘a world, a world,’ Jamuna Chiarini talks with Austin, who’s been performing and creating dances in Portland and New York since the 1970s, about her newest work, which opens Thursday.

Andrea Parson has been one of the vital figures of the 2010s in the Portland dance world, a brilliant anchor to the innovative NW Dance Project who’s created memorable role after memorable role. She continues in that capacity, but lately has also been moving into solo performance, working with the veteran performer/choreographer/writer Susan Banyas. Their newest collaboration, She’s Here: A One-Woman Show, plays this week for three nights only, Thursday through Saturday, at CoHo Theatre.

And at the Hult Center in Eugene, the very dance-y Gershwin musical An American in Paris drops into town for a single show Friday and two on Saturday. You can keep up with all of January’s dance action in Chiarini’s DanceWatch Monthly column.

Dancer Andrea Parson goes solo for three nights in She’s Here. Photo courtesy Andrea Parson


Neil Peart, Hall of Fame drummer for Rush, died last week at 67, of brain cancer. 

MATTHEW NEIL ANDREWS LAYS DOWN A SOLID AND APPRECIATIVE ASSESSMENT of the difficult genius of drummer Neil Peart, who died last week at 67. “Peart kept evolving as a player,” Andrews writes in his newest MusicWatch Weekly. “On early live albums you can hear heady Apollo warring with hoary Dionysus, a raging feistiness imbuing his rudiment-laden odd-metered grooves with a desperate, almost ragged quality which certainly made for great art. But over time Peart both settled down and expanded, taking jazz lessons late in his career and augmenting his drum kit percussion ensemble with advanced technology that eventually amounted to a portable digital orchestra.”

And, yes, Andrews’ column gets down into the trenches with the week’s coming shows, too.


Bruce Koike’s gyotaku print of lingcod incorporates habitat by adding bullwhip kelp to the image. It appeared on the cover of the May 2016 Fisheries magazine, published by the American Fisheries Society.

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO BRUCE KOIKE WAS FINISHING HIS MASTER’S DEGREE in fish sciences at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport when he happened upon a group of students creating gyotaku — prints made from fish rubbings. He was, as they say in fish circles, hooked. Koike has long since become a master of gyotaku, and these days, in addition to creating his own prints, he teaches the skill to others. In Fish, ink, and paper, Lori Tobias tells his tale.

David Bates, meanwhile, looks inland to McMinnville, where The Gallery at Ten Oaks has hauled in a fresh catch of new work by some very young artists – high school (and a few younger) students in Yamhill County schools. The gallery’s show, which Bates writes about in his story McMinnville gallery showcases young at art, gives a glimpse of the future and provides a snapshot of the varying degrees of commitment to arts education in the county’s schools.


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Girl Falling, Abby Renee Hornsby, Sheridan Middle School, Grade 8. Digital art, 11 by 14 inches; in an exhibit of student art at The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."


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