ArtsWatch Weekly: eyeballing the state of the state

Vision 2020, new/old Five Oaks Museum, music of Second Winter, blood sweat & fears at the theater, storm of the (last) century

HERE AT ARTSWATCH WE’RE ENTERING THE 2020s NOT WITH A WHIMPER BUT A BANG. On New Year’s Day we began a series called Vision 2020 – twenty interviews in 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 coming decade.

Yulia Arakelyan of Wobbly Dance in a scene from Wobbly’s film Tidal. Photo: Kamala Kingsley

We started planning for this series several months ago, looking for potential voices that are insightful, informed, and sometimes provocative. We wanted to hear not just from the Portland area, but from around Oregon. And we wanted to dig deep. Some of the people we’ve interviewed are well-known artists. Some you might never have heard of. Some work behind the scenes. Some are up-and-coming. Several are from vital communities that have been under-recognized. All are creating significant chapters in the Oregon Story.


As of this morning we’ve published nine stories – not quite half of what you’ll eventually read. The form of the portrait is taking shape, and there’s much more to come. The story so far: 

  • Rachel Barrera-Kleemann. The “small” goals of the Newport dance teacher, who learned African-Brazilian dance forms in Brazil and performed with the marching samba band Lions of Batucuda: keep kids motivated to dance, give low-income kids a place to go.
     
  • Niel DePonte. The Portland percussionist, composer, and conductor for more than 40 years thinks about thorny issues ahead, and how to tackle them.
     
  • Darcy Dolge, Sarah West, and Nancy Knowles. Three leaders of La Grande’s Art Center East, which helps serve a sprawling ten-county stretch of Eastern Oregon, say funding cuts could have been dire in their rural area, but the community stepped up to keep arts thriving.
     
  • Maya Vivas and Leila Haile. The founders of North Mississippi Avenue’s Ori Gallery “often joke about how we would love to not be the only Queer, Black-run art space in town.”
     
  • Christopher Acebo. The longtime key figure at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and recent chair of the Oregon Arts Commission talks about diversity, funding, and who controls the gate to the castle.
     
  • Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson. Beyond the arts bubble, the Wobbly duo see a dangerous world: “Hate based crime directed against people with disabilities has gone up.”
     
  • John Olbrantz. The director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art talks about the museum, Salem’s lively arts community, and its “blessing and curse” of being near Portland.
     
  • Joamette Gil. The lowdown on the Power & Magic of creating an indie comics universe that tells tales of life, love, and adventure in a nonbinary culture of color.
     
  • Rachael Carnes. The Eugene playwright, who’s written more than 80 plays in three years, praises her city’s bubbling arts community but fears it’s getting harder to break in: “Access is the foundation for a vibrant arts scene.”
Indie comic artist Joemette Gil, panel from Super Glue. Courtesy of the artist. 

RETHINKING FIVE OAKS: WHOSE LAND IS IT?


This IS Kalapuyan Land: new ways to learn old things. Photo courtesy Five Oaks Museum

WASHINGTON COUNTY HAS A NEW/OLD MUSEUM. On Wednesday what had been the Washington County Museum became Five Oaks Museum, adopting a new name to reflect its broader cultural and artistic outlook. In Five Oaks: What’s in a name? Brett Campbell talks with museum co-directors Molly Alloy and Nathanael Andreini about how they rethought the 63-year-old institution, “overhauling its educational curriculum, diversifying its exhibit curation, and expanding its focus to further include the perspectives of the region’s Native American and immigrant communities, giving the arts a higher profile than ever.” And in Whose land is it, anyway?, Laurel Reed Pavic reviews This IS Kalapuyan Land, guest curator Stephanie Littlebird Fogel’s rigorous rethinking of the museum’s main exhibition, which had told the tale of Tualatin Valley mainly from a white-settler perspective. Fogel radically revised many of the exhibition’s information panels and added work by seventeen contemporary Native American artists.


STAGE: BLOOD, SWEAT & FEARS (AND TEVYE, TOO)


Delphon “DJ” Curtis in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at The Armory. Photo: Owen Carey / courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armory

WHILE DELPHON “DJ’ CURTIS CONTINUES TO PROWL THE STAGE in the cult hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch in the intimate Ellyn Bye Studio at The Armory, a couple of new shows this week seem made for each other: the West Coast premiere of Savannah Reich’s Stupid Ghost at Theatre Vertigo and Jeffrey Hatcher’s update of Frederick Knott’s thriller Wait Until Dark at Lakewood Theatre.

If you haven’t seen Wait Until Dark onstage, you may well remember it from the 1967 movie version starring Audrey Hepburn as a plucky blind woman being stalked in her apartment by a cast of criminals. And here’s Vertigo’s intriguing description of Stupid Ghost: “The Ghost lived in the woods, Minding Her Own Business and definitely Not Haunting Anyone, until one day she saw a Pretty Girl and followed her home. It totally wasn’t even a thing. The Girl was probably not even going to notice.” It’s a comedy.

Meanwhile, Tevye and gang have settled into Keller Auditorium for the Bartlett Sher-directed Broadway touring run of the ever-popular Fiddler on the Roof through Sunday, and Profile Theatre’s a week from opening Lynn Nottage’s superb contemporary drama Sweat, directed by Christopher Acebo at Imago. Just the ticket to get ready for the city-wide Fertile Ground festival of new works, kicking off Jan. 30 all over town.

Adding fire to the fuel: Taylor Jean Grady and Paul Angelo in the suspense classic Wait Until Dark. Photo courtesy Lakewood Theatre. 

MUSICWATCH: SECOND WINTER DESCENDS


Prototype of 45th Parallel's 'Les Boreades' performance space, designed by Brad Johnson and Glowbox. Photo courtesy of 45th Parallel.
Prototype of 45th Parallel’s Les Boreades performance space, designed by Brad Johnson and Glowbox for a Jan. 17 concert. Photo courtesy 45th Parallel

YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. “We’ve just wrapped up First Winter: the time when it hasn’t gotten too terribly cold and miserable, holiday cheer is in the air, and everybody’s all excited for the solstice and the new year,” Matthew Neil Andrews writes in his new MusicWatch Monthly. “Now that all that busyness is behind us, it’s time to hunker down for the rest of winter, the long cold dreary late morning of the soul, a grim season that seems to grind on forever and promises only the occasional snow day in compensation. But we’re in luck: we get to ring in the Coming of Second Winter with a month of pleasantly undemanding concerts of medieval hymns, saxophone ensembles, live film music, and classical chamber music by a variety of French and local composers. It all starts this weekend with Cappella Romana and the Hymns of Kassianë.”


BIG BLOW, WINTER WARMERS, WHITE NOISE


Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko’s new show Hanging River at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg includes multiple transparent objects, including this large glass sculpture resembling a stringed instrument. 

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE:

  • REMEMBERING THE BIG BLOW. Lori Tobias talks with John Dodge, who wrote the book on the biggest storm in modern Pacific Northwest history (it’s called A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm) and is getting ready to talk about it at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum: “There was very little advance warning. … The forecasters saw the barometric pressure plunge, started noticing widespread power outages, and put two and two together that something big was coming.”
     
  • THE PERSON THAT COULD HAVE BEEN. Sue Taylor reviews Kerry Skarbakka’s exhibit White Noise. Using himself as a model, Skarbakka created “a disturbing fantasy: in twenty-five powerful photographic and video works, a grisly-bearded white man prepares for an Armageddon of his own devising.”
     
  • YAMHILL COUNTY’S WINTER WARMERS. David Bates discovers a small cornucopia of upcoming cultural attractions, among them a show of promising student art in McMinnville, and a stunning glass exhibition by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko in Newberg.

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