AS WE MOVE CLOSER TO THANKSGIVING DAY, all of us here at ArtsWatch would like to thank you for the support you’ve given us and ask you to join us as we prepare for another year. You, our readers and financial contributors, make what we do possible. We’ve published more than 450 stories so far in 2019 – news, reviews, previews, analyses, portraits, and deeper insights about the arts. Here’s just a taste of what you’ve helped make happen this year:
- Exquisite Gorge: Friderike Heuer’s 11-part series chronicling Maryhill Museum’s epic 66-foot print project to document the Columbia River.
- Visual arts coming and going: Bob Hicks’s extensive inside look at the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University, and Barry Johnson’s comprehensive coverage of the Oregon College of Art and Craft’s demise, which topped our most-read list for 2019.
- Monumental undertakings: Brett Campbell’s in-depth take on the collaboration of PHAME, which provides training and opportunities for developmentally challenged performers, with Portland Opera to premiere the opera The Poet’s Shadow.
- Theater profiles: Deep portraits by Bobby Bermea and Marty Hughley of Asae Dean, Rodolfo Ortega, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Bill Rauch, the OUTwright Festival, PassinArt’s Black Nativity, and the state of Oregon theater.
- On the move: Elizabeth Whelan’s profiles of a new generation of dancers and choreographers who are turning Portland into a creative mecca.
- Minding the gap: Damien Geter’s examination of the diversity deficit in classical music performances and suggestions to remedy it.
- Picture this: Photo essays of Beaverton Night Market, Nrityotsava, Día de Muertos, colors of India, Waterfront Blues Festival, to name a few.
In the next year you can look forward to Vision 2020, a series of interviews that will evaluate the arts scene and forecast how it might change in the years to come, and a summer-long focus on festivals, where community and culture meet. We’ll also be telling stories about the Learning Arts – how do art and education impact each other? – and the Art of Space: In an escalating real estate market, how and where do artists and arts groups find places to make and show their work?
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LENNY & MERCE: TWO GIANTS, ONE CENTURY
IT’S CENTURY CELEBRATION TIME for two American artistic giants. On Aug. 25, 1918, Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to immigrant Ukrainian Jewish parents, and the great composer and conductor had such an impact on both high and popular culture that his centenary celebration has flowed over into a second year. And on April 16, 1919, the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham was born in Centralia, Washington, months before the infamous Centralia Massacre of Nov. 11, 1919, which pitted members of the Wobblies labor movement against members of the American Legion. Cunningham would make his mark as a revolutionary of a very different sort.
In A century of Leonard Bernstein, Bernstein expert Evan Lewis leads us through the exhibition Leonard Bernstein at 100 that continues through January 26 at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, and touches on the composer’s sometimes rocky path to fame. “After his son had become a worldwide phenomenon,” Lewis writes, “Sam was asked by a reporter why he had refused to pay for piano lessons. The elder Bernstein replied, ‘Well, how was I supposed to know he’d turn out to be Leonard Bernstein?’”
And in Restaging two great Merce Cunningham dances, ArtsWatch’s executive editor, Barry Johnson, talks with Robert Swinston about the longtime Cunningham dancer’s four decades of experience with the late contemporary master’s work. Swinston now leads the French troupe CNDC-Angers, which will perform two Cunningham masterworks from the 1990s Thursday through Saturday in the White Bird dance series. “I am continually astounded by Cunningham’s genius,” Swinston told Johnson. “As he was a keen observer of nature, he sought complexity and he found that in his use of chance operations. I witness something new each time I watch these dances, because there is always so much to see compositionally in movement, time and space.”
THE ‘HUMBLE REGALITY’ OF LAUREN HALE’S PORTRAITS
SEBASTIAN ZINN PUTS A SHARP FOCUS ON THE IMAGES OF LAUREN HARE, the Portland photographer whose intensely personal portraits create a kind of biography of contemporary America. One of Hare’s portraits was a prize-winner in this year’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the National Portrait Gallery, and as Zinn writes in The “humble regality” of Lauren Hare’s portraits, “It’s difficult to exaggerate the significance of Hare’s achievement as a prizewinner. In 2016, the painter Amy Sherald became the first woman to be awarded first prize in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. That same year, she was commissioned by Michelle Obama to paint the former First Lady’s official portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.”
DANCE: NUTCRACKER, GRAVITY, INVISIBLE TOUCH
AS IT IS EVERY WEEK, IT’S TIME TO TAKE A DIVE BACK INTO Jamuna Chiarini’s DanceWatch Monthly column to see what’s on tap for the coming week. Let’s see, now, here it is … Merce Cunningham’s Biped and Beach Birds at White Bird (see above); Gravity Defiant at The Circus Project; Allie Hankins’ Invisible Touch and Elby Brosch and Shane Donohue’s Drama Tops, This Is for You at Performance Works NW; The Nutcracker from Oregon International Ballet Academy; and the final weekend of BodyVox’s neo-Shakespearean Death and Delight. Click the link for details.
- A JOURNEY HOME FOR ISRAELI CHOREOGRAPHER AMY LEONA HAVIN. Elizabeth Whelan considers the dancemaker’s new work at The Holding Project: “The roots of mekudeshet originate in her own family’s history—their Jewish faith, their Isreali homeland, and their resilience and struggle through the trauma of the Holocaust, during which all four of Havin’s grandparents survived the devastation of the concentration camps. The work serves as both a time capsule and a sign for how Havin’s future might weave together the worlds of Judaism and feminism.”
MUSIC: A SONG, A DANCE, A BRAND NEW CHANCE
“AS THE GREAT PACIFIC SINGER, DANCER, COMPOSER, PERCUSSIONIST, instrument builder, and calligraphist Lou Harrison loved reminding us,” Matthew Neil Andrews writes in his new MusicWatch Weekly, “‘music is basically a song and a dance.’ This week’s selections might be all over the genre map–cumbia psicodélica; twisty Balkan brass; rowdy cinematic rock and other local uncategorizables; clarinets and percussion and laptops; songs from Ireland and World War I; a siege catapult’s worth of jazz–but all of it hews to this basic formula. Sing. Dance. Repeat.”
- AN INTERSECTION OF PEOPLE, IDEAS, AND MUSIC. Cappella Romana’s Mark Powell reviews the debut of the new Nexus Vocal Ensemble and is eagerly awaiting the next concert: “Be sure to look out for it—if the debut concert was any indication, you won’t want to miss it.”
- FINDING HOPE THROUGH MUSIC. Gary Ferrington turns his eyes and ears to Southern Oregon and the inauguration of a new concert series, The Heart of Humanity, that “is focused on giving a compassionate voice to marginalized people and turning the concert hall into a venue for renewed hope, mutual understanding, and communal healing.”