Washougal Art & Music Festival

BodyVox leader Una Loughran dies

Loughran, the dance company's general manager for 20 years, died on Friday from cancer at age 58.


Una Loughran, managing director of BodyVox, in Paris. Photo: Byron Beck

Portland lost one of its key behind-the-scenes cultural leaders on Friday when Una Loughran, general manager of BodyVox Dance, died after what BodyVox artistic directors James Hampton and Ashley Roland called “a brief but intense battle with cancer.” She was 58. “Her two brothers held her hands as her spirit danced on to another dimension,” Roland and Hampton said on BodyVox’s Facebook page.

Loughran had been general manager of BodyVox for 20 years, and before that had worked, among other places, for Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Portland and its successor theater company Portland Center Stage. She had studied vocal music at Lewis & Clark College.

I called Una a “behind-the-scenes” leader, and as the steady force who balanced the demands of BodyVox’s local and touring programs, she was that. But she was also, as Hampton and Roland noted, “the face of the company … greeting audience members with a warmth and familiarity that sprang naturally from her Irish heritage.” As a journalist I knew her for many years, and admired her for her abilities, her honesty, and her amused and amusing wit.

“She was powerfully important to the arts community here, and she was very highly regarded around the country,” Hampton said in a followup conversation. “She was foundational to the identity and success of our company. She created myriad wonderful relationships for our company through her generous and accommodating spirit. She was sensitive, mischievous, deeply private, and magnanimous all at once.”

Una Loughran’s death follows closely that of her sister, Siobhan Loughran Taylor, who died in August 2021 at age 63, also of cancer. Siobhan and I were colleagues at The Oregonian for many years; later she was public affairs director for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and worked for several cultural groups including the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition, where she was executive director.

Cynthia Fuhrman, managing director of Portland Center Stage, was Una Loughran’s friend, co-worker, and frequent travel companion for more than 30 years. “It is our adventures in travel together, along with our wonderful friends … that I will perhaps treasure most,” Fuhrman wrote in a Facebook tribute to Una.

“Together we’ve been to Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, and England (these last three multiple times, because we know a good time when we see it) in our international wanderings,” Fuhrman continued, “with many domestic visits to Palm Springs, New York, and the Oregon Coast; most recently, we got to spend a few days at Black Butte Ranch, just before she became ill, and for that I’m so grateful. I treasured Una as a traveling companion for our shared independence (“see you tonight, I’m off to explore on my own!”) and the ease with which we could also plan the details that needed planning. We loved to wander a city as much as we loved spending a day by a pool at a country villa, often wordlessly for hours. True friendship.”


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Una Loughran looks out the window at BodyVox Dance Center at company artistic leaders Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland. Photo: Michael Shay/Polara Studio via BodyVox.

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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."


4 Responses

  1. I think you’ve said it all here and I’ve only this to add: Every now and then, over the years, Una and I would make a date to meet for lunch, or a drink that had nothing to do with her job or mine, but our friendship and a shared passion for just about everything Irish. Fifty-eight–jaysus. Una we hardly knew ye. Nevertheless your memory is a blessing, bigtime.

  2. Thank you Bob for your sweet tribute. We were so lucky to have Una at the helm at BodyVox for all these years, but she left her mark on a far broader community. She was always a resource for other artists and arts leaders, both in the state and beyond, she served on arts boards, and was so interactive in the touring arts market across the nation. The outpouring of thoughts and tributes I have received in the last few days is testament to how many people’s lives were enhanced by her work and her spirit. She was a steadfast colleague, and a very good friend to me. She will remain in my heart forever.

  3. For the 13 years I have been a student at BV, Una was always so helpful and she never failed to greet everyone with a warm smile. She will be missed very much and I am very, very sad to know I will never again see her smile of greeting again.

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