COAST

Fishers of poetry

Nearly 100 commercial fishermen and women will share poems, stories, and songs during the 23rd annual FisherPoets Gathering next week in Astoria

I had been on the Oregon Coast just shy of five months when I learned of the FisherPoets Gathering. I’d never heard of fisher poets, much less a gathering for them. But I must have been intrigued all those 19 years ago, because I drove the 130-odd miles up U.S. 101 to Astoria, a place I’d never seen.

That was the fourth year of the gathering, which celebrates the commercial fishing industry in poetry, prose and music. Even then, the Wet Dog Café venue was filled to overflowing. I returned several years for more, and nearly two decades later, the poems — though not necessarily the poets’ names — stay with me.

There was the young guy who hired on with a fishing vessel only to show up at the dock on the appointed day to find the skipper had headed out a day early. Not long after, he learned the entire crew perished when the vessel capsized. One woman talked of the time her boat burned on Thanksgiving, destroying everything, which wasn’t much in the first place. I made friends with Dave Densmore, who read Skeeter’s Song, the story of the day he lost his son and his father when they took Skeeter’s boat out for a quick cruise on the bay and never returned. It was Skeeter’s 14th birthday.

Besides writing poetry, FisherPoets founder Jon Broderick plays guitar, banjo, and occasional tin whistle. Photo by Patrick Dixon, courtesy FisherPoets Gathering

This year marks the 23rd FisherPoets Gathering, which takes place the last weekend of February at multiple venues around Astoria. Nearly 100 poets, storytellers and songwriters will share tales beginning Feb. 28. Event buttons, good for all weekend, are $20 and available at the door.

The gathering was fisherman Jon Broderick’s idea, earning him the title of “founder,” but only, he says, because he made the first phone call. That was to John van Amerongen, then-editor of Alaska Fisherman’s Journal, who frequently published the work of fisher poets in the magazine.

“I called to see if he had addresses for me,” Broderick recalled. “He did. Forty addresses. I contacted all of them. Thirty-nine said yes. Everybody I called said, ‘Let me talk to someone else.’ One person called another. We never talked to anybody who didn’t think it was a great idea. By word of mouth it spread. We never had to twist anyone’s arm.”

Broderick, whose family has fished for salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska, for three decades, was already writing poetry, but his motive in putting together the gathering was not so much to foster literary pursuits, but friendship.

“Commercial fishermen are tightly knit, but far flung,” Broderick said. “You lose track of people. These are people … they’ve sunk boats, gone aground. They’ve had to deal with hardship and figure ways to carry on. That kind of resiliency is typical of commercial fishermen. Of course, this was all in the days before social media, and if you wanted to get together, you needed an occasion. I invited my friends to get together and read poems. Everybody came and they brought friends.”

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Falling for flamenco

Laura Onizuka first encountered the art form in a video in Spanish class. Now she teaches the dance, including at an upcoming Lincoln City retreat

People come to the Oregon Coast for all sorts of reasons – the beach, the views, the seafood, the sea life. At the end of the month, they’ll come for a reason that may seem as foreign as the country that inspired it: to dance the flamenco. Portland dancer and instructor Laura Onizuka will share her talent and knowledge during the Flamenco Retreat at the Oregon Coast, Feb. 28 through March 1 in Lincoln City. We talked with Onizuka about the art form – a combination of dance, song, and instrumental music from southern Spain. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Flamenco instructor Laura Onizuka describes flamenco as “celebratory, passionate, melancholy.” Photo by: Chris Leck

What is flamenco?

Onizuka: It’s an art form and it’s music, dance, rhythm, language, communication. There are different facets: singing, guitar, dancing. It’s categorized by singing styles, based on the regions they come from and the influences from other parts of the world. For flamenco as we know it today, the place you want to go is Andalucía, Spain. That’s where great flamenco is being born. Madrid would be the hub. A lot of people go there to collaborate and just grow.

What can you tell us about its history?

It’s so complex. Some people say it comes from Gypsies in India originally. Some say that’s not true. It has influence from the Gypsies, Spanish folklore, musical influences from South America and Africa. So much of it was in the oral tradition, so there are not necessarily records of this art form until more recently. There’s a lot of romanticizing the Gypsy culture, but it’s about a lot more than that. People are still arguing about it and figuring it out. Where did it become the flamenco art form? In southern Spain. That’s not disputed.

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Coast calendar: Telling stories and singing songs

Pacific Story Slam continues on the North Coast, chanteuse Lady Rizo visits Newport, and a couple of theatrical comedies offer Elvis and old folks

Fancy yourself a good storyteller? If so, the North Coast is where you want to be. The Pacific Story Slam takes place in three locales and continues through April, when a grand champ is crowned.

Each week offers a new theme — see below — shared by the venues, giving storytellers multiple audiences for their stories and audiences more opportunities to hear tales from different coastal communities.

Workers Tavern in Astoria holds weekly slams from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside hosts slams from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Because Maggie’s is a full-service restaurant, it’s the only venue where people under 21 are welcome to spin a tale.

The third venue is just across the border in Washington at the North Beach Tavern in Long Beach. Slams take place there from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

Here are the rules: Each story must be true and the storyteller’s own story. The story must be told in the first-person narrative without notes or props. The story should be to theme and told within five minutes. Members of the audience will receive ballots to vote for the winner of the night, based on the guidelines of the competition.

The winners from the nine weeks of competition (sorry, we missed the start in January) will be invited back for the semi-finals at each venue to tell a story on their chosen theme. The top four semi-finalists move on to the Grand Slam, competing for a cash prize, “more bragging rights and a slightly bigger trophy,” according to organizers. That takes place April 10 in the Fort George Brewery in Astoria.

Why, you might ask, a story slam? We’ll let organizers answer:

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‘Au Naturel’: Art laid bare

Three North Coast artists are included in an Astoria show celebrating a universal: "We all necessarily inhabit our own bodies"

The first time Drea Frost walked into a college art class, it was not as an artist but as a model for a nude-drawing class. She did it for the money, but wound up with so much more. Now, Frost is part of the exhibit Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century – this time as a featured artist. She’s one of three North Coast artists chosen to display their work.

The 14th annual international juried exhibit is on display through March 12 in Clatsop Community College’s Royal Nebeker Art Gallery. A reception is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Astoria gallery.

Featuring 44 pieces by 32 artists from 14 states and Canada, the exhibit drew more than 500 submissions. Portland artist Henk Pander selected the art to be included in the show. In his juror’s statement, Pander wrote that he chose work that reflects “quality, originality, power, humanism and lack of cliché.”

“Finding a Way Through Fear,” by Drea Frost of Cannon Beach (acrylic on board, 24 by 36 inches) is one of 44 pieces in this year’s “Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century” show.

Founder and CCC art instructor Kristin Shauck, who was featured recently in ArtsWatch’s Vision 2020 series, conceived of the show as a way to bring original works by contemporary practicing artists to campus for students to study for an extended period, she said.

The show, she said, is meant to inspire not only art students, particularly in the life-drawing class, but also a wider audience, especially practicing figurative artists in the area’s vibrant arts community. “This show celebrates the age-old tradition of representing the nude human form,” she added, “which is a subject that artists have been drawn to since the dawn of time because it resonates with each and every one of us as humans — we all necessarily inhabit our own bodies.”

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Coast calendar: Long-lost drawings and celebrating the nude

A fundraiser auctions a Rick Bartow sketch, the 14th annual "Au Naturel" show opens in Astoria, plus play and author readings, and cranky old men in Cannon Beach

Newport artist Rick Bartow died nearly four years ago, but his work is the gift that keeps giving, in some cases, surprisingly so. Last year, staff at the Olalla Center, a nonprofit in Toledo that provides mental health care for children, set out to do some spring cleaning. In the process, they discovered seven line drawings by Bartow stashed away and gathering dust.

They’ve set aside one of those drawings to be auctioned off at a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, Sea of Love, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The framed drawing will be revealed the evening of the auction.

A Rick Bartow sketch similar to these, found in storage at the Olalla Center, will be auctioned during a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. Bartow created the drawings as part of an Earth Day exercise for children.

“We were literally clearing out a storage room of old games and toys and random items, sort of typical rummage sale items, and we found Rick’s pieces all at once,” said Diane Teem, executive director at the center. “We were so happy to find them. It was like a treasure. Our staff had changed since they were created, and we didn’t realize they existed. I don’t know how they came to be in storage, but we’re super happy we discovered them and can now honor Rick’s memory and contribution to the children of the Olalla Center. Rick was all about the children.”

The pieces, which Bartow called “eco art,” were created in 2010 as an Earth Day classroom exercise Bartow participated in. The drawing to be auctioned is 2.5 feet wide by 2 feet tall, framed in metal and signed. Teem is working to have the artwork appraised.

The other drawings have the children’s names on them, and on the back, a bio and picture of Bartow along with an Earth Day poem and the answers to a classroom assignment.

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Vision 2020: Kristin Shauck

The Clatsop Community College teacher and artist loves Astoria’s grittiness and diverse arts scene, but sees gentrification putting the squeeze on her students

Kristin Shauck teaches drawing, painting, design, watercolor, and art history at Clatsop Community College, where she also oversees the Royal Nebeker Art Gallery. Originally from Texas, Shauck grew up expecting to pursue a career in music, but while studying at Baylor University, she shifted gears and instead received her bachelor’s degree in fine art.

Early influences include an artist mother, who made sure Shauck always had art supplies available, and a mathematician father, who made history as the first pilot to make a transatlantic flight using ethanol fuel. He followed Charles Lindberg’s original flight.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


“I have always been very proud of my dad,” Shauck said. “He is brilliant and charismatic, and I admire him so much for all he has achieved throughout his lifetime.  I developed passionate love of learning from his example, and particularly of cross-disciplinary learning. He taught me that math and science are connected to everything in life, including visual art and music. ”

Kristin Schauk, shown here with self-portrait, says she cannot  imagine being an educator without being an artist, and vice versa. Photo courtesy: Clatsop Community College
Kristin Schauck, shown here with self-portrait, says she cannot imagine being an educator without being an artist, and vice versa. Photo courtesy: Clatsop Community College

After college, Shauck taught in several arts programs before answering an ad for a teacher at Clatsop Community College in 2004.  “I got to Astoria and I fell in love with the community. The campus and the faculty here are amazing.”

What, good or bad, has had the biggest impact on arts and culture in your area in the past few years?

The fact that we have such a vibrant arts community is really attracting people to this area, and that’s a mixed bag. It does kind of price out local artists and locals in terms of living spaces and studio spaces, because we see that kind of gentrification happening. I’ve seen a lot of that since I first came in 2004. What I love about Astoria is it’s never lost its grittiness. It’s not too slick and too cool. Everyone here respects everyone else’s eccentricities. Especially, coming from Texas — it’s not like that. People conform. They don’t accept the individualities of people. People are much more open-minded here.

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Fish, ink, and paper

The most critical element in gyotaku, says instructor Bruce Koike, is getting the eyes right

As a young man, Bruce Koike thought of himself as a science kind of guy, not one particularly interested in art. So when he happened upon a handful of students creating gyotaku — prints created from fish rubbings — at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, he was surprised to find himself drawn to the art.

Thirty-five years later, Koike is known for his masterful prints, as well as his workshops to teach the craft to others. His next is set for Jan. 25 at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport.

Koike encountered the Japanese art form in 1985, the same year he started grad school, which led to his master’s degree in fisheries science from the Hatfield Center. He made his first print that summer.

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

“I bought a tube of black paint and went to the hardware store and bought a brush, some paper, and gave it a shot,” Koike said. “I still have that print, and it was of a pile perch. It was good enough to keep it.”

His technique evolved over the years, as the self-taught artist learned through trial and error the tricks to creating a print that could truly be called art. One is to remove standing water, likely to be found in depressions on the fish, and not to use too much or too little paint. Ink is applied to the fish with a brush, then paper is laid on the fish and pressed down to transfer the image.

The critical last step is properly capturing the eyes.

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