CULTURE

Vision 2020: Brenna Crotty

Women have read male-centered narratives their whole lives, says the CALYX editor: "Men would benefit a lot from reading female-centered narratives as well"

On its 25th anniversary, feminist literary publisher CALYX Press was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a literary survivor.” It surely is – that was way back in 2001, and Corvallis-based CALYX is still in the game, even as other journals have run their course and publishing houses have closed shop.

The journal was founded in 1976 by Margarita Donnelly, Barbara Baldwin, Elizabeth McLagan, and Meredith Jenkins. In 1986, CALYX expanded into book publishing. Barbara Kingsolver, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Julia Alvarez, and Natalie Goldberg are among the writers whose careers were helped early on by CALYX. Literally thousands of writers and artists have had work published there.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


We talked with Brenna Crotty, who has worked as the senior editor for CALYX since 2015. Her book reviews and humor articles have been published in CALYX, Cracked, and College Humor. She lives in Portland.

Brenna Crotty, senior editor at CALYX, says Oregon literature has a wonderful ecological/environmental slant: “We are all, maybe a little, dreaming up our words in a William Stafford forest-soaked fever of ferns and dappled sunlight.”

Oregon is full of readers, and yet there are surely those who have never heard of CALYX Press. What would you like people to know?

Whenever people ask me this, glib excitement always leads me to say, “Oh man, CALYX is rad!” And by that, I mean that CALYX is awesome and that it is also delightfully radical. We are a nonprofit literary journal that came about in 1976 simply because four women wanted to create a space in a male-dominated industry for art and literature created by women. I’d love for that not to be a radical idea but, even now, in 2020, it is.

The most recent issue of CALYX, October 2019, features cover art “Mom,” by Ho JiaHui.

CALYX publishes two print journals a year: one in summer/fall and one in winter/spring. They are gorgeous little coffee-table books with glossy covers and a full 16-page insert of art. The other pages are filled with poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, and occasional interviews.

We are open for submissions every year (from Oct. 1-Dec. 31) to all women and nonbinary writers. We publish material over the course of two issues, and any submissions that are held for final consideration but not accepted are given personalized feedback by our editorial collective. We also have two competitions over the course of the year, one for poetry and one for prose, and the winners receive cash prizes and publication in the journal as well. We accept art and book reviews year-round.

CALYX has published work by authors and poets such as Sharon Olds, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, but we have also always had a focus on publishing new and emerging writers.

What else? We are hardcore proponents of the Oxford comma.

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Vision 2020: Connie Carly and Jerry Foster

For almost four decades the leaders of PassinArt have forged a strong and steady path for Black theater in Portland

For nearly 38 years PassinArt: A Theatre Company has been passing down art, culture, and heritage to the ensuing generations. That’s a long time for a theater company, a nickel-and-dime industry at the best of times. There are other organizations, such as Artists Repertory Theatre, that have been around longer and gotten bigger. But usually (except in special cases like Milagro) those companies’ longevity has been carried on by fresh influxes of new faces at different times.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


For PassinArt, Connie Carly and Jerry Foster have been keeping the flame alive this entire time. There have been periodic breaks here and there, some longer than others, but PassinArt always comes back, its vision intact, its mission still at the forefront of its endeavors: making sure that the next generation of Black people in Portland has something solid that belongs to them.“We are responsible,” Foster says, “for the health and the vitality of our community.” Put another way (when speaking about the fact that PassinArt has always paid its artists something), Carly says, “We’ve never been community theater. But we’ve always been about the community.”

A lot has changed over the years, of course. PassinArt has been around since 1982. At the time they were Connie Carly, Clarice Bailey and Michael Grant. They had their first performance at the Matt Dishman Center in 1983. Jerry Foster came on board as artistic director in 1985. PassinArt gained its nonprofit status in 1986. In those days, they paid for every show out of their own pockets. Board members were expected to act or direct or work backstage or in the front of house. And they never started a project they didn’t have all the money for already in the bank.

George Hendricks and Jerry Foster in 2014’s “Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking.” Photo courtesy PassinArt

In the old days, surprisingly (to me, at least) PassinArt wasn’t the only game in town if you wanted to see Black theater. There were also Black Repertory Theatre and Sojourner Truth. BRT was a more classic theater company and Truth specialized in historical works. PassinArt was a combination of both. The three companies would work together to make sure that year ’round, Black people could find themselves on stage if they needed to.

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Vision 2020: Yaelle Amir

A promising curator makes her mark and then her job disappears. She rolls up her sleeves and begins to make her mark again.

After twelve years of curating and writing in New York, Yaelle Amir arrived in Portland in March of 2015 to be the curator of exhibitions and public programs at Newspace Center for Photography. The beloved Southeast Portland space had always provided classes, darkrooms, and studio space. Amir was hired to reenergize the exhibition programming, to make shows that people could engage with and be excited about. 

Amir organized several well-received exhibitions at Newspace, including Hidden Assembly, which considered the role of labor in contemporary culture, and In Response: Revisiting the DOCUMERICA Photography Project, which was an open call for artists to submit work based on an Environmental Protection Agency program from the 1970s.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


And then, 28 months later, in July of 2017, Newspace abruptly closed. Like many arts nonprofits, the financial situation had never been especially rosy. Amir mentions that there had been “restructuring” and “tightening up” but that it was “never on the table, from the staff perspective, that we were going to close.” It was an immediate closure. Amir was out of town and returned to find her email shut down, the organization dissolved, and herself without a job. 

This could be a terrible story: A promising young curator comes to Portland and has her ambition shaken out of her. But Amir is resourceful and has continued to enmesh herself in and endear herself to Portland art communities. She started teaching contemporary art practices in the Art + Social Practice MFA program at Portland State University in 2018. In 2019, she curated a show of Dan Paz’s work at HOLDING Contemporary and started teaching curatorial practice at Lewis & Clark College. Along with Ashley Stull Meyers and Elisheba Johnson, she curated the 2019 Biennial at Disjecta. She does not have a full-time job, but she is always working. 

Yaelle S. Amir. Photo: Kaitlin Bodiroga

I spoke with Amir about her views on curating, Newspace, and the Portland art scene. 

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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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McMinnville gallery showcases young at art

A student show at The Gallery at Ten Oaks provides an encouraging snapshot of arts education in Yamhill County

Conventional wisdom — to the extent that there still is such a thing in our highly mediated, hyper-compartmentalized, and socially fractured world — is that arts in the public schools have taken a beating over the years. New football stadiums and practice facilities seem to get built with no problem or objection, but teachers and parents often are forced to scrape together resources on the fundraising circuit just to bring in a professional artist for a week.

“The Look” by Gemma Bell, age 17, Delphian School (acrylic, 16 by 16 inches)

In actuality, the picture obviously varies — from district to district, from school to school — but the show that opened last week in The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville provides a snapshot of the state of arts education in Yamhill County, and it’s encouraging.

For the second year, owners Dan and Nancy Morrow have opened the premium first-floor display space in their gallery to students. Last March, they invited McMinnville High School students to submit work, and they felt the show was successful enough to merit bringing in all Yamhill County high schools this year. “The students who came to the reception last year were so jazzed,” Dan said. “Nancy had name badges for every student. It’s those little things. It’s like, ‘Look, you’re here at a reception and people are coming to see your work on the wall.’”

Paintings, drawings, and ceramics by artists who attend high schools in Yamhill-Carlton, Amity, and Sheridan (as well as the private Delphian School) will greet visitors to the gallery through Feb. 2, and a reception will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. Art by McMinnville and Newberg students will be showcased starting Feb. 4, with the reception set for 6 p.m. Feb. 12.

“Girl Falling” by Abby Renee Hornsby, Sheridan Middle School Grade 8 (digital art, 11 by 14 inches)

I recall being impressed with the overall quality at last year’s show, and the same holds true this time. Several portraits of young women by Delphian students stand out. My eye kept drifting back to a couple of delightful acrylics by 15-year-old Chloe Latch. Another acrylic, by 17-year-old Delphian Gemma Bell titled The Look, seems to challenge the viewer to come up with a word that describes just what that look (the girl’s expression) actually means, what sort of emotional and cognitive state is going on there. It’s nuanced, complex, and contradictory. This piece, along with several others, could easily be relocated upstairs with the pros.

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New art territory in Oregon City

At the Museum of the Oregon Territory, a dynamic partnership and a "gutsy art of overcoming" create an art show and an auction

Jugaad: Originally from Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, and Urdu.

Definition in the Oxford English Dictionary: “a flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way.”

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ONE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS OF BEING GERMAN is that everybody comments on the weird words your language generates, and in particular their length. Yes, it’s strange to have (real!) words like Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (loosely translated as the law for the task assignment of monitoring beef labeling), but then again, their length is proportional to the length of German sentences that extend across half a page. Other languages, less often mentioned, engage in similar stretching exercises, Turkish, Greenlandic and Finnish among them. How is this for a lingual marathon? Ymmärtämättömyyksissäni suuntautumisvaihtoehtoni opintotukihakemuskaavakkeeseen kuulakärkikynällä kirjoitin is a Finnish statement, I am told, that translates into, “In a state of not fully comprehending, I wrote my major thesis on the form for financial aid provided by the state using a ballpoint pen.” Just saying. …

Bethany HayesErratic 1

In reactive fashion, I have become very fond of truly short words that convey incredibly complex meanings. Jugaad is one of them. Fully aware that I might engage in inappropriate cultural (mis)interpretation, the word implies making do with very little, salvaging what can be salvaged, miraculously coming out ahead. Or, as the Harvard Business Review defines it: “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.”

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Vision 2020: Sean Andries and Carissa Burkett

Leaders of Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center look forward to more performing arts, celebrating diversity, and exploring culture through a new culinary center

The Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg would be a remarkable resource even in the culturally rich neighborhoods of Portland. That it happens to be in rural Yamhill County serves as an inspiration to any community that seeks to create space for the arts.

Sean Andries, the center’s director, has been at the cultural center for two years following previous roles with Portland Center Stage and the Circus Project. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon in theater and arts administration and a PTP Certificate from the Dell’Arte School. Carissa Burkett, curator and director of arts programs, also has worked at the Chehalem center for a little more than two years. She received her BA in studio art from Azusa Pacific University and her MFA in visual arts from Vermont College of Fine Art.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


The center is housed in a sprawling, two-story brick building just north of Newberg’s city library. Originally a school built in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project, the building is owned by the Chehalem Park & Recreation District. The nonprofit cultural center is responsible for everything inside, including several visual art galleries and exhibition halls that have featured some stunning exhibitions over the past couple of years. There also are studios and classrooms for arts classes, clay work, and music recording; a 5,200-square-foot ballroom; and a kitchen/culinary arts studio. More is in the works, including a 250-seat theater. 

Carissa Burkett and Sean Andries are excited about the Chehalem Cultural Center’s new Cox Family Culinary Enrichment Center as an avenue to explore art and culture. “So much of our culture is wrapped up in the food we eat and the people we share it with,” Andries says.
Carissa Burkett and Sean Andries are excited about the Chehalem Cultural Center’s new Cox Family Culinary Enrichment Center as an avenue to explore art and culture. “So much of our culture is wrapped up in the food we eat and the people we share it with,” Andries says.

How would you characterize the general state of artistic and cultural life in Newberg and Yamhill County?

Burkett: Throughout the two years that I have been working at the CCC, I’ve seen exponential growth in the ways that the community engages with and is impacted by the center. 2020 will be the 10th year that the center has been running, and as with any organization, we spent a substantial amount of time establishing ourselves in the community, defining who we are and what it is that we do, and then trying to get the word out. In the past two years, our youth and adult art classes have almost doubled both in what we offer and in students signing up. The quantity and caliber of visual art exhibitions has grown and the engagement with these exhibits has taken off. Folks are excited about what is happening and there seems to be a significant impact, more than ever before.

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