FAMILY

‘Dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science’

Fossil fanatics Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson will visit Salishan Resort to talk about their latest book, "Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline"

Like many, I always associated Ketchikan-based artist Ray Troll with the crazy T-shirts sporting colorful fish or other wildlife and lines like “Ain’t No Nookie Like Chinookie” or “There’s No Ho Like Coho.” Troll’s art — irreverent, funny, sometimes dark — is an icon of Alaska, and likewise big, bold, and unique.

What I didn’t know was that as much as Troll is known for his wildlife and Alaskan-lifestyle art, he’s also equally well known — at least by some — for his love of fossils.

“It’s a lifelong thing,” Troll told me when we talked by phone this week. “I’ve been drawing dinosaurs since I was 4 years old. People know me for my fishing T-shirts, but my love of prehistoric things has been lifelong. Dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science. I was an early paleo enthusiast. I was using crayons; I still use crayons, but they are professional.”

Paleontologist Kirk R. Johnson (left) and artist Ray Troll have collaborated on a second fossil-filled book, "Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline."  Art by: Ray Troll
Paleontologist Kirk Johnson (left) and artist Ray Troll have collaborated on a second fossil-filled book, “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” Illustrations by: Ray Troll

Troll and fellow fossil expert Kirk Johnson are bringing their latest book, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, to the Oregon Coast. The pair will give a free talk and sign books Nov. 13 at Salishan Resort in Gleneden Beach. The talk is presented by the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, where Troll and Johnson, a paleontologist and director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, collaborated on the book, a sequel to Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway. The project took them nearly 10 years to complete, earning them a Guggenheim Fellowship and taking them from San Diego to the northern reaches of Alaska.

“He’s the word guy,” Troll said of Johnson. “I’m the picture guy.”

Continues…

Coast calendar: Calling all artists, and arts lovers

Lincoln City seeks new public art; Sitka Center holds a fundraiser; Floyd Skloot reads from his new book; and Cannon Beach celebrates stormy weather

If you’ve ever driven through Lincoln City on a summer day, it will come as no surprise that every year 8.8 million vehicles travel that stretch of U.S. 101. While that may be discouraging news if you’re sitting in traffic, it’s no doubt heartening to artists who’d like their roadside work to be seen. That the opportunity to do so comes with a commission of up to $120,000 only sweetens the prize.

Lincoln City’s roster of public art includes the Community Center’s swimming tile mural by Ted and Judith Schlicting. The city is seeking proposals from artists to craft a piece for the new Cultural Plaza.
Lincoln City’s roster of public art includes the Community Center’s tile mural by Ted and Judith Schlicting. The city is seeking proposals from artists to craft a piece for the new Cultural Plaza.

Lincoln City is offering one artist the chance to craft the first major piece of art to be installed in the new Lincoln City Cultural Plaza. But don’t spend too much time thinking about it. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 1. Get your request for qualifications (RFQ) here.  

Continues…

Finn builds a galaxy… with help from a pro

Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. and 6-year-old Finn Connaughton collaborate on an extraterrestrial installation at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg

The Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg features an exhibit, Finn Builds a Galaxy, that was created by two artists whose life experiences could scarcely be more different.

Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. is 32 years old, has studied art at Alfred University School of Art and Design, and is doing graduate work at Portland State University. Stevenson has worked as a figure model, a cook, a grocery store clerk, and a community organizer. Born in Gaithersburg, Md., the artist has traveled to Mexico, Canada, Scotland, Italy, and Germany. For the past 10 years, Stevenson has worked on a variety of projects while also studying.

The exhibit is named after the other artist, Finn Connaughton. He’s 6 and attends first grade at Yamhill-Carlton Elementary School. The son of a pharmacist father, Erin, and Jacki, a stay-at-home mother, he’s fond of Minecraft, building with LEGOS, and Pokémon. And, of course, art. 

Finn Connaughton, 6, and Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr., 32, collaborated on an other-worldly exhibit on display through Oct. 31 at the Chehalem Cultural Center. Photo by: David Bates
Finn Connaughton, 6, and Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr., 32, collaborated on an other-worldly exhibit on display through Oct. 31 at the Chehalem Cultural Center. Photo by: David Bates

At a reception last week, Finn stood on the center’s spacious lobby mezzanine gazing at his galaxy — planets, stars, LEGO spaceships, and a few flying creatures — looking a bit awed by the attention but clearly proud of his galactic creation. Below, his parents and extended family, other visitors, and staff looked up, some taking pictures.

Next to him, Stevenson grinned and offered Finn one of many compliments: “You are even more famous in Newberg than I am!”

Continues…

Spotlight shines on movies made in Oregon

Lincoln City's Bijou Theatre hosts the six-day Oregon-Made Film Festival with a dozen feature films, plus shorts and documentaries

Movie buffs learning that the Oregon-Made Film Festival is coming to Lincoln City’s historic Bijou Theatre will no doubt expect to see films such as The Goonies, Sometimes a Great Notion, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And they will. What they might not expect is the handful of films they’ve probably never heard of and just as likely won’t soon forget.

The film festival will showcase about a dozen Oregon-made feature films, as well as shorts and documentaries, over six days beginning Oct. 25. I talked with Betsy Altomare, co-owner with husband, Keith, of the Bijou, about the festival. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired the Oregon-Made Film Festival?

Altomare: In about 2011, we did it during spring break because there were a lot of really cool movies made in this area, like Sometimes a Great Notion. (People want to see that all the time. Every month or so, someone says, “When are you going to play Sometimes a Great Notion?”) But we only did that in the mornings and just five movies. It was mostly popular with retired people who aren’t working during the week. For The Goonies and Free Willy, of course, we had families. But the films weren’t terribly well attended.

We hope doing a whole week with an Oregon-made film at every show time will change that. We’re going in different directions, too. We’re showing  short films, documentaries, and stories that deserve to be seen. The festival will also feature introductions from directors, as well as other movie experts.  
 

The cast of 1971’s “Sometimes a Great Notion,” based on Ken Kesey’s novel, included (from left) Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick and Richard Jaeckel as members of the Stampher family. It plays Oct. 25 during the Oregon-Made Film Festival.
The cast of 1971’s “Sometimes a Great Notion,” based on Ken Kesey’s novel, includes (from left) Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, and Richard Jaeckel as members of the Stamper family. It plays Oct. 25 during the Oregon-Made Film Festival.

What were the criteria for choosing the movies?

Partially popularity and partially for information. We chose two documentaries by Salem’s Darrell Jabin. One is the History of Oregon Carousels and the other, the History of Oregon Movie Theatres. We have the silent film The General, made in 1926 in Cottage Grove with Buster Keaton. That’s always popular. Oregon film expert Dean Ingram will be on hand to introduce that. We’re also doing these shorts from the Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival. Curator Michael Harrington does some really interesting shorts. He will be there to do the introduction.

Continues…

Notes from Eastern Oregon: Art centers keep culture alive

Former Carnegie libraries in Pendleton, La Grande and Baker City house collections ranging from rocks to Lee Marvin's yellow-striped pants.

A road trip to Eastern Oregon late this summer opened my eyes to an error of provincialism on my part. I had regarded Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center as being somehow unique for a small community. Granted, it is one of the largest nonprofit facilities of its kind in Oregon outside of Portland, but it is hardly the only instance of an old building being repurposed to keep arts and culture alive in a small town.

A trip that took us up the Columbia Gorge and into Pendleton, though La Grande, and finally into Baker City yielded a few journalistic snapshots.

The entrance of the Carnegie library that houses the Pendleton Arts Center was designed to resemble the Pazzi Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. Randy Gundlach’s horse statue lends a western touch. Photo by: David Bates
The entrance of the Carnegie library that houses the Pendleton Center for the Arts was designed to resemble the Pazzi Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. Randy Gundlach’s horse statue lends a western touch. Photo by: David Bates

The Pendleton Center for the Arts is perched on a hill on the northwest corner of downtown next to the Umatilla River. Like the other art centers we visited in Eastern Oregon, the Pendleton center is a remodeled Carnegie library, this one designed by Portland architect Folger Johnson (1882-1970) and built in 1916 in the style of Italian Renaissance Revival. The entrance was designed to resemble the Pazzi Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. Near the front steps is an equestrian statue titled Sisters in Spirit by Randy Gundlach, dedicated in October 2004.

On the day I was there, the photographic work of David Webber, an artist/professor from Oklahoma, occupied the main gallery. Trees, gates, fences, sidewalks, and exterior walls were the primary motifs featured in the 15 prints, blown up to enormous size. According to the program, Webber’s “photos confuse the boundaries of their reference and challenge the viewers’ perception of what they are seeing. Superimposing images through layering, he pushes them to varying degrees of density by creating simple composites, fields of color and meshed textures.”

Continues…

Jerome Blankenship: ‘I catered my life to fit into music’

The founder of Ships to Roam, which opens McMinnville's Walnut City Music Festival on Friday, says his musical influences range from yodelers to grunge

We’ve arrived at summer’s end and Labor Day draws near, which means the Walnut City Music Festival is primed for launch this weekend.

The seventh-annual family-friendly musical event fills two days with a blast of indie, folk, and pop rock in McMinnville’s Lower City Park, at the west end of the restaurant- and tasting-room-packed downtown. Ossie Bladine started the event with just a few bands in 2013 in the Granary District at the other end of town. Since then, it has evolved into something more substantial.  Audiences can fill up on a dozen bands, both local and out-of-state. It’s a lawn-chairs-and-blankets affair, with kids 12 and under admitted free. Food carts (which in McMinnville is, increasingly, a thing) will be nearby, ready to serve. Tickets for adults are $25 and $35. Be sure to check the website for details on what you can and can’t bring.

It begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday with the homegrown Ships to Roam, which cites among its influences Rogue Wave, Old ‘97s, The War on Drugs, and the Jayhawks. I sat down recently with the band’s founder, Jerome Blankenship, to talk about his life and work. He’s a 1999 graduate of Yamhill-Carlton High School who went on to study music in Portland before hitting the road with a punk band. Along the way, he married and had children, and even gave up music for a while until he had an epiphany: “Rather than having music fit into my life,” he said, “I catered my life to fit into music.”

The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

How did you first encounter music?

Jerome Blankenship: I grew up in a musical family, some of them Irish-American immigrants. On my mom’s side, it was people from Oklahoma who used to yodel competitively. [Blues guitarist] Roy Buchanan is a distant relative, so it’s in my blood. My uncles and cousins had a band in the 1970s and 1980s, and they toured around the Northwest. So at family get-togethers, there were always 10 guitars, a bass, and an accordion, and sometimes even a flute. It got pretty interesting. The people I looked up to all played music, and that’s going to plant a seed.

As you saw all this going on, did you want to sing or play?

I remember having a little-kid guitar and just letting my imagination go. I always wanted to be a bass player because four strings was easier to master than six, and that was the route I took by the time I was 11. Uncles gave me pointers, but then my dad got me lessons in junior high. I took lessons for two or three years, and [the instructor] said, “I can’t teach you anything else.”

Did it come easily?

Not the music theory part. I still struggle with that. As an ear musician, I’ve always been pretty good, being able to pick out where we’re at in the song and how to key things in. But I definitely knew at a young age that I wanted to be a part of it.

What about influences outside your family? What musical cultures were you tuned into?

Growing up, the big thing was grunge. I’d been to a couple concerts when I was younger, but it was everything from Christian rock to bluegrass. I started really going to shows in high school, and that was during the grunge and punk era. Punk was still happening in the ‘90s. Idolizing bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam. Nirvana, of course. The Seattle scene was going to inspire anybody. It wasn’t just a music thing. It was like, it’s cool to feel depressed and wear flannel and grow your hair long and not do well in school. It was fashionable.

Continues…

PHAME and friends rock out

PHAME Academy and Portland Opera collaborate on original rock opera

Photos by Friderike Heuer

Two summers ago, Portland Opera Manager of Education and Outreach Alexis Hamilton attended an original musical performed by artists from Portland’s PHAME Academy, which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She hoped the 35-year-old organization might help her make the Portland Opera To Go program more accessible to people with disabilities. But she was so impressed by PHAME’s 2017 production that she imagined a bigger project.

“After I saw that,” Hamilton recalled, “I was really on fire” to collaborate with PHAME.

PHAME dancers in rehearsal.
PHAME “movers” in rehearsal.

That production coincided with the arrival of PHAME’s new executive director, Jenny Stadler, who was looking for ways “to overcome the invisibility” that separated many people with disabilities from the rest of society. One method: give PHAME students opportunities to tell their own stories to the larger public. After Hamilton approached her about collaborating, Stadler woke up with a “middle-of-the-night epiphany: we help them become inclusive, and they teach our students how to create an opera.” 

This weekend and next, 18 months of groundbreaking work by PHAME and Portland Opera staff — and above all the students themselves — culminate in what Stadler calls ‘the biggest project we’ve ever done.” PHAME’s original new rock opera, The Poet’s Shadow, runs for seven performances this weekend and next at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center. 

Continues…