FILM

Coming attractions: McMinnville Short Film Festival

The Yamhill County calendar also includes three new gallery shows and a jazz performance by the Christopher Brown Quartet

We begin this week’s column with a quick run through the essential news-you-can-use for the McMinnville Short Film Festival, set for Feb. 21-23. In recent years, it’s emerged as yet another tent-pole cultural event in Yamhill County. Next week I’ll have a deep dive into some of the films that will be screened.

Filmmaker Scott Ballard will be keynote speaker at the McMinnville Short Film Festival.

By every measure, the event — founded by Dan and Nancy Morrow of McMinnville in 2011 — has grown considerably from very humble beginnings. The festival next week expands to three days to accommodate a whopping 85 films from the United States, Canada, and the international film community. A second venue has been added: Along with booking the largest auditorium at McMinnville Cinema 10, organizers have arranged for an opening-night screening in Linfield College’s Ice Auditorium.

The festival is for everybody, even those who don’t think of themselves as cinephiles or who watch movies infrequently. Nine categories are arranged by genre and include two narrative viewing blocks. Besides offering documentaries and environmental films, horror and “experimental” works, the festival has two new categories this year. It is partnering with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde on a Native American block, and with McMinnville Kiwanis and Sunrise Rotary on a Student Showcase block that will feature work by students in grades 6-12 and college.

The awards dinner is Feb. 23 on the Chemeketa Community College campus in McMinnville, next to the theater. Portland filmmaker Scott Ballard is the keynote speaker.

Check out the website, peruse the titles and screening blocks, and plan on a weekend of interesting, thoughtful work that’s as good as or better than anything Hollywood spits up these days. Purchase tickets here for as few or as many screenings as you like.

Kathleen Buck’s abstract paintings are among the works in a new show in McMinnville’s Currents Gallery.

YAMHILL COUNTY’S GALLERY scene has three new shows open or coming up fast. Two are in McMinnville: Currents Gallery downtown offers More Glorious Gourds and Powerful Paintings, by local artists Claudia Herber and Kathleen Buck. Both artists are award-winners in their fields. Herber has won in the annual Wertz Gourd Festival; Buck has long been active with the Watercolor Society of Oregon and has won her share of awards. Both will present abstract work in the show, which runs Feb. 17 through March 15. An opening reception will be held Friday, Feb. 21, during the 3rd Friday on 3rd Street Art & Wine Walk.

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Land and Water: By Necessity

A gathering of Native American activists and allies and an Oregon-produced film join the battle against pipelines and other climate threats


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


TIMES ARE HARROWING for people trying to protect Indigenous ancestral land and prevent accidents from pipeline spillage that would poison and pollute the regions’ land and water. The movement is taking place on many fronts, several of them cultural and artistic, including an Oregon-produced documentary film, Necessity: Oil, Water, and Climate Resistance, that focuses on the work of climate activists on the front lines and movement lawyers involved in supporting that struggle. And last week a group of Native American leaders and community allies in Portland gathered at the Port of Vancouver to protest the dangers of the continued use and expansion of pipelines, and alert us to what is going on farther north.

The Wet’suwet’en people in northern British Columbia, trying to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline (CGL), were arrested by Canadian police and tactical teams in the dark of night by militarized police with night vision and automatic weapons, their camps destroyed and media hindered from filming and reporting the police action. The BC Supreme Court granted the company behind the Coastal GasLink project, TC Energy, an injunction to continue construction activities, and issued an enforcement order for the RCMP to clear the area.

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Vision 2020: Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson

Beyond the arts bubble, the Wobbly duo see a dangerous world: "Hate based crime directed against people with disabilities has gone up."

“From a choreographer’s point of view,” Portland choreographer Yulia Arakelyan told ArtsWatch in 2015, “the more body diversity there is, the more opportunity for creativity and uniqueness.” Arakelyan and her artistic and life partner Erik Ferguson have spent the last decade and a half contributing their unique creativity to Portland’s dance and film scenes, in multifaceted, sometimes whimsical performances whose movement and imagery resemble nothing else in Oregon.

Erik Ferguson and Yulia Arakelyan, at work and play.

In 2006 the pair, both of whom use wheelchairs, created Wobbly, a Portland multidisciplinary performance company influenced by improvisational dance and Butoh. Their work focuses on “the unavoidable exploration of the body weathered by life,” according to its website. “Wobbly is a way of life, an expression of the belief that disability is a natural variation of the human form and in this variation there is art.”

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Yamhill County calendar: Winter warmers

The new year rolls in with a little of everything: gallery exhibitions, TEDx talks, readings, and music

I’m not sure whether to chalk this up to naivete or the fact that Yamhill County’s arts and culture scene has been developing momentum in recent years, but there was a time not so long ago when I assumed things slowed down in the winter. 

Perhaps it did once, but not anymore. Even when the skies turn gray and the trees are bare in Oregon’s wine country, our cultural calendar remains packed full. So follow along as we dive into 2020 with a peek at what’s in store over the next couple of months.

CURRENTS GALLERY IN DOWNTOWN McMINNVILLE is one of several businesses housed in the Elks Lodge building on Third Street. The top floor of the 1908 structure, once occupied by lodge space (including a ballroom), was renovated in 1993 by locals Matt and Marilyn Worrix into a sprawling 10,000-square-foot apartment. Having visited there over the years, I could wax poetic for some time about the place, but the point is the building is on the market, and the couple’s downsizing strategy includes selling much of the art collection that filled the apartment: paintings, etchings, ceramics, glass, and more.

Matt and Marilyn Worrix are downsizing and selling much of their art collection, such as this acrylic painting by Matt Worrix, through Currents Gallery in McMinnville.  

Currents Gallery will host the affair, which kicks off with a reception from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, in the gallery. The show runs Jan. 7 through Feb. 16 during regular gallery hours. Artists whose work will be on display include Nils Lou, Marg Johansen, Chris Johnson, Glen Hashitani, and more. A second reception will be held for the monthly 3rd Friday on 3rd Street artwalk, from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17. For more information, call 503-435-1316.

THE CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER IN NEWBERG opens 2020 with three new shows in January. In the Parrish Gallery, look for a stunning glass installation, Hanging River, by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko, beginning Jan. 7. Also opening that day is Intimate Conversations, a botanical photography exhibition by Fretta Cravens. Rich Bergeman’s The Land Remembers opens Jan. 14. The series of black-and-white infrared landscape photography, inspired by events during the Rogue River Wars of 1851-56, has been bouncing around the state and lands in Newberg for a show that runs through February. Visit the website for more information and details on receptions for all three shows.

The “Hanging River” show by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko at the Chehalem Cultural Center includes multiple transparent objects, including a large glass sculpture resembling a stringed instrument.

While you’re there, check out the staged reading series that begins Feb. 1 (tickets are on sale now) courtesy of Newberg-based Penguin Productions. More? The 2020 Boxed Show Series begins Feb. 21.

TWO SHOWS HIGHLIGHTING art by local youth will be featured in The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville this month and next. The first runs Jan. 7 through Feb. 2 and showcases work by students from high schools around Yamhill County, including Yamhill-Carlton, Sheridan, Amity, and the Delphian School. An opening reception is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. Then, work by students from high schools in McMinnville and Newberg will be unveiled Feb. 5, with a reception at 6 p.m. Feb. 12.

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Vision 2020: Darcy Dolge, Sarah West, and Nancy Knowles

Leaders of Art Center East in La Grande say funding cuts could have been dire in their rural area, but the community stepped up to keep arts thriving

Since 1977, Art Center East in La Grande has coordinated arts programs in a 10-county area that includes Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wheeler counties. The nonprofit community art center houses two exhibit galleries, a gift gallery, and three educational studios in a former Carnegie Library owned by the city. At the center alone, classes, concerts, exhibits, and workshops are offered year-round. Organizers recently estimated that roughly 25,000 people visited the center every year.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Given the far-flung reach of the center’s programs, we ran our questions by not one, but three women who play key roles. Darcy Dolge is executive director at Art Center East (ACE) and an entrepreneur and owner of Blackberry Moon SoundNancy Knowles, a poet and professor of English at Eastern Oregon University, serves as the nonprofit board’s president. Sarah West, also a local entrepreneur and owner of Teahouse La Grande, is the center’s community outreach coordinator. She also sits on the board for the La Grande Farmers’ Market. Their comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Leaders at Art Center East (from left) Darcy Dolge, Sarah West, and Nancy Knowles oversee arts and culture programs serving 10 counties in Eastern Oregon.

Who comes to the Arts Center? What do they use it for? Basically, what goes on there, year-round? Can you give us a general sense of it?

Dolge: Ours is the only art gallery in Union County open to the public six days a week, and we see a wide range of visitors, both locals and out-of-towners. We’re often surprised at how many visitors wander through our doors to have a look at our exhibit or inquire about the local art scene.

We offer a lot of programming, including an average of 150 classes each quarter, nine-plus exhibits each year, a monthly author reading series, a community music program, monthly dance nights hosted by a partnering organization, along with several free community events and cultural performances all year long. We also serve local artists in the form of retail sales in our gift gallery and an annual maker’s market around the holidays, exposure and notoriety via gallery exhibits, as well as giving those who are interested a place to earn income by teaching their craft.

We have several local partnerships to bring art instruction to underserved populations, including the Union County Juvenile Department, Union County District Attorney Parole Restitution Program, Shelter From the Storm Victim Rehabilitation Program for victims of domestic abuse, and the Center for Human Development. Lastly, our Artists in Rural Schools program places professional art educators in rural schools in 10 counties of Eastern Oregon.

How would you characterize the general state of artistic and cultural life in your area?

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As Ilana Sol’s new film about war and reconciliation, Samurai in the Oregon Sky, screens this week at Portland’s Northwest Film Center, a look back at the Portland filmmaker’s first documentary

Editor’s note: On Thursday, November 14, Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center presents the second film by Portland filmmaker Ilana Sol. Samurai in the Oregon Sky tells the story of Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita, the only pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland during World War II, his subsequent visit to the Oregon town the bomb struck, and the 35-year-long relationship between the Fujita family and the people of Brookings, which he came to call his “second home.” It previously screened at the East Oregon Film Festival, Astoria International Film Festival and others.

Sol’s acclaimed first film dealt with a similar subject — the Japanese balloon bomb that killed a group of Oregon picnickers during the War. On Paper Wings won several awards and was included in an episode of National Public Radio’s Radiolab. Here is the profile of Sol ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell published in Oregon Humanities magazine when it premiered.

Nobuo Fujita during World War II

The sunlight sparkled as it made its way through the forest on Gearhart Mountain, and the small party of schoolchildren and their minister from the nearby southern Oregon town of Bly laughed and chattered as the car pulled over to the side of the road. It was May 1945. The country was at war and just emerging from a long Depression, but it was a beautiful spring day, and the young minister, Archie Mitchell, had found a perfect spot for a picnic in the woods. As they spilled out of Mitchell’s car, one of the kids spotted something white lying on the ground. Followed by Mitchell’s pregnant wife, Elsye, they raced to see what it was. “Don’t touch it!” shouted Mitchell.

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Falling in love with movies and film festivals

Justin Zimmerman of the McMinnville Short Film Festival talks about his gateway films, the festival life, and this weekend's mini-fest fundraiser

The hottest movie ticket in Yamhill County this weekend isn’t at a theater. That distinction belongs to the Ice Auditorium on the Linfield College campus, where the McMinnville Short Film Festival will hold a sneak preview.

Eight films will be screened Saturday night (including one of last year’s crowd favorites, the hilarious I Will Not Write Unless I Am Swaddled in Furs). Afterward, audience members will meet some of the filmmakers and players behind the ninth annual event, scheduled for Feb. 21-23. Tickets are only $5, and Linfield students with ID get in free. The mini film fest runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Proceeds will be split between the  McMinnville Short Film Festival and scholarships for immigrant students in Yamhill County.

Justin Zimmerman was involved in the McMinnville Short Film Festival as a filmmaker and a judge before becoming executive director last spring. Photo by: David Bates
Justin Zimmerman was involved in the McMinnville Short Film Festival as an entrant and a judge before being named executive director last spring. Photo by: David Bates

One guy who will be in the audience and working the crowd afterward will be filmmaker Justin Zimmerman, who last spring was brought aboard as the festival’s executive director.

Zimmerman’s Portland-based Bricker-Down Productions has had films in more than 150 international festivals and won in dozens of them. Zimmerman also contributed a story to the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel Love Is Love. His connection with the McMinnville festival, founded by Dan and Nancy Morrow nearly a decade ago, goes back several years — first as an entrant and later as a judge.

I sat down a few weeks ago with Zimmerman during one of his visits to McMinnville, where he’s been discovering our restaurants and shops as he meets with the festival’s growing roster of partners (Linfield College among them) in preparation for February’s event. The festival has expanded to three days, entries are up, and it’s booked the largest auditorium at the local Coming Attractions multiplex for the entire weekend. “I have peers and friends in the world of film festivals, film programmers, executive directors, etc.,” he told me, “who, if they saw the budget of what we’re doing, they would be astounded.”

Zimmerman and I talked for about 90 minutes in a conversation that veered from his background and experiences and the festival to a few geek-out moments over movies we have both seen and loved. The following exchange has been edited for length and clarity.

What was your first movie memory growing up?

Zimmerman: I was fortunate enough to see Return of the Jedi, Gremlins, and Ghostbusters in a theater. Those really hit me. I remember those having a visceral effect. I remember seeing E.T. at a drive-in theater, that one blew me away. Movies really spoke to me. I was pretty young when I realized how powerful a movie could be. I didn’t have the training to contextualize it — the cinematography, the score, the acting, etc. — but it was very early on that I fell in love with movies.

What did you study in college?

Ohio State didn’t have a film production program, so I studied English and film criticism. I was fortunate to have a professor who taught the history of art named Ron Green, who was one of the most amazing film voices you could ever hope to find. I was studying Milton and Shakespeare and comparative world religions. I studied abroad in England and Ireland. Being in Scotland when Trainspotting hit was incredible. I took these courses in English where professors would teach what they were interested in: Feminism in horror movies; Orson Welles into Kubrick; and looking at the films of these wide-angle auteurs. It was remarkable.

Any particular film leap out, get inside your head?

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