NEWS & NOTES

ArtsWatch Weekly: Keep the stories coming

An invitation to be a part of ArtsWatch. Plus: centenarians Lenny and Merce; Lauren Hare's America; a little song and a little dance.

AS WE MOVE CLOSER TO THANKSGIVING DAY, all of us here at ArtsWatch would like to thank you for the support you’ve given us and ask you to join us as we prepare for another year. You, our readers and financial contributors, make what we do possible. We’ve published more than 450 stories so far in 2019 – news, reviews, previews, analyses, portraits, and deeper insights about the arts. Here’s just a taste of what you’ve helped make happen this year:
 

  • Exquisite Gorge: Friderike Heuer’s 11-part series chronicling Maryhill Museum’s epic 66-foot print project to document the Columbia River.
  • Visual arts coming and going: Bob Hicks’s extensive inside look at the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University, and Barry Johnson’s comprehensive coverage of the Oregon College of Art and Craft’s demise, which topped our most-read list for 2019.
  • Monumental undertakings: Brett Campbell’s in-depth take on the collaboration of PHAME, which provides training and opportunities for developmentally challenged performers, with Portland Opera to premiere the opera The Poet’s Shadow.
  • Theater profiles: Deep portraits by Bobby Bermea and Marty Hughley of Asae Dean, Rodolfo Ortega, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Bill Rauch, the OUTwright Festival, PassinArt’s Black Nativity, and the state of Oregon theater.
  • On the move: Elizabeth Whelan’s profiles of a new generation of dancers and choreographers who are turning Portland into a creative mecca.
  • Minding the gap: Damien Geter’s examination of the diversity deficit in classical music performances and suggestions to remedy it.
  • Picture this: Photo essays of Beaverton Night Market, Nrityotsava, Día de Muertos, colors of India, Waterfront Blues Festival, to name a few.
Ghanaian drumming and dance by Nii Ardey Allote & Nikome at Beaverton Night Market, subject of one of many ArtsWatch photo essays in 2019. Photo: Joe Cantrell

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Breaking cultural ground in Beaverton

Work begins on the new, $51 million Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, a long-held dream for the city's center-in-the-making

ON A DRY AND CHILLY MORNING, BEAVERTON BROKE GROUND Wednesday on a significant slice of its future. The official groundbreaking of the long-awaited Patricia Reser Center for the Arts drew a big crowd to the site of what’s hoped to be a new city center, at The Round in the Creekside Urban Development District, near a MAX light rail station, City Hall, and Beaverton Creek. The 45,000 square foot arts center, which is expected to open in 2021, puts a huge stamp on the western suburb’s push to re-establish its own identity separate from downtown Portland: As the metropolitan area grows, its cultural and economic scenes expand with it and assert their own identities.

Patricia Reser speaks at Wednesday’s groundbreaking for her namesake public arts center in Beaverton. Photo: Joe Cantrell

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ArtsWatch Weekly: One for the books

Portland Book Fest turns the page, downtown gets a new museum, music and theater light up the stage, it's beginning to feel a lot like ...

WORDSTOCK IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE PORTLAND BOOK FESTIVAL. And the city’s big blowout of a book festival, by any other name, is just around the corner: Saturday’s the day. Portland’s South Park Blocks is the site, centering on the Portland Art Museum but sprawling like free verse across the territory. “A circus is a good analogy for Portland’s big annual book event, with its 100+ authors appearing on nine stages all in one dense, delirious, daylong literary orgy,” Katie Taylor writes in her aptly titled ArtsWatch preview, Portland Book Festival: Sometimes too much is a good thing. “It’s intentional FOMO,” or Fear of Missing Out, festival director Amanda Bullock told Taylor. “There’s always something happening, a new event starting every 15 minutes. Even if one thing is full, there’s always something else to check out.”

Checking the goods at 2018’s Portland Book Festival. Photo courtesy Literary Arts

Among this year’s headliners will be the big-idea journalist Malcolm Gladwell and former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. As always, the party will be overflowing with authors, readers, speeches, workshops, browsers and impromptu discoveries – a blossoming of language for a book-besotted town. As for that name change, the beloved Wordstock rebranded itself last year, trading in its smart, snappy, cheeky, and memorable monicker for something that sounds a little more boardroom drab. On its web site, the festival explains the change. I’m not convinced. Then again, open book, open mind: Maybe I’m just reading too much into it. 

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At PSU’s new museum, art for all

The new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the urban university gives Portland a new center for contemporary art. And it's free to everyone.

As you walk around the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University, the eyes have it. Staring out from the prints on the walls in the museum’s inaugural exhibition, Art for All, they leap across the space between art and visitor, intimate and visceral and commanding. When the new museum’s interim director, Linda Tesner, was shaping its first show she wanted to appeal to as broad a potential audience as possible, and decided to stress portraits: person to person, universal and immediate. What could be more democratic?

“Art for All” might well also be the new museum’s motto. When the newest Schnitzer-named university art museum – the third in the Pacific Northwest – opens its doors on Thursday at PSU, Portland will gain something that’s common across Europe but almost as rare as hen’s teeth in the United States: a free art museum. That’s free, no strings attached: free admission for any PSU student or staff member; free for anyone and everyone, from anywhere and everywhere, who wants to visit.

Left: Robert Colescott’s Haircut, 1989, oil on canvas, 84 x 72 inches. Right: David Shrobe’s Keeper of Secrets, 2018, oil, acrylic, graphite, paper, canvas, wood, fabric, metal, and vinyl. Photo: Spencer Rutledge, courtesy PSU

That fact alone distinguishes the new JSMA from most American museums. It tears down the stubborn economic wall that traditionally keeps lower-income people on the outside and turns museums into havens for the middle and upper classes. The costs of building, maintaining and exhibiting museum collections are high, and in the U.S., where government underwriting of cultural institutions is scant, that usually means high admission prices, too: standard admission to the much larger Portland Art Museum, for instance, is $20, an amount that doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of keeping its doors open.  

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ArtsWatch Weekly: dark & stormy nights

Frankenstein, Día de Muertos, tribute bands, dinosaurs, warps & wefts, and a Dope Elf: Welcome to the art week.

TODAY IS BOTH HALLOWEEN AND THE BEGINNING OF DÍA DE MUERTOS, two holidays that have distinct backgrounds and meanings but are often linked in the public mind, because they occur each year at about the same time and because they deal, in their own ways, with the souls of the dead. Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which begins today and continues through Saturday, is a celebration that began in central and southern Mexico and has spread broadly from there. It’s a time for remembering friends and family who have died, and helping them along their spiritual journey.

Carlos Manzano as Bombón in the Día de Muertos-inspired play Amor Añejo, at Milagro Theatre through November 10. Photo © Russell J Young 

Milagro Theatre’s current show, Amor Añejo, gives you a good sense of the spirit of Día de Muertos. Bennett Campbell Ferguson, in his review for ArtsWatch, Into the Beyond, with Pain and Laughter, calls it a “tale of bereavement and rebirth.” “It’s an elegy—and more,” he continues. “The story flows from a single death that leaves everything from pain to joy to absurdity in its wake. Amor Añejo’s fullness of spirit makes it an unmissable play. At once profoundly soulful and gloriously silly, it invites us to touch the life of Hector, a painter who refuses to accept the death of his wife, Rosalita.” Naturally, that’s only the beginning.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Vertigo’s cash crunch, space race

Plus women and Shakespeare, Roger Kukes' stories in paint, Día de Muertos, Dani Baldwin, prison tales, film fests, art biz, "Butterfly" time

SOMETIMES THE ADVENTURES OF THE ARTS WORLD ARE LIKE THE PERILS OF PAULINE. More often, actually, than a lot of people realize. Except for a few brand-name stars – the 1 percent of the arts world – making art is risky business, with high costs and limited income. Some of the best art comes from the creative challenge of making the most from the least. In the performing arts, that often means finding little spaces, in out-of-the-way neighborhoods, and making a virtue of simple and small.

In Portland and a lot of other towns, theater and dance thrive in small spaces that pose creative challenges, like the aptly named Shoe Box Theater in inner Southeast Portland, which has room, if you stuff it like a bulging burrito, for forty people in the audience. Against all odds, this tiny space has been home to some terrific theater over the years. So it was with some chagrin that I saw the news, in Marty Hughley’s most recent DramaWatch column, that both the Shoe Box and its main tenant, Theatre Vertigo, are on the ropes. 

Hughley writes: “With rent prices skyrocketing, The Shoebox in dire need of upgrades and repairs, and theatre attendance dwindling, this Portland theatre icon is in jeopardy of not being able to continue on to year 23,” begins the plea on a recently created Save Theatre Vertigo page at GoFundMe.com. “This campaign will help us cover the immediate costs of closing out our first show of the season, rent and expenses for The Shoebox for November and December (approximately $5,400), much needed repairs to our electrical system, and initial funding for our January show.”

Up close and in your face: Don Alder (left) and Grant Byington in Waiting for Godot in the Shoebox Theater in 2015. Photo: Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative

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Artists talking to artists

The inaugural Clatsop County Arts Summit will cover everything from lease-to-own art to copyright law

We bought our first “major” piece of art from a little gallery in Belize. It was an oil of a favorite stretch of beach where the hubs and I had taken to spending a few weeks every winter. It was a large painting, and we decided it would go over our bed in place of a headboard. Carefully, carefully, we packed the canvas home, then dropped it at the local frame shop to be mounted. Home, we headed to the bedroom to hang the piece, eager for this finishing touch that would complete our master bedroom.

“It’s too big,” my husband announced.

I looked on from the foot of the bed, nodding grimly. What the hell had we been thinking?

Fortunately, there were a few other spaces it would fit, and the painting found a home on our living room wall. But the lesson hasn’t left me, and now as I ponder a piece that we recently fell for, I can’t escape the doubts. What if?

Astoria artist Dave Ambrose will talk about how artists can use a lease-to-own program to get art into the hand of would-be customers during the Clatsop County Arts Summit next month. Photo courtesy: Dave Ambrose
During the Clatsop County Arts Summit next month, Astoria artist Dave Ambrose will talk about how artists can use a lease-to-own program to get art into the hands of would-be customers. Photo courtesy: Dave Ambrose

It’s a vibe Astoria artist Dave Ambrose picks up on all the time as would-be buyers peruse his work, wondering, will it or won’t work in my house? So Ambrose created his own lease-to-own program. He’ll share his tips on making that work next month at The Business of Art: Artists Teaching Artists, the inaugural Arts Summit hosted by the Arts Council of Clatsop County. The summit is designed both to promote arts in the county and to provide workshops and discussions to “educate, empower, and inspire professional artists.” It will run from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. Admission is free.

“Art is so subjective,” Ambrose said. “When people come to visit on our studio tour, I can watch them walk around the house and then they stop and look at a painting and they look at it and look at it, and I know they’ve connected. I say, you know you can take it home for $10 a month and see how it looks. I don’t have white walls, and background colors make art look completely different. You have to get it home and look at it. About 50 percent of the time they take it home, come back, and pay me in full.”

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