NEWS & NOTES

Breaking: Opera switches season again; Tesner heads PSU museum

The opera, facing financial woes, abandons its summer season and returns to fall-spring. PSU's new Schnitzer museum taps a proven leader.

Portland Opera will move back to a fall-through-spring season beginning with the 2020-21 season, the opera and the consulting company Metropolitan Group have announced. The decision calls quits to a short-lived move to a primarily summer season, and follows last month’s announcement that Christopher Mattaliano, general manager since 2003, would leave that post immediately and become an artistic consultant for the 2019-20 season. Sue Dixon, the company’s director of external affairs, became interim general manager.

Meanwhile, Portland State University has just announced that the highly respected Portland curator Linda Tesner will be interim director of the university’s new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art when it opens Nov. 7 in the refurbished former Neuberger Hall on PSU’s downtown campus. She began her new job Aug. 1.

*

Ryan Thorn as The Officer in Portland Opera’s recent production of Philip Glass’s In the Penal Colony. Photo: Cory Weaver/Portland Opera

The opera’s announcement was made with the release of a new five-year plan, and is in response to several seasons of deficit operation: “Cumulative operating cash flow losses since the FY 2015–16 change to a summer season could result in the opera drawing down its endowment completely in seven years if decisive action is not taken now.”

Among other things, the plan calls for “a venue mix that reflects the desire for both grand and intimate experiences.” The company currently performs in the 3,000-seat Keller Auditorium, the 870-seat Newmark Theatre, and the intimate studio space at the opera’s headquarters at the east end of the Tillicum Bridge. That space could be developed further in the future. “The second big strategy in this section is exploring a longer term vision and feasibility to redevelop the Central Eastside waterfront property that Portland Opera owns, through opportunities that could mutually benefit Portland Opera, other arts organizations, and the entire community,” the report says. The report also suggests that the company could do some programming in “unexpected places to meet people where they are,” as several of the city’s contemporary music groups do.

The opera’s shift to a summer season has been judged a failed experiment. But while the dates of productions changed, the kinds of operas being presented generally didn’t, and the company never created the festival approach that has been successful in other summer-season companies such as Santa Fe Opera.

You can read the complete announcement, which contains considerable more detail, here. The announcement emphasizes that the plan is a work in progress.

*

Linda Tesner. Photo courtesy Portland State University

PSU’s announcement that Tesner will be the first director of the new Jordan Schnitzer museum provides the answer to a big question in Oregon art circles. She’s spent decades as a curator, writer, and gallery director in the Northwest, and knows the territory and its artists deeply. She was most recently director and curator of the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis & Clark College, a gallery that she developed into a significant art center that drew audiences from well beyond the college campus. Lewis & Clark, in a financial retrenchment, eliminated her position late last year.

The new museum – which joins Schnitzer-named museums at the University of Oregon in Eugene and Washington State University in Pullman – was seeded by a $5 million contribution from the Portland collector, philanthropist, and real estate mogul Jordan Schnitzer. It will occupy 7,500 square feet over two floors of the rebuilt Neuberger building, between Southwest Broadway and the South Park Blocks on campus. You can read the press release here.

Tesner should provide a steady and creative hand as the new museum defines itself and gets on its feet. It almost certainly will include exhibitions drawn from Schnitzer’s own extensive collection of contemporary prints, which is one of the nation’s biggest. Tesner has also been an assistant director of the Portland Art Museum and director of the Maryhill Museum of Art, in the Columbia River Gorge.

From the press release: “Tesner will curate the museum’s first exhibition: Art for All, Selections from the Jordan D. Schnitzer Collection. The exhibition will underscore the ethos of the museum and highlight its mission to provide free access to a cultural and intellectual laboratory.”

*

ArtsWatch will have more on both of these stories as they develop.

The Week: It’s Stan Foote Day

Plus: It's a print in the Gorge, a paint-out at the coast, dance for a prince, a Woody Guthrie opera. The week that was, the week to come.

Stan Foote: today’s the day. Photo: Rebekah Johnson

WE DON’T KNOW IF SOMEONE’S GOING TO GIVE HIM THE KEY TO THE CITY, but today is Stan Foote Day in Portland, and if there’s anyone we’d trust with the key, Stan’s the man. After a stellar 28-year career with Oregon Children’s Theatre, Foote is retiring as artistic director and headed south to the sun and sea of Mexico. Mayor Ted Wheeler has announced that Thursday is officially Foote’s day in Portland (it’s also his birthday: talk about a two-fer), and at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, the proclamation will be read. For a man who’s devoted his career to creating first-rate theater for young people, this amounts to an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime review: a kind of standing ovation from an entire city.

What makes Stan Foote so special? In May, on the day that he was in Atlanta to accept one of the highest honors in the world of American children’s theater, ArtsWatch dug deeply into the question, and one of the things we noted was his respect – for the theater itself, and for the intelligence and openness of his company’s young audiences. “Under Foote’s tenure Oregon Children’s Theatre has developed a reputation not only for producing new works and clever adaptations aimed at young audiences of different ages, but also for maintaining high professional standards and not playing down to its audiences, but respecting their ability to meet the storytelling on its own terms,” we wrote in our profile Stan Foote, at the top. “Theater is theater, Foote says. He objects to the belief ‘that directing a children’s play is different from directing for adults. It’s directing. It has all the same techniques; all the same elements of telling a story to an audience.’”

Continues…

Adventures in inner & outer space

As self-employed Portland theater workers throw a party to help them buy a house, Tigard's Broadway Rose launches a $3 million expansion

In the gig economy, most artists are independent contractors, an economic reality that can shut them out of such basic civil interactions as the housing market: Without a steady paycheck, how does a painter or actor or musician – or anyone else in a temporary-contract or piecework job – persuade a bank to approve a loan so she can buy a house? It’s a problem accentuated in Portland and cities like it by a white-hot real-estate market that can leave even modest spaces for living and work out of economic reach.

Portland Playhouse will play host Monday night to a “house-raising party” for self-employed theater workers.

ARTSWATCH FOCUS: ARTS & SPACES


Are there creative ways for creative people to solve one of the basic challenges of urban living? Two Portland theater professionals – the talented sound designer Shareth Patel and his wife, marketer/administrator/stage manager Corinne Lowenthal Patel – have come up with a plan to buy the Southeast Portland house they’re living in. It involves a relatively little-known process called a bank statement loan, which is particularly structured for self-employed borrowers. Tonight – Monday, Aug. 19 – they’re throwing a modern-day version of a rent party to help them raise the $60,000 they need in their next bank statement to ensure the loan goes through. And they’re doing it with a little help from a lot of their friends.

Continues…

Saturday night in the marketplace

As an influx of white supremacists swarmed over downtown Portland, Beaverton's Night Market celebrated its city's global cultures instead.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


The sky was overcast but the crowds were big and enthusiastic Saturday night at this summer’s second and final Beaverton Night Market at The Round – a successful wrapup to the latest annual run of special markets featuring the music, dance, food, and cultures of Washington County’s many immigrant and traditional communities.

Once again photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand with his cameras to capture the sights and sounds of the celebration. In his photo essay In Beaverton, a little night market Cantrell also reported for ArtsWatch on this year’s first Night Market, on July 20 at The Round. As he noted in that story, the event came about in 2015 after city officials asked immigrant groups what they missed most from their original countries: “The favorite answer was, ‘The smells of the food, the night markets where we could sit in the cooling dusk visiting with our community, sharing what we enjoyed most there.’” And so, through efforts of the city’s Diversity Advisory Board, a tradition was reborn. The contrast on Saturday night with what was happening a few miles away in downtown Portland, where the city was dealing with a largely fizzled inflow of nativist right-wing white supremacist demonstrators performing loudly for national television cameras, was striking.

Saturday’s crowds at The Round enjoyed an array of performances: Mesoamerican dance by Hueca Omeyocan; traditional dances from Central Asia by the group Dance Inspired; a demonstration by Lim’s Taekwondo Academy, Puerto Rican and African music by Grupo Borokuas; contemporary Native American music by flutist Sherrie Davis Morningstar and guitarist Joel Davis; violinist Joe Kye; Turkish piano and song by Mesut Ali Ergin. Miss it this summer or eager to dip back in again? Wait ’til next summer. You can’t keep a good Night Market down.


DANCE INSPIRED


The troupe performs dances from Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Continues…

Exquisite Gorge 7: The Explorer

Printmaker and teacher Molly Gaston Johnson follows Lewis & Clark's westward path to make her mark on Maryhill's Columbia River project

Molly Gaston Johnson and her river of wood.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Maryhill Museum of Art’s planned print day of its Exquisite Gorge project is approaching fast. Hopefully there is a chance to portray each of the participating artists and their work before August 24. Let me introduce today another one of the print makers who I had a chance to talk to in the last several days.

Molly Gaston Johnson, Printmaker and Educator

THE EXQUISITE GORGE PROJECT

“…a collaborative printmaking project featuring 11 artists working with communities along a 220-mile stretch of the Columbia River from the Willamette River confluence to the Snake River confluence to create a massive 66-foot steamrolled print. The unique project takes inspiration from the Surrealist art practice known as exquisite corpse. In the most well-known exquisite corpse drawing game, participants took turns creating sections of a body on a piece of paper folded to hide each successive contribution. When unfolded, the whole body is revealed. In the case of The Exquisite Gorge Project, the Columbia River will become the ‘body’ that unifies the collaboration between artists and communities, revealing a flowing 66-foot work that tells 10 conceptual stories of the Columbia River and its people.”


 Louise Palermo, Curator of Education at Maryhill Museum


Imagine being told since the time you sat on your father’s knees that you are a descendant of Lewis & Clark. Lewis AND Clark! Being regaled with lively tales of hardship and adventure, what is a little girl to do but fall in love with the outdoors and embrace most forms of risk-seeking ventures – it is practically written into your DNA. Well, perhaps not practically, but theoretically. Who knows about the factual truth of the family lore?

Continues…

Photo First: Seeing Astoria

As the Astoria Regatta gets ready to sail around the bend, K.B. Dixon takes his camera to Oregon's oldest city and finds a wealth of images

Astoria has a garish and dramatic history, its fraught founding meticulously chronicled in Peter Stark’s award-winning book—a book with a title as long as the city’s renovated river walk: Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire—A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival.  It is the story of John Jacob Astor’s venal and ultimately failed dream of establishing an international trading post on the Pacific coast to sell fancy fur like sea otter (aka “soft gold”) to the Chinese. Fragments of this history and of the later more pertinent histories of the city as a fishing and timber center are easy to find today. What is also easy to find today is a vibrant arts and cultural scene.


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


Mixed in with timber terminals, working canneries, and barking sea lions are a handful of busy galleries—galleries like the eclectic RiverSea; the intimate Imogen; the Royal Nebeker Art Gallery at Clatsop Community College; and the Lightbox Photographic Gallery, one of the best photographic galleries not just in Oregon, but on the whole West Coast.  There is the refurbished Liberty Theatre, a general performance venue extraordinaire; Godfather’s Books, a Luddite’s summer-of-love sanctuary; and, of course, Vintage Hardware, a de facto museum which, in spite of some recent gentrification, remains a fascinating place, a capacious cabinet of curiosities.

It is a city with an unconventional beauty all its own, an authentic time-worn quality—a city that nurtures a strong sense of connection to its working-class past.

It is also a city that offers plenty of tourist-friendly programing. There is the Crab, Seafood, and Wine Festival in April; the Astoria Music Festival and the Scandinavian Festival in June; and the Astoria Regatta in August. But its most inspired annual offering is, I think, the FisherPoets Gathering in February—”a celebration of the commercial fishing industry in poetry, prose, and song.” It is a weekend-long extravaganza with a hundred fisher poets—deckhands, skippers, cannery workers, and shipwrights from the East and West Coast—descending on the city to read for each other and for growing crowds in Astoria’s pubs, restaurants, and galleries. This coming year’s will be the 22nd  such gathering.


FLAVEL HOUSE, 2013


Continues…

Tin House: vulnerability & risk

As its celebrated literary journal shuts down, the Portland publishing house's summer writing workshops at Reed College continue to thrive.


By BEN BARTU


Midsummer has arrived in Oregon, and every surface at Reed College seems ripe with books. The campus is hosting the sixteenth annual Tin House Summer Workshop, as a few minutes walking the grounds makes plain. Signs for lecture destinations and attendee housing point in every direction. Above Cerf Amphitheatre, tables are stacked high with various issues of Tin House’s quarterly journal. 

The journal’s final issue – printed in July, and marking the end of a 20-year run for one of Portland’s most esteemed and far-reaching literary magazines – stands out from its predecessors, a robust volume with a pitch-black cover on which is etched a gilded rendition of the press’s logo.

Tin House has come a long way since it was founded in 1999 as a literary journal and nothing more. It was established by Holly MacArthur and Win McCormack (MacArthur remains a founding editor and deputy publisher; McCormack, who is also editor in chief of The New Republic since buying the magazine in 2016, is Tin House’s publisher and editor in chief), but it was not until 2003 that the publishing house held its first writing workshop at Reed. Another five years went by before Tin House also became a press, publishing novels, nonfiction, and poetry.

This was my first year attending the conference. Its lectures, panels, and readings have always been open to the public, although the workshops themselves are strictly for accepted applicants. In most cases, those accepted are also required to pay a substantial fee to cover the cost of working closely with some of the United States’ literary superstars.

*

Poet D.A. Howell, “The Godfather” of Tin House’s writing workshops.

THE 2019 WORKSHOP, which ran July 7-14, included many big-name authors, among them R.O Kwon, Garth Greenwell, Natalie Diaz, Camille T. Dungy, Kaveh Akbar, and Mitchell S. Jackson. Also in attendance was poet D.A. Powell, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, who has earned the affectionate nickname “The Godfather” for having attended every Tin House summer workshop since 2003.

Continues…