NEWS & NOTES

PBO’s Monica Huggett to retire

The internationally prominent violinist, who's led Portland Baroque Orchestra for 26 years, will retire after the company's 2020-2021 season

Monica Huggett, the internationally celebrated Baroque violinist who has been artistic director of Portland Baroque Orchestra for more than a quarter-century, will retire from the company at the end of its 2020-21 season, PBO announced Monday. Huggett, 66, will continue as artistic director emeritus.

Monica Huggett, Portland Baroque Orchestra’s longtime leader, will retire after the 2020-2021 season. 2013 photo

Huggett has spent her career deeply involved in the international Baroque and historical performance music movements, and helped build PBO, which she joined as artistic director in 1994, into a leading advocate of the music. “During her tenure, the orchestra has grown to the third largest period performance orchestra in the country with over 25 concert events a year including the popular holiday performances of Handel’s Messiah,” the company said in a press release.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: a squeeze, a shuffle, a Fertile sprawl

Real-estate blues and a major reshuffle at RACC top the news; Fertile Ground's new works sprawl across the city; Federale's Hegna sounds off

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION, the real-estate mantra goes, to which we might add: Availability, availability, availability. Price, price, price. As greater Portland’s real-estate market heats up, prices are rising and affordable places to use for performance halls and galleries are becoming scarce: In a city that’s staked its future on the creative economy, many of its creative groups and people are finding the landscape tough to negotiate.
 

High-stakes space crunch: Lever Architecture has designed a new theater and office complex for Artists Repertory Theatre on half of the block it used to occupy in Goose Hollow. The other half features a large tower. Rendering courtesy Artists Repertory Theatre

In his story Arts groups play the real estate game, architecture and planning writer Brian Libby, who knows the city’s development scene through and through, takes ArtsWatch readers into the space squeeze and the many ways that artists and cultural groups are coping with it. “The erosion of small performance spaces seems to indicate how a booming economy can be a curse for struggling arts organizations as much as a blessing,” Libby writes. This is the first of several stories Libby will be writing for ArtsWatch on the complex topic of space and art: Watch for more.
 

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News: RACC reorganizes and changes directions

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has shifted focus to fundraising, advocacy and outreach

The Regional Arts and Culture Council is reorganizing to expand its advocacy and fundraising programs with a deeper focus on reaching underserved communities, RACC announced today. In the process it will eliminate five vacant positions, lay off 15 employees and hire 15 new positions later to support the new direction.

The changes are occurring one year after RACC hired a new executive director, Madison Cario, and almost two years since the Portland City Auditor determined that the City had failed to set budgeting priorities for the non-profit group. Though it’s nominally a regional organization, RACC receives most of its budget from the City. It performs a variety of functions for the City in return, from managing public art and city art collections to distributing money to the city’s arts groups. It also manages the distribution of money from the city’s Arts Tax, which passed  in 2012.

RACC manages public artworks in Portland/Image courtesy RACC website

According to the RACC press release, the proposed changes are responsive to the audit of RACC in 2018 and the city’s current budget priorities. The changes are effective immediately. 

“We take this transition very seriously and deeply appreciate the work of RACC employees, especially those leaving the organization,” said RACC board chair Linda McGeady in the release. “These changes respond to what we are seeing and hearing from our community, and position RACC to better serve our region today and in the future.” 

At least some of the eliminated positions will be in the agency’s Right Brain Initiative, which places working artists in classrooms in the tri-county region and integrates the arts into classroom work. The initiative has 70 partnerships with area schools. The Right Brain program will move to another nonprofit, Young Audiences. RACC is also “sunsetting” its workplace giving program.

Some of the new positions will be in a new development team at RACC with clear fundraising goals to help increase and diversify revenue and use public dollars to secure new national and local funding. RACC also intends to increase its outreach and advocacy efforts, both with the general public and elected officials and policy makers, according to the release, hoping to increase awareness of the arts in the area and arguing for their importance.

We will be digging into the changes and the reasoning behind them in future reports. Stay tuned.

Spaces: Arts groups and the Portland real estate game

Artists Repertory Theatre and other performing arts organizations seek space and stability in an era of boom, bust and scarcity 

It’s a rainy evening outside the Tiffany Center, a circa-1928 Art Deco building in Goose Hollow that was first constructed for the Neighbors of Woodcraft fraternal organization. Inside, an elegant ballroom has been transformed by Artists Repertory Theatre, which has long been located across the street but will be itinerant for the next two-plus years while seeking to rebuild its theater building. 

For the play about to begin, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, there are no rows of audience chairs facing the stage. The ballroom is instead configured for dinner, with perhaps 25 circular tables and a no-host bar. While caterers serve a choice of fish & chips, Reuben sandwiches or corned beef and cabbage on paper plates, cast members are mingling with the attendees, remaining in character enough to retain Prudencia’s called-for Scottish accents, but not so Method as to refuse questions from munching ticket-buyers.

For the next few years, Artists Repertory Theatre will be on a tour of performing arts spaces in the city, including the Tiffany Center for The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, as it works on building a new theater headquarters./Photo by Kathleen Kelly


“My prom was here,” an actress visiting my table confesses. But she’s really there to instruct us: We must tear our paper napkins into shreds and, when cued a few minutes later, toss them into the air, simulating falling snow for a scene set in a blizzard.

Dinner theater is not Artists Rep’s stock in trade, but a play masquerading a theater as a pub is perhaps fitting for a theater company using this 92-year-old ballroom and various other locations around town. That’s to say nothing of Artists Rep’s offices, which also have temporarily relocated, in this case to the former Zidell Marine Company building in South Waterfront, as has the group of 11 fellow nonprofit arts organizations renting office space from Artists Rep as part of what’s called the ArtsHub; four of those have relocated here too, including the Portland Actors Conservatory, Staged!, the Portland Area Theater Alliance and the August Wilson Red Door Project, and Boom Arts recently moved in, too. (The actress at my table, a non-speaking member of the cast, was a Portland Actors Conservatory student.) Seven others have had to seek temporary space elsewhere.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Big bucks, big visions

Following up on Portland Art Museum's $10 million gift; a fond farewell to Vision 2020; a final grace note; what's up onstage & in the galleries

THE BIG NEWS THIS WEEK ON THE OREGON ART FRONT came in a nice round figure: $10 million. That’s how much Portland philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer pledged to give the Portland Art Museum to spur funding for its Rothko Pavilion, a multi-story glassed-in structure that will link the Portland Art Museum’s original Belluschi Building to the south and its Mark Building to the north. Schnitzer has a decades-long record of support for the museum, and her gift – announced at a splashy unveiling on Tuesday at the museum and reported here by Laurel Reed Pavic – covers a tenth of the project’s cost in one swoop. Tuesday’s unveiling also included news of a $750,000 grant for the pavilion project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
 

Design concept for the east entrance, from the South Park Blocks, to the Rothko Pavilion, showing the open passageway for pedestrians and bicyclists. The pavilion will link the Portland Art Museum’s north and south buildings. Illustration: Hennebery Eddy Architects and Vinci Hamp Architects

Schnitzer’s gift marks a significant turning point for the $100 million pavilion project, a major undertaking that has been in the works for several years and will help unite the museum campus and vastly improve what is now an often bumpy and disjointed interior flow for visitors among gallery spaces. Museum director Brian Ferriso told OPB’s Donald Orr that PAM still needs to raise $25 million to $30 million in the next two to three years to complete the project. The museum hopes to break ground on the pavilion in late 2021. The cost includes $75 million for construction and $25 million to bolster the museum’s endowment, which is now about $54 million. The $100 million estimated price tag is up from an originally announced $75 million: Construction costs have escalated by $25 million, in large part because of revisions to include a 20-foot-wide passthrough for pedestrians and bicyclists to move easily between Southwest 10th Avenue and Park Avenue. The design change was made in response to community objections to losing a heavily used public passageway through the museum’s plaza.

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$10 million for the Portland Art Museum

Arlene Schnitzer makes a major donation to the Rothko Pavilion project

For weeks the Portland Art Museum has been teasing a “Historic Announcement” that will “mark a historic moment” on January 21st at 11 a.m.. The news is in: Arlene Schnitzer has donated 10 million dollars to the the Museum’s fund for the Rothko Pavilion and gallery redesign, the Connections Campaign. Though billed as an announcement, this morning’s event was more accurately a celebration of Schnitzer and included speeches about her many contributions to the Museum and arts community from her son Jordan Schnitzer, Museum Director Brian Ferriso, and Governor Kate Brown. The Lincoln High School Chamber Choir performed and Jordan Schnitzer provided lunch for the crowd of nearly 250 people. 

Though the dollar amount doesn’t approach the same heights, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici announced a second major donation to the Museum’s Connections Campaign, $750,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This is an especially large grant from the NEH.

There was no mention this morning of how much money the Connections Campaign needed to raise in order to fund the construction of the Rothko Pavilion and planned renovations. A note on the Museum’s website from January 2018 indicates that the museum had raised $30.3 million of an intended $50 million but that figure was not mentioned and several comments in this morning’s remarks indicated that fundraising for the project is ongoing.

ArtsWatch Weekly: Doubling down

In Oregon this week, the arts go marching two by two (and sometimes to the beat of a different drummer)


IT’S BEEN A BUSY WEEK HERE AT ARTSWATCH. Our writers, photographers, and editors have been scurrying all over the map, discovering stories as they pop up. And one thing we’ve noticed is how often the people making the stories come in pairs. Sure, making art can be a solitary undertaking. But we are social creatures, and often it’s collaborative, too.

Sankar Raman (left) of The Immigrant Story and photographer/storyteller Jim Lommasson at the opening of the Oregon Historical Society’s DREAMs Deferred. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Essayist and photographer Friderike Heuer discovered that truth in a pair of stories this week. She dropped in for the opening of the exhibit DREAMs Deferred at the Oregon Historical Society, a show that underscores some of the worst and best aspects of our current cultural situation. As the United States cracks down on its “Dreamer” immigrants, two men with dreams of their own – Sankar Raman of The Immigrant Story, which tells the tales of Oregon’s many newcomers; and photographer Jim Lommasson, who is nationally known for his investigations into the aftermaths of wars, the mementos of Holocaust and other genocide survivors, and the things people bring with them when they leave one culture for another – have assembled a small but stirring exhibition on what it means to make a new life in a new place. The exhibit asks, in Heuer’s words, “what happens to those who came to the United States from Mexico or Latin America as young children of undocumented parents.”

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