VISION 2020

Vision 2020: Ka’ila Farrell-Smith

The Southern Oregon artist, mentor, and anti-fracking activist creates visual art “rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism”

On her website, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, a Klamath Modoc visual artist, describes her artistic practice as “channeling research through a creative flow of experimentation and artistic playfulness rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism.” Through painting, traditional Indigenous art practices, and self-curated installations, Farrell-Smith explores the “space in-between the Indigenous and western paradigms.”


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Farrell-Smith, who lives in Modoc Point in Southern Oregon, received a BFA in painting from Pacific Northwest College of Art and an MFA in contemporary art practices studio from Portland State University. Her work has been exhibited around the Pacific Northwest and is in the permanent collections of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus and the Portland Art Museum. As a co-director of the Signal Fire residency program, she helps connect artists to wild places.

“The Modoc are a resilient, fierce, passionate people,” says Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, “whose warrior ancestors inspire us in our current fight against the fossil-fuel industry” and the fracked gas pipeline that threatens ancestral homelands and waterways in Southern Oregon. Photo by Sam Gehrke Photography Studio, courtesy Ka’ila Farrell-Smith

Recently, Farrell-Smith was selected to attend artist residencies at Djerassi, UCROSS, Institute of American Indian Arts, and Crow’s Shadow. In 2020, she will have work on display in the Nine Gallery in Portland and Ditch Projects in Springfield. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

What should Oregonians know about the Modoc? What is the story we need to hear?

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Vision 2020: Martin Majkut

Rogue Valley Symphony's energetic conductor: music education in the schools is the key to getting people into concert halls

Conductor Martin Majkut divides his time between the East and West Coasts. He’s in his third season as musical director for the Queens Symphony Orchestra in New York. Fortunately for Oregonians, his West Coast life is rooted in Southern Oregon, where he has spent nearly a decade as conductor for the Rogue Valley Symphony.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), Majkut graduated from the State Conservatory and served as assistant conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic while earning his Ph.D. in conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. He came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar in 2003 and earned a DMA, his second doctorate, in 2008, at the University of Arizona.

He’s been with the Rogue Valley Symphony since 2010, during which time the symphony marked its 50th anniversary.

Martin Majkut conducts symphony orchestras on both coasts. For its size and location, he says, Southern Oregon has a surprisingly vibrant art scene. Photo by: Christopher Briscoe

I know you split your time between two symphonies on two coasts, but I’m wondering if you could briefly characterize the general state of artistic and cultural life in the Medford area. What’s going on there? What should the rest of Oregon know?

I jokingly maintain that Rogue Valley has “more arts than it deserves.” What I mean is that for its size and its location, the arts scene is surprisingly vibrant, with a number of organizations producing good quality work. Lots of it, however, is driven by the retirees, who come by and large from the Bay Area. They move to Rogue Valley for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and discover other local institutions, which they are happy to support, as arts have been part of their lifestyle in their previous life. The local arts boards consist mainly of people who were not born in the area. As much as we strive to enrich everyone’s life, deep down it is still a rural area and arts are an import.

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Vision 2020: Ella Ray

"There is this level of resistance coming from formerly colonized people who are marginalized, and I feel something bubbling under the surface"

Ella Ray is an art historian who, as she puts it, “produces environments, partnerships, and texts that explore the relationship between the interpersonal, the public, and the in-between.” She has a B.A. in art history/critical theory from Portland State University, and works for the Portland Art Museum and Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. She is community partnership coordinator for Portland Art Museum’s Hank Willis Thomas exhibition All Things Being Equal, which closes Sunday, Jan. 12.


Ray is a multifaceted creative who uses Black studies and Queer studies to examine the ways Black popular culture and Black fine arts are defining contemporary culture. She earned her degree from Portland State University in Art History with a focus on Critical and Queer theory. As a historian and a community member, she is leading challenging conversations around race, historical erasure, and the fruits we all can gain through open institutional critique.   


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


What I’m going to do is go through a list of questions. Just whatever is on your mind, go ahead and let it flow. Give me whatever is in your crystal ball. Let’s start with your current professional background.

Currently, I work at the Portland Art Museum, formerly as a Kress interpretive fellow through the Kress Foundation. At the same time I am the community partnership coordinator for the Hank Willis Thomas All Things Being Equal exhibition. In addition to that, I work with PICA in their youth program, freelance consult for various arts organizations, and art adjacent things, and I write about Black theory, Black studies, and performance.

Art historian Ella Ray, using “Black studies and queer studies to think about the ways in which Black popular culture and Black fine arts are defining western culture.” Photo courtesy Ella Ray


You also have a background in art history. Can you tell me just a little bit about your education and what you went to school for?

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Vision 2020: Molly Alloy, Nathanael Andreini

A new generation of leaders takes the Washington County Museum into a new future under a new name: Five Oaks Museum

Washington County is changing fast, and so is its arts scene. Case in point: the Washington County Museum, which last summer appointed a new young leadership team and this month relaunches under a new name and with an expanded mission that puts the arts at the forefront.

Last July, the museum board named two of its staffers — Community Engagement Coordinator Molly Alloy, 38, and Education Director Nathanael Andreini, 45 — co-directors of what’s now called Five Oaks Museum, whose history stretches back decades before its consolidation as Washington County Historical Society and move to Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus.  They’re leading Five Oaks Museum in new directions that reflect its diverse community’s expanding perspectives.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


The museum describes This IS Kalapuyian Land, its current exhibit and one of the first fruits of the pair’s new direction, as a re-tooling of the museum’s cornerstone historical display: “As viewers move through the space they will encounter hand-written edits and annotations made by [Guest Curator Steph] Littlebird Fogel to highlight errors, update language, and note important passages in the original content. Each edit points towards larger problems in our collective recollection of America’s and Oregon’s history.” Littlebird Fogel also brought in contemporary artworks from 15 Indigenous artists. Read Laurel Reed Pavic’s ArtsWatch review for an in-depth look at the exhibit.

Along with historical and artistic exhibits, the museum offers a research library and classes for elementary, middle school, and high school students from throughout the county and as far west as Forest Grove and Banks, and as far east as Portland.

Nathanael Andreini and Molly Alloy, shifting gears at Five Oaks Museum.

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Vision 2020: Rachael Carnes

The Eugene playwright fears that as the community grows, it becomes harder to enter the performing arts: "Access is the foundation for a vibrant arts scene"

Rachael Carnes has so many irons in the fire that introducing the sheer scope of her work is a bit daunting. She’s a former dancer and journalist who, just three short years ago, enrolled in a play-writing class through Oregon Contemporary Theatre with the award-winning playwright and instructor Paul Calandrino. Today, she lays claim to having had her plays workshopped, published, and produced in Oregon and beyond, from Seattle and Los Angeles to New York and London — and even one in South Korea.

A lifelong Eugenian, Carnes earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College in 1993 and spent a quarter-century in arts education, journalism, and nonprofit work. Since 2016, her artistic output has exploded, both in terms of the number of plays and partnerships.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


At the New Play Exchange, Carnes has more than 80 plays available, ranging from one-actor shows to full-length pieces and tackling a remarkable range of topics: gun violence, feminism, #MeToo, romance, history, reproductive rights, and the Supreme Court, to name a few. Currently, her artistic home is Oregon Contemporary Theatre, where she recently collaborated with Calandrino in Bunfight, a collection of eight short plays by the two playwrights. Her new play, At Winter’s Edge, was commissioned by Minority Voices Theatre in cooperation with the Very Little Theatre, and performed in December. 

Rachael Carnes says Eugene has a robust theater scene, including long-running Oregon Contemporary Theatre, which is “curating a season that is as bold and as innovative as one you might see in Portland or Ashland.”
Rachael Carnes says Eugene has a robust theater scene, including long-running Oregon Contemporary Theatre, which is “curating a season that is as bold and as innovative as one you might see in Portland or Ashland.”

How would you characterize the state of artistic and cultural life in Eugene and Lane County?

Eugene’s theater scene is robust for a community its size. The University of Oregon and Lane Community College offer a range of student productions each season, along with a variety of community theater offerings. The UO takes on some terrific work, from classics to new work about climate change. And LCC impresses with its student-run organization. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with them a few times, and they’re impressive.

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Vision 2020: Joamette Gil

The Power & Magic of creating an indie comics universe that tells the tales of life, love, and adventure in a nonbinary culture of color

Born to the Cuban diaspora in Miami, Florida, Joamette Gil moved to Portland to study illustration after graduating from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she studied psychology. In search of community, she had founded the Olympia Comics Collective for local comics creators to network, collaborate, and promote the comics medium. The collective put out two anthologies, both edited by Gil, planting the seed for her future as a publisher.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


In 2016 Gil opened Power & Magic Press, an award-winning independent comics publisher striving for the creative and economic empowerment of queer creators, creators of color, and creators at the intersections. The press’s flagship anthology series, POWER & MAGIC: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology, collects short fantasy comics by women of color and woman-aligned, nonbinary POC. Volumes one and two are available for preorder online, and the companion title IMMORTAL SOULS is for sale as well. In 2019, P&M Press also published HEARTWOOD: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy, the first ever all nonbinary comics anthology, which sold out within six months of publication.

In addition to writing and editing for P&M Press, Gil is a communications coordinator for Weird Enough Productions by day and letters graphic novels for various creators by night. Outside of her own anthologies, her cartooning has most recently appeared in The Nib, Puerto Rico Strong (Lion Forge, 2019 Eisner Winner), and Drawing Power (Abrams ComicArts, New York Times’ Best Comics of 2019).

Joamette Gil, an independent force in the comics world. Photo courtesy Joamette Gil

What was it that attracted you to the medium of comics?

I fell in love with cartoons in general before I actually got into comics. As an introverted, low-income immigrant kid, escapism was my thing, and my favorite way to escape was watching Sailor Moon. The way she made me feel convinced me that, when I grew up, I wanted to make others feel the same way using characters of my own. I eventually gravitated to the comics medium after getting my hands on a manhwa (Korean comic) called Kill Me, Kiss Me about a girl who poses as a boy to attend her crush’s all-boys school. It taught me that comics could be about anything — not just superheroes — and that a single creator could have total control over the art and story. Comics are singular in that they can contain the breadth and depth of a feature film on a shoestring budget and one vision. Sequential art also happens to be the one true lingua franca. Consider airplane safety pamphlets and IKEA instructions; when universal understanding is at stake, the language of choice is comics.

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Vision 2020: John Olbrantz

The director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art praises Salem's thriving arts community, while noting that proximity to Portland is both a blessing and a curse

For more than two decades, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University has served as an essential artistic, cultural, and intellectual center for both the school and the community. John Olbrantz has been with the Salem museum from the beginning.

Olbrantz, the Maribeth Collins Director of the museum, is a specialist in ancient and American art while also pursuing his interests in Roman art, the history of archaeology, contemporary American art, and the history of museums. He holds a BA from Western Washington University and an MA in the history of art from the University of Washington. He and his wife, Pamela, live in Salem and have two grown children. 


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


During his long career, Olbrantz has helped found two art museums, been involved in numerous capital fund drives for expansion and renovation, organized more than 100 temporary exhibitions of historical and contemporary art, and juried more than 40 art competitions on the West Coast. He also lectures on a wide variety of art topics both at Willamette University and around the country, and is published in the fields of ancient and contemporary art. You can read more of his biography here.

John Olbrantz, Maribeth Collins director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, says his projects this year range from increasing museum staff to doing research on Scottish artist David Roberts for a future exhibition. Photo courtesy: Willamette University
John Olbrantz, Maribeth Collins director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, says his projects this year range from increasing museum staff to doing research on Scottish artist David Roberts for a future exhibition. Photo courtesy: Willamette University

What would you like people to know about the Hallie Ford Museum of Art? What is its role in the community?

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