Farewell to three who made a difference

Longtime Portland sculptor Michihiro Kosuge, philanthropist and friend to artists Debi Coleman, and youth music leader Ian Mouser have died. In their productive lives they helped make Portland a better place.   

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Farewell to three Oregon arts leaders: Michihiro Kosuge (left), Debi Coleman, and Ian Mouser.

Three prominent Portland arts leaders have died in the past week, leaving large holes in the city’s cultural fabric. Sculptor and teacher Michihiro Kosuge, philanthropist and artists’ friend Debi Coleman, and youth music leader Ian Mouser will be remembered for their many accomplishments and friendships.

MICHIHIRO KOSUGE, a highly regarded abstract sculptor and for many years a teacher and art department chair at Portland State University, died Oct. 13. He was 78. Michi, as he was known to his friends, was born in Tokyo and came to the United States in 1967 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. He began teaching at PSU in 1978 and remained there until his retirement, all the while keeping up his own active studio practice. Working largely in stone, he made pieces large and small, public and private. He was represented in Portland by Russo Lee Gallery, and was the life partner of its founder, Laura Russo, who died in 2010. “Like his sculptures that created welcoming places of peace and reflection, Michi possessed a deep kindness and willingness to listen and collaborate with a diversity of voices,” the gallery said in announcing his death. “We will miss him.”

DEBI COLEMAN, an influential and down-to-earth high-tech executive with a deep love for the theater and other art forms, has died at age 69. A pioneering force among women executives in a male-centric industry, she was a member of Apple’s original Macintosh team and rose through the ranks from there. She moved to Oregon in 1992, first as a vice president at Tektronix and eventually as an investor in startup companies. She invested in culture, too, in Oregon and elsewhere: She was a producer of the Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and also sat on the boards of the Oregon Symphony and Oregon Ballet Theatre. She was at least as interested in the city’s small theater companies, and forged some strong friendships there. “Debi was a friend and an early, critical supporter of Cygnet Productions,” company founder Louanne Moldovan said on Facebook. “I so enjoyed her brilliance and big heart, her sumptuous and festive soirees, her lively, humble tales of her tenure with Steve Jobs during Apple’s dawning days.” Triangle Productions’ Don Horn wrote: “Our history with Debi goes back several decades, with one notable time when Debi gave a $10,000 donation to produce the world premiere of ’69 the sexual revolution.’ She not only gave of her means but her time, and knowledge. She was a mentor and friend.”

IAN MOUSER, founder and executive director of the youth music organization My Voice Music, died Oct. 14 after a pickup truck collided with his bicycle in Arizona. Mouser had embarked Oct. 11 on a cross-country bike trip from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida, to raise money for My Voice Music. He was 42. MVM teaches kids and young adults to write, record, and perform original songs, and works with about 1,450 young people a year at its Southeast Portland studio and in residential treatment centers, juvenile detention centers, refugee resettlement facilities, and the foster care system. In 2020 it was one of three organizations nationally to win a $500,000 Lewis Prize for groups that work with “low-income and historically marginalized communities.” The money will help MVM build a new center in East Portland and expand its programs across Oregon. “Ian was an absolute treasure: a beautiful force of love, compassion, and wild, endless vision,” said Beth Burns, executive director of the Portland nonprofit p:ear, which mentors homeless youth. “He was my cherished friend and a mighty nonprofit community leader. Ian gave young people something to believe in and a community to fully embrace their humanity.”

About the author
Senior Editor

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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