Portland Columbia Symphony Spectacular Portland Oregon

Memorial: Those we lost in 2022

Remembering the many Oregon arts and cultural figures who died in 2022, from music to dance to stage to screen to literary figures and more.

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The year 2022 left some gaping holes in Oregon’s arts and cultural circles, with many deaths of important artists and other cultural figures. In the music world, composer Tomáš Svoboda, jazz and world music artist David Ornette Cherry, conductor Travis Hatton, university teacher Mary Hill Kogen, and guitarist Turtle VanDemarr died.

In the visual arts, we lost painter Gregory Grenon, sculptor Lee Kelly, painter and printmaker George Johanson, gallery owner Michael Parsons, artist residency founder Matt Jay, and developer Jim Winkler, who helped turn Portland’s North Park Blocks into a significant visual arts neighborhood.

Stage and screen figures who died included actors Linda Williams Janke, William Hurt, William Richert, Gary Brickner-Schulz; film archivist Dennis Nyback; Connie Carley, longtime executive leader of PassinArt: A Theatre Company; Oregon Children’s Theatre’s retired Artistic Director Stan Foote; and Judith Yeckel, a key behind-the-scenes figure in both theater and music.

Julie Mancini, former executive director of Literary Arts, died in 2022, as did writer Barbara Ehrenreich, longtime BodyVox Dance General Manager Una Loughran, philanthropists Gwyneth Gamble Booth and Marianne Buchwalter, and former Portland Mayor Bud Clark, who left his own inimitable mark on the city’s culture.

More on each of these people follows:

Una Loughran, managing director of BodyVox, in Paris. Photo: Byron Beck

UNA LOUGHRAN. A key behind-the-scenes figure in Portland’s arts scene, Loughrin died Jan. 7, at 58, from cancer. She had been general manager of the dance company BodyVox for 20 years, and before that had worked, among other places, for Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Portland and its successor theater company, Portland Center Stage. She also served on the boards of several arts organizations. BodyVox leaders Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland called her “the face of the company … greeting audience members with a warmth and familiarity that sprang naturally from her Irish heritage. She was powerfully important to the arts community here, and she was very highly regarded around the country.”

GREGORY GRENON. Grenon,  a leading figure in Portland’s contemporary art circles for close to 40 years, died Feb. 6, at age 73, shortly after he and his wife, fellow painter Mary Josephson, had returned from a month-long stay in Italy. Originally from Detroit, he moved to the Northwest in the late 1970s. It’s hard to overstate the impact his paintings had on Portland’s cultural scene in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, making his mark in Oregon and nationally with rough-hewn, deeply color-saturated oil-on-glass paintings that seemed both immediate and subliminal, simple and complex, endearing and disturbing, suggesting both folk-art vigor and psychological portraiture. They are mostly paintings of women, often quite large, and usually painted on the reverse sides of glass. His work was known and instantly recognized not just inside the visual arts circle but also by a broad swath of the city’s citizens.

Bud Clark: Farewell to a piece of Portland’s soul. Photo: K.B. Dixon/2017

BUD CLARK. Clark, the legendary publican-turned-Portland-mayor, died Feb. 1, at 90. He served two terms, from 1985 to 1992, as a popular “people’s mayor,” having launched his original campaign while owner of the Goose Hollow Inn. Few people thought he stood a chance against his establishment incumbent opponent, but he swept in on a wave of fresh ideas and genial charm. His ties to the arts were strong, from his annual “Bud’s Balls” attracting all sorts of creative types, to his marriage to Sigrid Clark, a longtime violinist for the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. And the poster he posed for, as a guy flashing a nude downtown statue above the motto “Expose Yourself to Art,” can still be found decorating living room walls in Portland and around the globe.

Marianne Buchwalter, who was born in Berlin and moved with her family to Portland in 1939 after escaping the Nazi regime.

MARIANNE BUCHWALTER. Marianne Buchwalter died Feb. 17 in her Portland home, at age 97. She had a long career as a psychotherapist and was active in the city’s Jewish life and as a supporter of a wide variety of arts and cultural organizations, including as a founding member of the Oregon chapter of Young Audiences. Born in Berlin in 1924, she left Germany with her family in 1938, four days after Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, during which Nazi forces destroyed Jewish homes and more than 250 synagogues and 7,000 businesses, sending 30,000 Jewish men to concentration camps. In her 1995 memoir, Memories of a Berlin Childhood, she wrote that her parents received an unexpected letter from her school stating that “I, Marianne Vali Schybilski, a student in the … fourth year of high school, need not return. I am no longer welcome, I was kicked out.”

In Portland she graduated from Grant High School and attended Reed College before moving on to Stanford University and then getting a graduate degree from Columbia University, where she met and married attorney Fred Buchwalter in 1948. They moved back to Portland and raised four children, settling in Lake Oswego, and also kept a home in the south of France; he predeceased her in 1988. Marianne played piano and was an enthusiastic supporter of organizations such as the Oregon Symphony, Friends of Chamber Music, Portland Opera, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Portland Art Museum: She helped the museum, for instance, to purchase artist Henk Pander’s large 1999 painting The Wreck of the New Carissa, one of a suite of paintings he made of the freighter that ran aground during a storm and broke apart off of Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast, spilling massive amounts of fuel into the ocean.

“She was passionate about spearheading, promoting, and working with others on causes important to her in both the world of the arts and politics,” a memorial in Reed Magazine said. The Jewish Review, of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, wrote: “Her loss was not only for us, but for many cultural institutes all over Portland, where she was an ardent member, contributor and advocate.”

Lee Kelly with his sculpture, “Akbar’s Elephant,” in the lobby of the Fox Tower in downtown Portland. Photo by Susan Hammer, via Leland Iron Works.

LEE KELLY. Kelly, one of the most prominent sculptors in the Pacific Northwest, died March 28 at Leland Iron Works, his four-acre studio, garden, and home south of Oregon City. He was 89. “Another giant tree has fallen in our arts world; and a dear friend,” Bruce Guenther, former chief curator of the Portland Art Museum, said. Born in McCall, Idaho, Kelly arrived in Portland in 1949 to attend Vanport College, now Portland State University, and remained as a student, teacher, and revered artist for more than 70 years. He was known and celebrated primarily for his large abstract metal sculptural works, which combined geometric shape with suggestions of natural formations. Something both industrial and unabashedly hand-made distinguishes these works, which can seem almost anthropomorphic but are more naturally geological: They are the beguiling products of the human hand and mind applied to the material of the earth. Often they also reflect the influence of his travels over the years in Nepal, India, and Japan.

William Hurt (left) and Tim True in Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land,” at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland in 2011. Photo: Owen Carey

WILLIAM HURT. For most people Hurt, who died in Portland on March 13, a week shy of his 72nd birthday, is known as a movie star, celebrated for his roles in the likes of Body Heat, Kiss of the Spider Woman (for which he won the best-actor Oscar), Children of a Lesser God, Broadcast News, The Big Chill, and Into the Wild. But in Oregon, where he maintained a home in Portland and had spent time since the 1970s, he was also known for his work onstage. He spent a season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and did four shows in Portland at Artists Repertory Theatre, which was led at the time by his old OSF friend Allen Nause: Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy, Vanya (an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya), as James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (in a coproduction with Australia’s Sydney Theatre Company), and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. “I thought it would be interesting for him to play a failed artist because he’s such a successful artist,” director John Dillon said of casting Hurt as Spooner in No Man’s Land. “Here he is playing this failure and at one point during rehearsals he has to leave to fly to Los Angeles because he’s been nominated for an Emmy. That’s a lovely paradox.”

Linda Williams Janke with Steven Clark Pachosa in Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” at New Rose Theatre in 1983. Photo courtesy Peter Janke

LINDA WILLIAMS JANKE. Janke, who grew up in Portland and became a longtime star on the city’s theater stages, died March 18, from cancer, at 78. From a high school turn as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit, she moved on to starring roles in a host of plays, including many classics–The Misanthrope, Hay Fever, What the Butler Saw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, All My Sons, A Delicate Balance, Death of a Salesman, Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. She was a star, not in a Hollywood sense, but in a genuine and time-honored actorly sense: a performer who dug fiercely into the words and meanings of great writers and made them flesh; an actor who stood out and yet always was attuned to the ensemble onstage and the overall shape of the play. “We all wanted to be Linda,” her longtime friend and fellow actor Victoria Parker Pohl said. “She was the ultimate in everything she did. Most of all, her love, compassion, dignity, silliness, sense of humor and glee – she LOVED life.”

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Stan Foote, longtime artistic director of Oregon Children’s Theatre. Photo: Rebekah Johnson

STAN FOOTE. Foote, a longtime Portland theater figure who as artistic director played a key role in building Oregon Children’s Theatre into a nationally recognized company, died May 18, from cancer. He was 69. The son of a logger, he was raised in the small Northern California logging community of Shingletown. He became hooked on the arts when he was in eighth grade and a music teacher took him to see an orchestra in Redding – “and I don’t even know if it was a good orchestra. But it was amazing to me.” He moved to Portland in 1978 and directed close to 50 productions at OCT, as well as guiding the company through 20 world-premiere shows, including acclaimed adaptations of novels by Lois Lowry (The Giver) and Louis Sachar (Holes). “Theater is theater,” he said, objecting 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.’” After retiring from OCT in 2019, Foote moved to his beloved Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Mary Hall Kogen, longtime music teacher at Portland State University.

MARY HALL KOGEN. Mary Hall Kogen, who taught piano and pedagogy for 26 years at Portland State University, died June 5. She was 78. The university’s Coordinate Movement Program, which she helped found, has created a scholarship in her name. A member of the Oregon Music Teachers Association, she was awarded the Nellie Tholen Excellence in Teaching in 2020. She also wrote two children’s books, and created a youth summer music camp through Self Enhancement Incorporated that ran for 10 summers. “Her ability to see the good and potential in each person was remarkable,” Lisa Marsh, director of PSU’s Coordinate Movement Program and a longtime friend and colleague, said. “Her students learned to teach through inquiry and compassion. Mary was passionate about teaching and created an environment of excitement in her lessons and classes. … She could be a tough teacher, in that she was always authentic. She would tell you what she thought, and she was usually right. Then she would help you do better.”

William Richert as Bob Pigeon in Gus Van Sant’s 1991 movie “My Own Private Idaho.”

WILLIAM RICHERT. Movie director, producer, screenwriter, and actor Richert died July 19 at his home in Portland. He was 79. Richert was perhaps best-known in Oregon for playing Bob Pigeon, the older mentor to a crew of young hustler and street kids in Gus Van Sant’s 1991 filmed-in-Portland breakout movie My Own Private Idaho. He also wrote and directed the feature films Winter Kills, The American Success Company, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, and The Man in the Iron Mask, also acting in the latter.

Constance G. “Connie” Carley, managing director and co-founder of PassinArt: A Theatre Company. Photo courtesy PassinArt

CONNIE CARLEY. Carley, a co-founder and the longtime managing director of PassinArt: A Theatre Company, died in July from cancer, at 72. Carley kept herself largely out of the public eye. But for people at PassinArt and beyond, especially in the city’s Black and nonprofit communities, she was a guiding light, a bright spirit, and a voice of practicality, vision, and affirmation. “Connie was an activist whose work spoke for her,” Jerry Foster, PassinArt’s artistic director, said. “She was not competitive but always supportive. She worked tirelessly to make sure every young person had a voice through the arts and everyone had access to the stage if that was their desire.” Passing along stories and knowledge was crucial to Carley’s view of theater and of life. “I’ve always had a passion for advocating and promoting services for families and children and adults. I come out of a social justice family,” she told Dmae Lo Roberts in a March 2020 interview for Stage and Studio. “… I don’t see art as a separate entity. I think it should be integrated in everything we do. And so I never really separated my work life from PassinArt. I always felt that arts was a way to give people a voice that normally would not have the opportunity to speak on behalf of issues that impact them every day.” For more on Carley and her approach to theater and life, read Bobby Bermea’s 2020 ArtsWatch dual interview with her and Foster.

Gary Brickner-Schulz, right, with Jay Randall Horenstein in the comedy “Greater Tuna,” at Lakewood Theatre in 2013. Triumph Photography

GARY BRICKNER-SCHULZ. Brickner-Schulz, a Portland actor beloved by audiences and his fellow performers alike, died Aug. 15 following cardiac arrest. He was known and cherished especially for his many comic roles, which he took on with animated brio, exaggerated physical movements, and a captivatingly comic drawl. He performed with bravado and a broad wink, and often with a barely controlled grin signaling to one and all that this was a play, and we’re all here to have fun. He shone in a pair of Texas comedies, Lone Star and Greater Tuna, as a comically messy Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple, and as the Central Oregon working-class Rex in Charles Deemer’s Rajneeshee-era hit Christmas at the Juniper Tavern. He also had roles in several television and big screen movies. As Raissa Fleming, who performed with him in The Torchbearers and The Majestic Kid, said: “He could make me laugh with just a twitch of his eyebrows.”

Julie Mancini, former executive director of Literary Arts, was a “force for good in every way,” according to former Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg. Photo courtesy: Literary Arts

JULIE MANCINI. Mancini, a Portland cultural dynamo who made a deep impact on institutions as varied as Literary Arts, Mercy Corps, Caldera Arts, and the Children’s Insitute, died Aug. 29, from lung cancer. She was 73. She was executive director of Literary Arts and its predecessor, Portland Arts & Lectures, for 15 years, helping to build it from a small and scrambling organization into a literary powerhouse that drew writers including Maya Angelou, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, Calvin Trillin, and Salmon Rushdie to Portland to speak. “Salman Rushdie came during the Fatwa and we needed everyone to call the office and give us their name, and then we had to check 3,000 peoples’ IDs at the door,” she recalled in 2014. “Other people came because they saw the list of people who had already come. When we asked Toni Morrison why she finally, finally came, she said, ‘Because you wouldn’t stop asking.’”

BARBARA EHRENREICH. Ehrenreich, a 1963 Reed College graduate and the author of such groundbreaking books about society and politics as Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage USA and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, died Sept. 1. She was 81. In Nickel and Dimed she wrote about the hardships and indignities she endured while working a series of mostly minimum-wage jobs and trying to survive on what averaged about $7 an hour. “Ms. Ehrenreich’s anger at inequity remained unabated late in life,” her obituary in The New York Times reads in part. “In a 2020 interview with The New Yorker, she said a lack of paid sick leave and the declining well-being of the working class still gave her ‘grim and rageful thoughts.’” In the 2009 video above she reminisces about her years at Reed, where she chose to go, she says, over Stanford, because she wanted to get as far away from her rah-rah high-school atmosphere as she could. Reed looked right, she declares in the video: “I had an inkling that there was a bohemia out there.”

Travis Hatton conducting Opera in the Park. Andie Petkus Photography

TRAVIS HATTON. Hatton, music director of the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra, died unexpectedly Oct. 3 of an apparent cardiac incident. In his dozen years as leader of the Beaverton Symphony he created the orchestra’s annual Young Artist Concerto Competition, and showcased at least one work by a living Northwest composer each season. “Travis had a great sense of humor, a serious appreciation for music, and a love for educating those who were interested in learning more about the music and composers he and his organizations were presenting,” the band 3 Leg Torso, which collaborated twice on concerts with Hatton and the Beaverton orchestra, wrote in a Facebook post. Hatton was also the middle- and high-school orchestra teacher at Valley Catholic School in Beaverton for 21 years, and conducted the Salem Symphonia Orchestra and Sunnyside Philharmonia Orchestra. During five years in Europe in the 1990s he was conductor of the Moravian Opera Theater and artistic director of City Opera Theater of Usti nad Labem, both in the Czech Republic.

Portland painter and printmaker George Johanson. Photo: Aaron Johanson/2020

GEORGE JOHANSON. Johanson, a well-loved and deeply accomplished painter, printmaker and teacher whose career spanned more than 70 years, died Oct. 14 from heart failure. He was 94, and had stayed active in the studio until his death. Born in Seattle, he came to Portland at 17 to go to art school, spent a few years in New York, and then returned to Portland, where his career blossomed. Johanson was known for his mastery of both painting and printmaking, and also for a few repeating notes lurking in many of his works: long taut leaping cats, for instance; or volcanoes erupting, often in the background. To friends and students, he was also known for his sly wit, and for the pleasure he took from playing the piano. He published a memoir, and Equivalents, a book of drawings of 80 of his fellow Oregon artists, each done during a single hour-long seating. Johanson’s energy was legendary.  “His last artist’s talk at Augen [Gallery] this year was amazing—he stood and spoke extempore for an hour, charming everyone and answering lots of questions,” fellow artist Mark Andres said. “A whole new body of work of animal images! He remained vital to the last.”

Television host and arts supporter Gwyneth Gamble Booth.

GWYNETH GAMBLE BOOTH. A pioneering television journalist, philanthropist, and supporter of literary and other arts, Gwyneth Gamble Booth died Oct. 25, at 86. She moved to Portland from Seattle in 1957, and co-hosted Oregon Public Broadcasting’s newsmagazine show “Front Street Weekly” for many years. She also broke barriers in the corporate world, becoming the first woman to serve on Portland General Electric’s board of directors, and later becoming chair of the PGE Foundation. With her second husband, the lawyer Brian Booth, she became a leading figure in the city’s arts and cultural circles, serving on many boards, among them the Portland Art Museum, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Oregon Symphony, and the Dougy Center, which serves children and others who have lost loved ones, and which was especially close to Booth’s heart.

Dennis Nyback, a legend on the Portland film scene. Photo: Sheldon Renan

DENNIS NYBACK. “Nobody loved old movies more than Dennis Nyback,” said Sheldon Renan, who founded both the Pacific Film Archive and the Northwest Film Center, and who was one of Nyback’s oldest friends. “He loved any kind of old film, from the rough-and-tumble cartoons of animation pioneers to cheesy French music loops of the sixties — and everything in between.” Nyback, who died of cancer Nov. 15 at age 69, toured his collections of old films internationally and once owned the Clinton Street Theatre. As C.S. Conser wrote in his ArtsWatch appreciation, “Dennis was best-known for his traveling film shows, which he toured across the country as well as to Europe and Asia. ‘I can actually come up with a film program on almost any subject a person can name,’ he often boasted. His strong belief in the preservation of analog film and audio led him to rescue reels that were headed to the dumpster, and to hunt down obscure films in venues that ranged from Paris flea markets to eBay. His collection of features, cartoons, and short subjects numbered in the thousands, and in many cases boasted the only known print of a film.” In 2007 Nyback and his wife, Ann Richardson, founded the Oregon Cartoon Institute, now the Oregon Cartoon Project.

Oregon composer Tomáš Svoboda.

TOMÁŠ SVOBODA. Svoboda, one of Oregon’s most significant and widely known composers, died Nov. 17, ten years after suffering a major stroke that had cut his prolific composing career short. He was 82. Born in Paris to Czech parents and raised in Prague, he was a musical prodigy. His Symphony No. 1, “Of Nature,” composed when he was just 16, caused a sensation when it was premiered. He left his then-Communist homeland with his family when he was 24, coming to the United States and eventually settling in Portland, which proved a fertile home for music-making. His music has been heard around the world, performed by many leading symphonic orchestras and ensembles. Among his many compositions are six symphonies, seven concerti, and twelve string quartets. For reminiscences from his friends and colleagues about Svoboda’s life and music, see Brett Campbell’s ArtsWatch story A virtuoso human being: Remembering Oregon composer Tomáš Svoboda.

David Ornette Cherry, a blender of progressive jazz, world music, and ambient sound.

DAVID ORNETTE CHERRY. Cherry, a leading exponent of progressive jazz and world music, died Nov. 20 after an asthma attack in London, where he had been performing at a jazz festival tribute to his father, the great trumpeter Don Cherry. He was 64. David Cherry, whose middle name was in honor of his father’s friend and musical collaborator Ornette Coleman, kept a solid grounding in progressive jazz but also expanded his influences to include the wealth of world music and even ambient sound. “My music career and education have thrust me into a variety of musical expressions that I call my ‘mosaic of sound’,” he wrote. “I have been influenced by music of the world – the music of the spirit created from a powerful tapestry of rhythms and sensual melodies. Yet I am also influenced by the infusion of modern technology into that sound – I am a mix of world and jazz idioms.” Born in Watts, Los Angeles, he lived for many years in Portland, often collaborating with choreographers and playwrights as well as other musicians. To hear Dmae Lo Roberts’ 2017 podcast interview with Cherry, see Stage & Studio: Remembering David Ornette Cherry.

Jim Winkler, who was key to creating a new gallery and museum space in Portland.

JIM WINKLER. James H. “Jim” Winkler, a Portland developer who was a champion of photography and other visual arts, died Nov. 22 from complications related to an infection. He was 72. In the city’s arts community he was most known and admired for his key role in the DeSoto Project, which in 2007 transformed the former Daisy Kingdom fabric building and warehouse on Portland’s North Park Blocks into the thriving center of an art gallery and museum district. The redevelopment, which was spurred in part by a desire to help the photography center Blue Sky, became a crucial factor in the revival of the North Park Blocks. What emerged was an art district that included Augen Gallery, Blue Sky Gallery, Charles Hartman Fine Art, Froelick Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft. There has been some turnover in the years since, most notably from the death of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, which had held the development’s most prominent space. The craft museum was soon replaced as a centerpiece by the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education.

Michael Parsons in his downtown gallery, 2016. Photo: K.B.Dixon.

MICHAEL PARSONS. Parsons, who made his mark on Portland’s cultural life with his Michael Parsons Fine Art gallery and, before that, as manager of the old Classical Millennium music store, died on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, after suffering a head injury from a fall in his apartment. He was 65. Both the gallery and the music shop were highly individual, engagingly distinctive, and much loved institutions. Parsons studied classical guitar at Lewis & Clark College, and during his Millennium days it wasn’t unusual to see him sitting at a table in the lobby at concerts, offering CDs for sale of the evening’s performers, and chatting with familiar customers.

“My brother Michael worked his entire life to bring classical music and fine art into people’s lives,” Douglas Parsons said. “He believed that influences from music and art can provide a compass to better understand and interpret our complex world. Being surrounded by beautiful music and art, and helping people instill this beauty into their lives, was his calling.”

From its beginning in 1977, Classical Millennium was more than just a shop. With all of the expected greats of the symphonic, operatic, and chamber worlds as well as unlikely finds ranging from marching music to accordion or harpsichord or sackbut or Finnish American church-choir favorites, it was a place of discovery, a crucible of learning, a home away from home for many music lovers. Like Pioneer Courthouse Square and Powell’s City of Books, it helped define the sort of place its admirers liked to think Portland could be. And its reach was international. “This is extraordinarily sad news,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon commented after the shop closed in 2012. “I love this store … every time I’m in Portland, which is usually three times a year, I go there and browse the stacks. This loss is tremendous, and I know I’ll be grieving this for a long time.”

The gallery, similarly, was an extension of Parsons’ tastes and enthusiasms. Located an easy stroll across the South Park Blocks from the Portland Art Museum, it focused on pioneering Pacific Northwest artists: James Everett Stuart, Peter Winthrop Sheffers, the Methodist minister and painter Melville T. Wire, and others. He had works by 20th and 21st century century regional masters, too: Louis Bunce, Amanda Snyder, Michael Brophy, Mike Russo, Charles Heaney, Mark Tobey, Rene Rickabaugh; plus the occasional national figure such as Thomas Hart Benton. And he represented several contemporary Oregon and Southwest Washington artists, among them Brigitte Dortmund, Liisa Rahkonen, Marc Boone, and Melinda Thorsnes. “Michael was passionate about art, in particular Northwest art,” Dortmund said. “He was an authority on this subject. He saw us as having a unique and powerful vision, influenced not only by global art movements but the natural beauty surrounding us. He loved finding and restoring historical paintings, and discovering new contemporary artists. He was extremely intelligent and intuitive, and very generous. The gallery was a welcoming place for artists, collectors, and students. He would take time to talk with everyone who came in, and loved helping people. … I always thought his musical knowledge gave him an entryway into viewing artwork. He really understood the process of art-making.”

Matt Jay, founder of Yale Union’s End of Summer program.

MATT JAY. Matthew C “Matt” Jay, who founded the End of Summer program at the contemporary arts center Yale Union, died Nov. 27, at age 35. Jay, who was the son of John C. Jay, the longtime creative director at the Weiden + Kennedy advertising agency, spent time in Portland, New York (where he studied video and cinema at the School of Visual Arts), and Tokyo. He developed the End of Summer program as a residency for Japanese contemporary artists, who created new work in Portland at Yale Union, which in 2020 ended its operations and transferred ownership of its building to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. “I began my career in New York, moving between the worlds of contemporary art and branding/marketing — from helping run an experimental art gallery, to serving as Creative Assistant to a veteran branding executive, and working in the marketing arm of fashion brands,” he said on his website. Brian Libby wrote for ArtsWatch about Jay and the End of Summer program in End of Summer: Absorbing Oregon in August. And you can read this interview with Jay on Art&About.

Judith Yeckel, a key behind-the-scenes player.

JUDITH YECKEL. Yeckel, a key mover behind the scenes in Portland’s theater and music circles, died Dec. 15 following complications from heart surgery. Yeckel made many things happen, and smoothed the way for others with her empathetic enthusiasm and practical professionalism. Her activities ranged from managing the Washington Park summer concert and theater series to producing plays at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, producing youth theater and youth summer arts programs for 22 years at Earth Arts NW, and serving as general manager of the historical and production organization Vanport Mosaic. For a time she and her husband, the chef Bob Davis, operated a bed and breakfast in the Columbia Gorge. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help defray medical and memorial costs.

Turtle VanDemarr, longtime Northwest guitarist in many bands, playing at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Photo: Kathy Rankin

TURTLE VANDEMARR. VanDemarr, 72, died Dec. 29, reportedly in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he and his wife, Carmen VanDemarr, had moved earlier this year. A graduate of Roosevelt High School in Portland, he was a professional musician for more than 50 years, mostly as a sought-after guitarist but also as a vocalist, and sometimes, in jug band configurations, on jug or kazoo. He played bluegrass, country rock, folk, blues, and others styles for popular bands including the Freak Mountain Ramblers, the Fly-by-Nite Jass Band, the Barbecue Orchestra and, for nine years, as lead guitarist for Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. “When you’re really doing it right you’re not playing the music, the music is playing you,” he told Powertalk 1210 AM host Jake Feinberg in a 2021 radio interview. “You don’t learn how to play music by memorizing a bunch of notes and a bunch of scales. It goes much faster than that; it springs spontaneously from your innermost being. It’s really important to relax and go with the flow and listen to yourself and other people and let it happen.”

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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11 Responses

  1. The last show I saw with both Linda Janke and Gary Brickner-Schultze was ‘Buried Child’. They were outstanding. It is not a comedy but a dark, stark story of a family. I saw they both many times and counted them as friends. I miss them both along with many of the others you have noted.

  2. This is a lovely tribute to so many strong people whose lives were devoted to the arts. Thank you for memorializing them here for us all to appreciate. I have had the privilege of knowing many of these people, and they will be very missed in our community and beyond.

  3. RIp Turtle. The last time I saw him I took the photo of Turtle that is show in this post. This photo was at the Waterfront Blues Festival, it was an extremely hot day and he played a wonderful set.

  4. Thank you Bob. This is such a lovely remembrance of all these individuals. I am grateful for your inclusion of Una. She was very special and I miss her very much.

  5. Thanks for writing and posting this fine tribute to the artists we lost in 2022. It is a fascinating read. I was glad to see the video of Barbara Ehrenreich who I did not know had attended Reed. I have admired her humanity for so many years and actually had the opportunity to see her speak at Willamette University.
    The summation of the stories demonstrates the rich artistic history of 20th century Portland.

    1. I loved reading about the impact of Michael Parsons on the Portland cultural scene. For years he closely followed the shows at Karin’s gallery as a discerning collector before he opened his own gallery.

  6. We are so lucky to have lived in Portland to experience all these great artists and those who shared their knowledge and love of the arts. Thanks for sharing their stories Bob.

  7. We will all miss the contributions these special people made. Hopefully their stories will inspire others to support the Arts in Portland.

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Triangle Productions Me & Tammy Portland Oregon
Eugene Ballet Petrushka with Orchestra Next Hult Center Eugene Oregon
Oregon Children's Theatre Dragons Love Tacos Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Eugene Opera LaBoheme Hult Center Eugene Oregon
Literary Arts Amor Towles The Lincoln Highway Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Portland Oregon
Portland Columbia Symphony Spectacular Portland Oregon
Northwest Dance Project Portland Oregon
Artists Repertory Theatre American Fast Portland Oregon
Future Prairie Artist Collective Portland Oregon
Portland State University College of the Arts
Oregon Cultural Trust tax credit donate