Portland Chamber Orchestra Portland Oregon

News notes: Hail & farewell; money for projects

Beth Harper to retire from The Actors Conservatory after 37 years; Portland Open Studios hires its first executive director; Arts Commission announces new grants.

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Left: Beth Harper, retiring in June after 37 years at the helm of The Actors Conservatory. Right: Artist Kirista Trask becomes the first executive director of Portland Open Studios.

Beth Harper plans her exit from The Actors Conservatory. Thirty-seven years ago Harper, the Portland actor and director who grew up in Tennessee, opened a small second-floor studio and school that she called The Training Ground in Portland’s Hollywood District. After a bit she moved to bigger digs in Old Town, and then, for many years, to an old firehouse just on the south side of downtown. Classes are now held in The Armory, home of Portland Center Stage.

The school’s name changed to Portland Actors Conservatory, and then The Actors Conservatory, as it flourished and became a full-fledged, fully accredited conservatory. It’s scattered top-rate graduates throughout Portland and other cities, and for all that time Harper’s been its guiding light.

Now she’s announced she’ll retire at the end of June, and the grand structure she built will pass to new leadership. The Conservatory has begun a search for a new managing artistic director

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Portland Open Studios hires an executive director. In its 23 years, the metro areawide Open Studios has become an eagerly awaited event on the cultural calendar, a two-weekend party each October in which people can chart their own routes and choose from among as many as 100 artist studios to visit, see where the artists work, chat, and even buy something straight from the source. (It’s gone online during the pandemic.) The event helps a lot of artists without gallery representation get their work seen, and the quality of work can be very high: many well-known artists have taken part.

Over the years Open Studios, which has long been a volunteer-run group, has added professional development services to its portfolio, and now it’s big enough that it needs a full-time leader: Artist Kirista Trask has been named its first executive director.

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Career Opportunity Grants. Relatively modest grants often can make it possible for artists to bring projects to fruition. Money can come from individual, foundation, and government donors. This week the Oregon Arts Commission announced a fresh round of 28 career opportunity grants, in concert with the Ford Family Foundation, totaling a little over $88,000. Projects range from artist Daniel Duford’s development of a music and shadow puppet version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to travel funds for artist Aja Ngo to study with a master mosaic artist in Ravenna, Italy. Click the link to see the full list of awardees.

Bob Hicks

Bob Hicks

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."
Bob Hicks

Bob Hicks

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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