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News & Notes: Michael Griggs memorial, ‘To Bear Witness,’ Milagro lends a hand

A celebration of the theater leader's life is June 19; Oregon immigrant stories move to Hillsboro; small grants help bring 16 Latino art projects to life.


Michael Griggs: memorial June 19.

A memorial celebration of the life of Michael Griggs, theater director, teacher, administrator, and one of the most admired people in Portland’s theater and performance communities, will be held on Monday, June 19, in Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall Recital Hall. The celebration will also be available to join online.

Griggs died on January 24, 2023, in a Portland respite care facility, from the effects of advanced diabetes. He was 76. He came to Portland in 1985 from California, where he had co-founded the Bear Republic Theatre in Santa Cruz, to take over as artistic director of the classically based New Rose Theatre. Michael put his own stamp on New Rose, expanding the idea of “classic” from a steady diet of mostly English and American dramas with robust productions of plays such as Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba.

He started and for 10 years ran PIPfest, an invigorating summer international performance festival at Portland State University, taking advantage of connections with Eastern European, Hispanic, and other companies and performers. He was for several years executive director of the Japanese drumming and performance troupe Portland Taiko. He taught for several years at the professional theater school The Actors Conservatory, and directed productions at the Fertile Ground Festival, Twilight Theatre, Lakewood Theatre, and elsewhere.

A deeply read man with a broad curiosity about many forms of performance, he embraced everything from puppet theater to subversive comedy to agitprop, and loved the work of Bertolt Brecht. He was also a valued board member of Oregon ArtsWatch and a good friend, and is deeply missed.

The memorial celebration will be at 7 p.m. Monday, June 19, in PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall Recital Hall, Room 75, on the lower level of Lincoln Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave., Portland. Entry will be on Southwest Broadway, on the east side of the building. You can attend in person or online via Zoom; register for either type of free ticket using this Eventbrite link.

In addition, The Actors Conservatory Michael Griggs Scholarship Fund has been set up and is accepting contributions.

‘To Bear Witness’ moves to Hillsboro

Saron Khut from Cambodia, in “To Bear Witness.” Photo: John Rudoff

To Bear Witness: Stories of Survivors of Holocaust, Genocide and the Atrocities of War, the remarkable exhibition collaboration between photographer Jim Lommasson and The Immigrant Story that made its debut from January to May 2022 at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, is back in circulation — this time at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center, in Hillsboro, where it opened Tuesday and continues through Aug. 24.

The exhibition, which ArtsWatch’s Beth Sorensen wrote about in detail in January 2022, features the stories of 14 people who fled wars and other disasters and began new lives in Oregon. “Through profiles, large-scale photographs, short videos, and podcasts,” Sorensen wrote, “the exhibition captures, in their own words, the stories of refugees from countries that are distant and diverse, but all of which have been torn apart by the atrocities of war, genocide, and rape – Bosnia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Hungary, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, and Tibet, as well as survivors of the Holocaust from Austria and Germany.”

To Bear Witness, the Walters Center notes, “takes its name from the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning writer, activist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who emphatically proclaimed, ‘For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.’” 

His mother’s medallion and family photos, which Saron Khut and his family carried to the United States. Photo: Jim Lommasson

Milagro’s Latino Artist Awards

In the nonprofit cultural world, big grants are the holy grail — the juice that keeps countless organizations running. But sometimes small grants, carefully chosen, have an outsized impact, especially when they’re made to individual artists trying to realize the money to finance particular projects.

That’s where programs such as the Milagro Latino Artist Fund Awards come in. Milagro, the Southeast Portland theater and cultural gathering-spot, has just announced $12,000 in grants divided among 16 arts projects — money that is crucial to completing the works, which range from producing a musical album to producing a Latin American film festival.

The awardees:

  • Sofia Carpenter-Rodrigues, $300 to create a Dia de los Muertos Loteria board game, which will be available to buy in October at a game night at Milagro.
  • Kaylee Morgan Fernandez, from Chile, $300 to help finish the animated series Unconditional Self Love.
  • Diego Gioseffi, from Buenos Aires, $600 to help produce his mixed-media collage exhibit Shan shui: On nature decolonization.
  • Joenally Gonzalez, from Puerto Rico, $800 to produce copies of a bilingual story to be donated to El Puente Bilingual School in Milwaukie, Oregon.
  • Clara Grun Santaua, Nicaraguan singer/songwriter, $1,000 to produce an album focused on her spiritual connection to trees.
  • Paulina Levaggi, from Uruguay, $400 to help fund her sculpture Changing Perspectives.
  • Eliborio Limon, director of Raices De Oregón, a nonprofit organization that provides folklorico dance classes to children and adults in Springfield and Eugene, $900 to help produce a show at a professional theater in Eugene.
  • Julie Ann Lopez, Portland photographer, $1,000 to create an exhibit the multimedia installation Love, Bigfoot: Reimaging Life and Conversations with My Father.
  • Anabertha Martinez, health worker from Guanajuato, Mexico, $1,150 to help bring her group Caminos de Crecimiento (Journeys of Growth) to lead a series of workshops at Milagro.
  • Mika Martinez, $900 to help create the photo exhibit The History and Evolution of La Catrina, which will be featured in Milagro’s lobby during the 27th annual Dia de los Muertos Festival.
  • Maria Osterroth, $1,600 to help produce her 17th annual Portland Latin American Film Festival; man of the films will be shown at Portland’s Hollywood Theatre throughout Fall 2023.
  • Peruvian Pride PDX, directed by Antuanet Powell, $250 to help underwrite a performance at the South American Festival in Portland to “share the diversity of Peruvian culture through dance.”
  • Bunnie Rivera, $300 to help with production costs for This Land Is. a project about homeless Latino youth.
  • Karma Rivera, Portland rapper, $650 to help produce her music video Good 4U.
  • Eviana Vergara, $600 to help market her short film Orgullo to various film festivals around the country. The film also will be presented at Milagro’s summer film camp for Latino filmmakers.
  • Gabriela Vidal Alvarado, from Portugal, $1,200 to help translate, market, and ship copes to Peru of her book of poetry and photography about her journey of living with Down syndrome.

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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