News & Notes: OSF gets a second piece of pie!

A $1 million grant from the Doris Duke Foundation, Initisar Abioto's photography project, art helps

We are on a holiday schedule this week, so News & Notes will be sporadic. News arrives even on holiday weeks, however, and though we may be on the way to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, we cannot in good conscience fail to eat a second helping of pie OR tell you what we know!

And speaking of a second helping of pie…the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has received a $1 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the company announced today. The money is intended to help the festival and four other performing arts groups adapt to changes in the cultural landscape.

“We understand that most organizations do not have enough, if any, ‘change capital’—funds that they can devote to maximizing their adaptability, said Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at DDCF, in a press release. “With that in mind, these awards are intended to further fuel the ability of these five organizations to position themselves to respond to changes in their respective environments.”

The other four, each known for innovative experiments in programming and outreach, include On the Boards in Seattle, American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, MA), Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts (Middletown, CT), and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.). And like all performing arts groups around the country, they face severe economic challenges in a digital media culture that threatens to engulf them.

According to the press release, the grants were not open for application and at this time DDCF considers this is a unique, one-time program for organizations with a “demonstrated a sustained ability to innovate and experiment in ways that inform and lead their respective fields.” The grants, $300,000 to $1 million, will be distributed over a period of up to four years. The list of appropriate uses includes “staff expansion, creation of capital reserves, professional development, technology, board and staff retreats, convenings and consultants.”

Since launching American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, a 10-year new plays project, in 2008, OSF-connected work has found its way onto stages around the country, most prominently the Broadway-bound “”All The Way, by Robert Schenkkan, which won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History in 2013.

Last month the festival received a $3 million Paul G. Allen Family Foundation grant to rename its outdoor theater from Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion to the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, so this has been a rich couple of months down in Ashland.

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It’s not exactly news that Portland is a very white city and that its African American population is very small indeed. Just take a walk around the city. But Performer/photographer Initisar Abioto came to town three years ago, saw the situation, and decided to start photographing black Portlanders in response. And then Al-Jazeera did a story on Abioto, which gets at a lot of issues around that subject in a very few minutes.

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George Inness, “An Old Roadway,” Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art/Dwight Primiano

Let’s see: We have pointed out that the Portland Art Museum offers free admission for those 17 and under every day the museum is open, which is a great gift to the community, we must say. Why is such a big deal? Well, a recent study of students who visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Arkansas, explains:

“A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.

Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.

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