Oregon Cultural Trust

On Earth Day, a Record Day, too

A day set aside for action on global environmental issues is also, on a smaller scale, a day to celebrate indie record shops.


Oregon artist Michael Brophy’s “Harvest,” 1995, oil on canvas, is in the collections of the Portland Art Museum. Gift of Laura Russo and Lucinda Parker, © Michael Brophy and The Laura Russo Gallery, 1995.32

Today — Saturday, April 22 — is Earth Day, the 53rd annual commemoration and call to environmental action since the day was founded in 1970. On a still spherical yet much less expansive scale, it’s also Record Store Day, a much younger event that got its start in 2007.


Earth Day, you know: The annual event draws attention to the increasingly fragile state of the planet as climate change, spiraling global human population, the stripping of essential forestlands, the growth of giant islands of plastic in the oceans, over-reliance on fossil fuels, the endangerment and loss of animal and plant species, and other forces threaten ecological stability.

A few days ago historian Douglas Brinkley was in Portland to deliver a talk about his book Silent Spring Revolution, as part of the Oregon Historical Society’s Hatfield Lecture Series. The third volume in Brinkley’s series of histories on environmental movements in the United states, it concentrates on what he calls “the great environmental awakening” of the mid-twentieth century. The movement, spurred in large part by the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962, resulted in sweeping environmental legislation during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. William C. Stack was in the audience for Brinkley’s talk and filed this report, Douglas Brinkley on Americas’s ‘Silent Spring Revolution,’ for ArtsWatch.

You might also want to check out our February story The Oregon Story: Art and the land, about writer Barbara Sellers-Young’s book Artists Activating Sustainability: The Oregon Story, which recounts the environmental efforts of Governors Tom McCall and Robert Straub, and tells the stories of several Oregon artists and arts organizations whose work is steeped in environmental awareness.

Oregon has a great many visual artists whose work is suffused in or touches on environmental awareness, from the early paintings of C.E.S. Wood and his visiting friend Childe Hassam to such contemporary artists as James Lavadour, Matthew Dennison, Sandra Roumagoux, April Waters, Bonnie Meltzer, and Michael Brophy, whose 1995 painting Harvest is shown above.



All Classical Radio James Depreist

On Record Store Day, a spin of the platter to Terry Currier, the man behind Portland’s Music Millennium. Photo: K.B. Dixon/2017

Record Store Day is a platter of a very different spin, and although it has an international reach I wouldn’t have known of its existence if photographer and writer K.B. Dixon, a frequent ArtsWatch contributor, hadn’t brought it up. Once he did (and once he’d shared this portrait of Terry Currier, head honcho of Portland’s iconic Music Millennium), I decided to look it up.

Record Store Day, according to that great font of human knowledge Wikipedia, was hatched by a group of indie record store owners meeting in Baltimore, “to ‘celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store.’ The day brings together fans, artists, and thousands of independent record stores around the world. A number of records are pressed specifically for Record Store Day, with a list of releases for each country, and are only distributed to shops participating in the event.”

Who knew? A lot of people, apparently: I’m late to this party. The day emphasizes vinyl (like the dial telephone, a less handy but in many ways more satisfying instrument of aural information-sharing), and offers both new releases and historic re-releases: Among this year’s releases available in participating independent shops are works by artists as diverse as Taylor Swift, Björk, the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Nas, Chuck D, Donna Summer, and Dolly Parton.

Chances are good that a participating shop is near you. A list of stores names close to 40 in Oregon and Washington, from Music Millennium and several other Portland shops including 99 Cent Records and Timbuktunes World Music to Harvest Music in Salem, Happy Trails Records in Corvallis, Northwest Grooves in Newport, Moon Rock Records in Eugene, and 1709 Records in Vancouver, Wash.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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