Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon

Once more into the coronabreach

ArtsWatch Weekly: As the pandemic crisis grows, Oregon artists and arts groups feel the financial squeeze.


THE WORLD’S MOVING SWIFTLY AS WE’RE INCHING ALONG IN OUR OWN ISOLATIONS. Radical announcements are arriving daily that we wouldn’t have anticipated a couple of months ago. The world’s in crisis, economically but more importantly medically, and different leaders are taking drastically different approaches to dealing with a phenomenon that, in a deeply connected world, knows no national borders. Some argue, with what seems extreme cynicism, that a thinning-out of grandparents and people with weaker immune systems is a small price to pay for restoring a booming economy and propping up the stock markets. Others, including most medical experts, argue that maintaining strict isolation is crucial to taming the beast and buying time to develop and distribute effective vaccines. 

Seven groups of Oregon Symphony musicians, just after being laid off for the rest of the season, put on micro-concerts in their own neighborhoods so small audiences could remain at a distance and yet still hear music performed live. Photo: Joe Cantrell

The fallout in the cultural world has been heavy. In Oregon, museums, galleries, theaters, concert halls, libraries, movie theaters, cultural centers, cafes and clubs have been shut down from Ashland to Astoria to Portland to Bend to Baker City and beyond. Schools are closed or operating online only. Cultural organizations, which always operate on tight budgets, are in crisis, and many are looking at bleak futures. The Oregon Symphony has canceled the rest of its season and laid off all of its musicians, and is looking at a $5 million shortfall. This year’s Waterfront Blues Festival has been canceled: The internationally recognized celebration, which ordinarily draws thousands of music lovers to Portland’s downtown riverfront for the four-day July Fourth holiday weekend, plans to return in 2021. White Bird Dance, which for 22 years has brought top-flight international companies to Portland audiences, finds itself in a life-threatening $350,000 hole because of cancellations, and is asking for help. Oregon Children’s Theatre, which relies partly on school-trip audiences that have disappeared because schools are no longer in session, needs $200,000 by the end of May. At this point Chamber Music Northwest, the celebrated mostly-summer festival, is going ahead with plans to produce its fiftieth anniversary season June 22-July 26.


FOR MANY GROUPS, LONGTERM SURVIVAL IS SUDDENLY AN ISSUE. The extreme blow from coronavirus cancellations to their carefully structured budgets has put them in a tight spot. Right now basic safety is uppermost in many people’s minds. But as human societies deal with an unanticipated and immediate threat, it’s not too early to consider the longterm cultural costs and benefits, as well. As the world comes out of this crisis, it will need a strong and supple creative community to inspire it and remind itself of what it is, where it’s been, and what it might become. If you have the means, this is a very good time to give some extra financial support to the cultural group or groups that speak to you. There isn’t one that wouldn’t welcome your help. Large or small, mainstream or experimental, they’re in the weeds together. And in a cultural environment like Oregon’s the big and the small are often interwoven, each feeding and supporting the other. Let your contributions flow to where your interests and your heart are.


REMEMBER, TOO, THAT INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS ARE DEEPLY IMPACTED by the shutdowns that have swept the cultural world. Many are like workers in the gig economy, relying on short-term contracts to make a living, and with shows and galleries being canceled we’ve heard of artists suddenly losing six months’ worth of work, with nothing to fall back on. A little more than a week ago Portland Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan and Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford, with financial and other support from several groups and individuals, launched PDXARTISTRELIEF.COM, the Portland Area Artist Emergency Relief Fund, a much-needed effort to help provide emergency relief to artists in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties facing financial crises because of coronavirus shutdowns.

On Wednesday evening we asked Ganesan how things stood. “Here is the update,” she replied. “We are at $79,000 today and have received … GULP … 546 applications. The need is HUGE. We are absolutely looking for more donations. We will be getting the first load of $$s by this weekend if at all possible because there are applicants who need $$s to make it through the end of the month/beginning of April. Applicants come from all artistic disciplines. We have artists who have been making and delivering art in Portland for decades, applying – because this has been the formula for their income. So, absolutely needed. … But the community response has been truly remarkable. A steady stream of donations; some good publicity; and the big thing is to keep this in front of everyone as we continue to move through the weeks.”



Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

OREGON ARTSWATCH ALSO  ASKS FOR YOUR HELP during the coronavirus crisis. On this front, I’m going to repeat what I wrote last week: A contribution goes a long way. Like the cultural groups we cover, we’re a nonprofit organization – one of the pioneers of nonprofit journalism, mostly funded by our readers, grants, sponsorships, and individual donations. Our overhead is very low – everything we raise from donations goes to our writers, editors, and photographers to produce stories – and many of our contributors are themselves working artists: What we pay them is part of the freelance income that helps them keep producing their art. Many of you are already ArtsWatch financial supporters. Thanks for that. If you can, this is a good time to bump up your contribution, or contribute for the first time. We’re here for you, and the artists, and the art. Here’s how:

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James Corden in National Theatre at Homes’ free streamed version of One Man Two Guvnors. Joan Marcus photo

MEANWHILE, LIFE GOES ON, AT LEAST VIRTUALLY. Here at ArtsWatch Temporary Bunker Command Headquarters we’re just a little sad we missed last Friday’s kickoff of a 27-film Hallmark Christmas Movie Marathon to help ease us through our isolation, but more than pleased to discover that the National Theatre’s superb production of the delightful One Man Two Guvnors, a crackerjack updating of Carlo Goldini’s 1743 farce The Servant of Two Masters, will soon be available to stream for free to launch the British company’s new National Theatre at Home series. All sorts of live shows, from Broadway to opera, are being made available to see on screen from home; the link in the previous sentence to the Playbill story lists just a few of them. Meanwhile, Artslandia, the Portland performance-program magazine, has begun streaming live happy hour broadcasts Mondays-Fridays at 5 from its Facebook page. Coming up the rest of this week: Nashville musician Jacob Reynolds on Thursday, Portland’s Curious Comedy on Friday. And you can always catch up with stage star Susannah Mars’s podcast interviews for Artslandia with interesting Portland arts people, or tune in for new ones.


An empty house is a lonely house: ghostlight photo of Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, home of the shut-down Oregon Symphony Orchestra, by IATSE Local 28 crew, courtesy of violist Charles Noble.

MUSICWATCH WEEKLY: THE APOCALYPSE WILL BE LIVESTREAMED. “First of all, how are you? Eating enough? Staying inside and entertained? Called your friends and/or family lately? Good.” Music Editor Matthew Neil Andrews’ newest column takes a look at the rapidly shifting scene and discovers that the stream of music is flowing; or maybe that the flow of music is streaming. As in virtual. “Things are still happening, composers are still composing, musicians are still musicking,” he declares, then adds: “You could support your musician friends while they’re out of work, but then you’re probably out of work too right? Here we begin to see that this whole problem is essentially a capitalism problem.”


Cascadia Composers May the Fourth be with you Bold new music for winds and piano Lincoln Recital Hall PSU Portland Oregon

DRAMAWATCH: A NEW STAGE OF ‘OTHERNESS’: Theater Editor Marty Hughley talks with Michelle Fujii, co-founder of the contemporary taiko group Unit Souzou, about the loneliness of the outsider and the challenge and promise of performing a live show to a virtual audience.

Carola Penn, “Losing Paradise,” 2006. Acrylic on wood. 6 x 12 feet. Image courtesy Nationale

GALLERY SHOWS SHUTTERED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “I’m about to do something I’ve never done before: review two gallery shows which were scheduled for March, then abruptly shuttered, due to precautions taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Sebastian Zinn writes. “The moment feels ripe for experimentation.” Under the long-range lens: Nationale’s exhibit of paintings by the late Portland artist Carola Penn, and Alexis E. Mabry’s show of large sculptural paintings at Third Room.

CELEBRATING MUNDANE INTERIORS. Patrick Collier considers the appeal of the everyday still life scenes captured in Leslie Hickey’s photographs on view at Holding Contemporary.

Photo: K.B. Dixon, downtown Portland, 2016.

PHOTO FIRST: SOCIAL DISTANCING. We know. It’s tough. But some Portlanders have been practicing it for a long time. Writer, photographer, and frequent ArtsWatch contributor K.B. Dixon looks through his files and creates a Portland portrait of solitude amid the city’s bustle.

VOICES FROM THE FRONT: ‘WE’RE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL’. Lori Tobias writes a snapshot profile of Joyce Lincoln, longtime owner of Northwest by Northwest Gallery in Cannon Beach, who talks about what the pandemic crisis means to her business and the artists she helps support: “Even though you’re not making any sales, your bills still come in,” Lincoln says. “The same is true for the artists. Just like us, they’re eating rice and beans. That’s why I’m hoping people will buy gift certificates, so everyone can stay afloat. That is the name of the game.”

Making music in the Finch family’s front yard on a sunny afternoon: Oregon Symphony cellist Kenneth Finch and violinist Lynne Finch (left), violinist Peter Frajola (right), and violinist Ryan Lee (back to camera). Photo: Joe Cantrell

MAKING MUSIC IN A TIME OF ISOLATION. On the day they learned officially that they had been laid off for the rest of the season from their jobs with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, seven small groups of symphony musicians buckled down and began a weekend mini-marathon of mini-concerts, on their own porches and lawns and in their own neighborhoods, for mini-audiences of socially distanced neighbors and friends. Photographer and fervent friend of music Joe Cantrell took his cameras to all seven concerts, driving a photographic essay about good things that can happen even in the midst of a storm.



Tim: From head of security to Twitter sensation.

FINALLY, AN ARTSWATCH SALUTE TO TIM, the genial security director of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Tim was asked to manage the museum’s social media posts while the doors are closed for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, and his Twitter feeds have become a national sensation. Tim keeps things real. He has his own style, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, this Bored Panda post will take you straight to the source. If you have checked it out, check it again: Right about now we can all use a good laugh. The world needs more Tims, and this Tim’s arrived in the nick of time.


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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."

Corrib Theatre From a Hole in the Ground Contemporary Irish Theatre Alberta House Portland Oregon
Kalakendra Indian Classical Instrumental Music First Congregational Church Portland Oregon
Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon
Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon
Cascadia Composers May the Fourth be with you Bold new music for winds and piano Lincoln Recital Hall PSU Portland Oregon
Chamber Music Northwest Imani Winds and BodyVox Beautiful Everything The Reser Beaverton Oregon
Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon
Newport Visual and Performing Arts Newport Oregon Coast
Kalakendra Indian Classical Instrumental Music First Congregational Church Portland Oregon
Triangle Productions Perfect Arrangement Portland Oregon
NW Dance Project Moving Stories Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Oregon Repertory Singers Finding Light 50th Season Portland Oregon
Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon
Imago Theatre Carol Triffle Mission Gibbons Portland Oregon
Maryhill Museum of Art Goldendale Washington
Portland State University College of the Arts
Bonnie Bronson 2024 Fellow Wendy Red Star Reed College Reception Kaul Auditorium Foyer Portland Oregon
PassinArt Theatre and Portland Playhouse present Yohen Brunish Theatre Portland Oregon
Pacific Maritime Heritage Center Prosperity of the Sea Lincoln County Historical Society Newport Oregon Coast
Portland Art Museum Virtual Sneakers to Cutting Edge Kicks Portland Oregon
High Desert Museum Sasquatch Central Oregon
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