A to Z Wineworks

And the winner is… the McMinnville Short Film Festival

Last month’s all-virtual festival receives rave reviews from participants and organizers, and we tell you which films took home the honors

In preparing for its all-virtual 10th anniversary, the McMinnville Short Film Festival, which wrapped up a 127-film, 10-day run with a live-streamed awards ceremony Feb. 28, covered its bases: Organizers asked nominees to submit in advance a “thank-you” video that could be aired if they won.

Portland’s Rich Herstek’s 16-minute short Trevor Waits, an achingly poignant tone poem about the elderly title character living delusionally but happily in his private memory palace, won the award for Best Oregon Filmmaker. Of the festival’s dozen winners, Herstek came as close as any in capturing the regional film industry zeitgeist, if such a thing exists in this weird moment, and issuing a rallying call to other Oregon film artists.

Rich Herstek, who won the Best Oregon Filmmaker Award for “Trevor Waits” at the McMinnville Short Film Festival, says he moved to Portland for the thriving local film scene. “While we are making films in Oregon,” he says, “we are making them for the world.”
Rich Herstek, who won the Best Oregon Filmmaker Award for “Trevor Waits” at the McMinnville Short Film Festival, says he moved to Portland for the thriving local film scene. “While we are making films in Oregon,” he says, “we are making them for the world.”

“I moved here five years ago because Oregon had a thriving, independent film scene, and I have not been disappointed” said Herstek, whose work and university studies has landed him in Ohio, Eugene, New York, Boston, and Europe. “There are some real stars in the talent pool, technicians are first-rate, film crews work miracles on minuscule budgets, and people are eager to pitch in on almost any project.”

“I would urge all of us locals to remember” he concluded, “that while we are making films in Oregon, we are making them for the world.”

Thanks to COVID, the festival found itself in the position this year of delivering those films to the world via the Internet. Even though theaters were closed, sponsors stuck with the festival — seeing it, perhaps,  as an investment in the future of wine country tourism and using it to get the word out. In the end, the festival may actually have enjoyed a pandemic bump, securing a prize they’ve been seeking for years by getting more locals as excited about and involved in the festival as the filmmakers are. Officials declined to release numbers, but co-founder and organizer Nancy Morrow said that if the virtual turnout had showed up at a theater, “It would have been standing room only.”

“Our expectations were far exceeded,” Morrow said. “We weren’t sure if people would buy into a virtual festival, but we had a wildly successful MSFF this year. The filmmakers were very supportive, loved the films, and networked as much as they could via our virtual events. The audience feedback was the best yet.”

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The inauguration & the art of words

ArtsWatch Weekly: A young poet and a steady voice highlight the clarity of ritual and suggest a path for the art of governance

THE WEEK’S BIG NEWS – ITS DOMINATING NEWS – WAS WEDNESDAY’S INAUGURATION of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as the nation’s 46th president and Kamala Harris as the first woman and the first person of color to be vice president. In this most extraordinary of elections, in which its clear loser refused until the last moment to accept that he had lost, and in which only two weeks ago a mob urged on by the election’s loser stormed and ransacked the Capitol Building, the simple clarity of a ritual carried out in safety and celebration was cause for national reassurance. The presence in the nation’s capital of 25,000 soldiers at the ready to quell  any further violence – five people died as a result of the domestic-terrorist surge on January 6 – might have had a great deal to do with the peaceful passage of the day. Yet there also was a sense that something had truly turned, that in spite of the fierce differences and enmities that remain in a divided nation, rationality, good intentions, and a commitment to fact would be the new starting points for the national conversation. And the art of words, spoken with purpose and logic and a sense of common possibility, lay somewhere near the foundation of it all.  

Amanda Gorman, the nation’s First Youth Poet Laureate, at Wednesday’s Inauguration ceremony.


THE YOUNG POET AMANDA GORMAN, delivering her inauguration poem The Hill We Climb (full text here), laid out an aspirational vision:

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
… Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
… We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
… We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid …

 

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Photographing the craft and grit of winemaking

Adrian Chitty's work, in a Chehalem Cultural Center show, celebrates the unseen people who "work so very hard to get that wine in your glass"

A couple of years ago, A to Z Wineworks received an email from someone named Adrian Chitty, who was having a “family adventure” in Bali and wanted to talk about embedding himself in the Newberg-based winery as part of an artistic residency. The proposal, according to Deb Hatcher, one of the winery’s four founders, “seemed incredibly suspicious.”

Nevertheless, the email ultimately led to A to Z launching a residency program with Chitty, an Oxford-educated software engineer retired from 20 years in the fast lanes of London and New York, as its first artist. Chitty moved to Oregon with his wife and children and spent two full seasons with the winery, working various jobs and shooting thousands of photographs depicting every stage of the winemaking process. As it happens, his residency overlapped with both the pandemic and Oregon’s fires, and his digital camera captured evidence of both.

photographer Adrian Chitty
Photographer Adrian Chitty

The best of those images, nearly three dozen of them, compose Transformations: A to Z Wineworks’ Artist-in-Residence — a Year in Review, a new exhibition at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. It runs through Feb. 28.

The photographs, of uniform size and in color (and, adds Chehalem’s Carissa Burkett, for sale), are astonishing and beautiful visions of the grit of winemaking. Prior to the residency, Chitty noted, his experience of wine industry photography was seeing the glamour of wine depicted by professional photographers with an eye to getting customers in tasting rooms: lush, rolling vineyards and sunlight shining through glasses of wine, sipped by smiling, attractive people on patios.

“I wanted to show the mechanics of how wine is made and I wanted to celebrate the people who work so very hard to get that wine in your glass,” he said during an online artist’s reception last week. “They are a dedicated army of people who put care and attention into these labor-intensive processes. I wanted to celebrate these unseen people.”  

What struck me about the exhibition was the technical depth of the text that accompanies each photograph. Exhibitions like this traditionally roll out an “artist’s statement” as a welcome mat, which is where you’re most likely to gain some insight into the genesis of the project, what they were trying to do, their emotional trajectory during the creative process, etc.

This show has that, but much more. Chitty continues the discussion with each image. Viewers get not only a detailed description of what they’re looking at (because it’s not necessarily clear what the subjects are actually doing) but also why he shot that photo and why he likes it. Consider, for example, the text for the image titled Preparing:

The weather in October 2019 gave us cold, clear days, and the steam from the hot water cleaning processes would billow around and catch the sunlight. These steel barrels get used for short-term operations at the winery such as temporary storage of wine, smaller fermentations, and catching runoff juice from the sorting table. Cleaning them is a daily occurrence during harvest. There is visual balance here, with the weight of the two barrels balanced by Cynthia and the hose.

Photographer Adrian Chitty documented the winemaking process over two seasons at A to Z Wineworks in Newberg. “Preparing” (October 2019) captures cleaning steel barrels used for temporary storage of wine or short fermentations. (All images are giclée prints from digital camera, 18 by 12 inches.)
Photographer Adrian Chitty documented the winemaking process over two seasons at A to Z Wineworks in Newberg. “Preparing” (October 2019) captures cleaning steel barrels used for temporary storage of wine or short fermentations. (All images are giclée prints from digital camera, 18 by 12 inches.)

You get stuff like that throughout the show, illustrating the artist’s mind at work: “Ana’s arms create a strong symmetry, and the splashes of color from the hi-visibility vest and nitrile glove contrast with an otherwise largely monochrome palette,” he writes for one. Another: “It’s the gesture that makes this image work for me. This is a simple composition, with the color contrast drawing the viewer to the subject.” It’s like dollops from a course in photography.

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