Adriene Cruz

Going, going, gone: 2019 in review

A look back at the ups and downs and curious side trips of the year on Oregon's cultural front

What a year, right? End of the teens, start of the ’20s, and who knows if they’ll rattle or roar?

But today we’re looking back, not ahead. Let’s start by getting the big bad news out of the way. One thing’s sure in Oregon arts and cultural circles: 2019’s the year the state’s once-fabled craft scene took another staggering punch square on the chin. The death rattles of the Oregon College of Art and Craft – chronicled deeply by ArtsWatch’s Barry Johnson in a barrage of news stories and analyses spiced with a couple of sharp commentaries, Democracy and the arts and How dead is OCAC? – were heard far and wide, and the college’s demise unleashed a flood of anger and lament.

The crashing and burning of the venerable craft college early in the year followed the equally drawn-out and lamented closure of Portland’s nationally noted Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2016, leaving the state’s lively crafts scene without its two major institutions. In both cases the sense that irreversible decisions were being made with scant public input, let alone input from crafters themselves, left much of the craft community fuming. When, after the closure, ArtsWatch published a piece by the craft college’s former president, Denise Mullen, the fury hit the fan with an outpouring of outraged online comments, most by anonymous posters with obvious connections to the school.

Vanessa German, no admittance apply at office, 2016, mixed media assemblage, 70 x 30 x 16 inches, in the opening exhibit of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University. Photo: Spencer Rutledge, courtesy PSU

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Warp, weft, in between and beyond

Martha Daghlian reports on the Textile Connections Symposium “Textiles & Culture: Past, Present, and Future”

As Portland Textile Month wrapped up its second year, the Textile Connections Symposium made its debut on October 26th and 27th 2019. The Symposium was a weekend-long gathering held at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) that consisted of artist lectures and discussions on Saturday and a “makers’ marketplace” on Sunday all of which aimed to spark critical conversation and networking amongst a broad range of artists and craftspeople in the metro area. The Symposium was independently produced by a team of dedicated volunteers with support from Columbia FiberArts Guild, PNCA, Oregon Community Foundation, Portland Textile Month, and Regional Arts and Culture Council. The inaugural theme of “Textiles & Culture: Past, Present, and Future” was an apt focus for an art medium that spans generations and cultures, albeit not always continuously or comfortably. 

I attended the speakers’ day with two companions from the fiber/textile arts community. We  encountered a diverse group with a shared interest in developing community and finding ways for fiber art to assert its relevance into the twenty-first century. Nearly a dozen artists spoke about their work to an enthusiastic audience, reflecting both on the craft legacies they had inherited and on their individual efforts to innovate and bring their practices forward aesthetically and conceptually. This tension between respect for the past and anticipation of the future provoked much open-ended and considerate discussion regarding the complex relationships between art, craft, identity, sustainability, and pedagogy that proved the Symposium’s success in forging connections and inspiring critical engagement within the fiber arts community.

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