arts in Portland

ArtsWatch Weekly: TBA time, a passel of plays

TBA time, a passel of plays, an enchantment in Edinburgh, a new "Snow Queen," links: the week that was, the week that's coming up

What happens when a revolution becomes a regularly scheduled event? When PICA, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, started its TBA fest fourteen years ago it felt like a bracing broadside, a refreshing slap across the face to the city’s art scene as usual. “TBA” stood then, as it does now, for “time-based art,” a fancy way of saying art in real time, art by the clock: performance, whether dance or theater or music or monologue or performance art or anything slipping through the cracks of standard categories.

The idea wasn’t new. Portland State University had run a successful international performance festival for several years, and between 1972 and 1987 the legendary PCVA, the Portland Center for the Visual Arts, made performance a major part of its mission. TBA picked up the idea, aimed for the outer circles and exploratory corners of the national and international performance world, and brought it all home. TBA quickly became the hot ticket, the party everybody had to be at, the talk of the town.

Meg Wolfe's PICA-commissioned "New Faithful Disco," playing TBA Saturday and Sunday in the Winningstad Theatre. Photo: Steve Gunther/REDCAT

Meg Wolfe’s PICA-commissioned “New Faithful Disco,” playing TBA Saturday and Sunday in the Winningstad Theatre. Photo: Steve Gunther/REDCAT

Now, TBA is an institution, an august organizer of the avante-garde. Every fall it arrives and spreads its tentacles across the city, creating an avant-garde hothouse for a week and a half and then disappearing again until the next year. It’s not just performance: visual art has been part of the mix for a long time. And locals are mixed liberally (or radically) into a brew of controlled pandemonium and surprise. This year’s festival opens Thursday and runs pretty much nonstop through Sunday, September 18. A lot of the action will be at PICA at Hancock, PICA’s new Near East Side permanent digs at 15 Northeast Hancock Street. Check the schedule, and also take a look at Jamuna Chiarini’s DanceWatch Weekly, which includes a good rundown on the festival’s many dance options. Fill out your dance card soon: some of these shows are going to sell out early.


ArtsWatch Weekly: Tragic love, Lear, art hop, film fest, all that jazz

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Not to give anything away, but it ends tragically. Maybe you’ve heard the tale: hot young guy, eager young miss, ardent passions, balcony scene, feuding families, stroke of violence, thwarted plan, poison potion, doom. Yes, it’s true: Romeo and Juliet‘s back in town. And not just any R&J, but James Canfield’s sumptuous ballet version. Canfield created it in 1989 for Pacific Ballet Theatre, and brought it with him to the new Oregon Ballet Theatre the following year when PBT and Ballet Oregon merged, and made it a mainstay of OBT’s repertory. It hasn’t been seen onstage here in more than fifteen years, since before Canfield and the OBT board parted ways abruptly in 2003, and Canfield’s work largely disappeared from town. Under artistic director Kevin Irving, OBT has been renewing the acquaintance, healing old wounds, and now one of Canfield’s signature pieces is back on the OBT stage at Keller Auditorium, opening Saturday and continuing through March 5. A little history is about to happen, and we’re not talking about the Shakespeare.

Ansa Deguchi and Brian Simcoe in James Canfield's "Romeo & Juliet" at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Ansa Deguchi and Brian Simcoe in James Canfield’s “Romeo & Juliet” at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert



On the other hand, with this one we are talking about the Shakespeare. And about the multitalented Portland stage and screen veteran Tobias Andersen, who at the beginning of his ninth decade is crawling out on the heath in the title role of the great King Lear. This is in many ways the pinnacle role in Shakespeare’s plays (although that’s open to a lot of argument), even more so than Hamlet or Prince Hal or Prospero or Macbeth, all of whom will get votes, along with some of the comic characters like Falstaff and Beatrice and Benedick. Andersen opens on Friday night at Post5 Theater, and we expect some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and, more to the point, a performer capable of diving deeply and profoundly into the tragedy. It continues through March 19.


Tobias Andersen as Lear: "You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout!" Photo: Russell J. Young

Tobias Andersen as Lear: “You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout!” Photo: Russell J. Young



Sunday, as you might have heard, will be the outpouring of the celebrity orgy that is the Academy Awards, and though it’s one of the most watched television spectacles on the planet, one of its dirty little secrets (it has quite a few) is that vast swaths of the broadcast audience won’t have seen most of the movies that are vying for statuettes. “I’ll catch it when it comes to Netflix,” people tell themselves, and then … well, where does the time go?


The huge art news of the past week is that Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft is about to be shuttered. The rumblings are sounding across the country: the announcement has stirred up strong responses from the American craft and museum worlds, baring once again long-simmering disagreements over what “craft” and “art” mean, and how they do or don’t overlap.

As Barry Johnson reported when he broke the story on Oregon ArtsWatch, the museum space in Northwest Portland will be shut down and sold, and some of the museum’s programs will be folded into a new Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at the nearby Pacific Northwest College of Art, MoCC’s parent institution. PNCA had taken over the museum in 2009, providing a lifeline when the craft museum was sinking in debt. As Barry reported in his first story and a followup based on interviews with the art school’s interim president and exhibitions director, the museum continued to drain money despite hopes that it could become self-sustaining. And it was never fully integrated into the college’s programs.

Installation shot from "Alien She," which closed in January at MoCC: In foreground: Ladies Sasquatch (2006-2010). Photo courtesy of Allyson Mitchell and Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Toronto.

Installation shot from “Alien She,” which closed in January at MoCC: In foreground: Ladies Sasquatch (2006-2010). Photo courtesy of Allyson Mitchell and Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Toronto.

Responses have been swift, including these ones:

Sarah Archer, writing in Hyperallergic under the headline Why the Closing of the Museum of Contemporary Craft Is a Major Loss: “The idea that the new Center for Contemporary Art & Culture will show ‘not only craft, but craft, art, design, and show that these are actually all interrelated and that they actually feed off one another’ strains credulity, because the ideal model for that kind of programming just happens to be the Museum that they’re about to close. … Is [the museum] amateur or professional? Is it about finished objects or watching people make things? Is it sculpture or a useful object? The MoCC, like many contemporary craft organizations today, answered yes, yes, and yes.”

Perry A. Price, writing for the American Craft Council under the headline What the Closing of the MoCC Tells Us: “This unfortunate closure encapsulates the challenging forces at play in the field of contemporary craft. … Rail as we might against the decision of the college, it must be acknowledged that the financial difficulties of the museum that led to oversight by the college and ultimate closure also face numerous small arts institutions and organizations nationwide. … More ominous is the seeming disregard by the college of the mission of the museum and the work it interprets.”