coronavirus and arts

Pulling back the curtain on Manzanita’s Wonder Garden

Described by its fans as a lifesaver during this year of isolation, the Hoff Online program celebrates Manzanita Day with a talk by Ketzel Levine

Ketzel Levine is returning to her home in Manzanita from a wholesale plant shopping trip when we connect by phone to talk about the Hoffman Center for the Arts’ Hoff Online program. 

It’s the nonprofit’s answer to COVID restrictions, and one Levine says has been described by its many fans — some as far away as New Zealand, Great Britain, and Spain — as a lifesaver during this year of isolation. The webinars and Zoom presentations have offered hundreds of participants instruction in everything from poetry to gardening to marketing their books. On March 31, Levine will headline Manzanita Day 2021, celebrating the art of horticulture and the town named for the shrub (arctostaphylos) that translates in Spanish to “little apple.”  

In pre-COVID days, Ketzel Levine (far right) leads a discussion in the Wonder Garden.  She says the garden has become the No. 1 gathering place in Manzanita for people who wanted to get together in masks. Photo courtesy: Ketzel Levine
In pre-COVID days, Ketzel Levine (far right) leads a discussion in the Wonder Garden. She says the garden has become the No. 1 gathering place in Manzanita for people who want to get together in masks. Photo courtesy: Ketzel Levine

Levine, who you might know as NPR’s “doyenne of dirt,” is the self-proclaimed director of the Center’s Wonder Garden and as such, directs the horticulture programs. The gardening guru moved to the North Coast about four years ago and says she was quickly “snatched up” by the center as a volunteer. 

“We are creating a small botanic garden that is showcasing all of the different plants from around the world that thrive on the northwest coast,” Levine said. “All of our plants are labeled with beautiful arboretum-quality labels. We give weekly talks and walks through the garden and we are constantly raising money, and people have been responsive. During COVID, the garden has become the No. 1 gathering place for people who wanted to get together with masks.”

Levine may have decades of broadcast journalism experience, but virtual gigs nonetheless have provided her some lessons.  The most memorable came when the Hoffman Center hosted Jeffrey Bale, native Oregonian and internationally known pebble-mosaic artist.

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Bright spots peep through in Yamhill County arts forecast

Many events are canceled or scaled back for 2021, as gathering in crowds remains unlikely for some time, but it’s not all bad news

As the calendar rolled over into the new year, I reached out to more than a dozen leaders in Yamhill County’s arts scene (along with a couple in Salem) to ask what they could say about their plans and expectations for life returning to some degree of normalcy in 2021.

Bottom line? It probably won’t.

With a few exceptions, the organizers behind major local cultural events, institutions, and venues don’t expect we’ll be flinging our masks away anytime soon. We won’t be packing theaters to see plays, and we won’t sip wine at crowded artist receptions. More of us will (presumably) be vaccinated, but in terms of events where people come together to experience art up close and personal, 2021 pretty much resembles 2020.

“We have lost a lot of art and culture in this pandemic,” said Lisa Weidman, a Terroir writing festival planner. And, she added, “ a sense of community, too.”

It’s not all bad news. So let’s begin with the good news, because there is some.

McMinnville Short Film Festival: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the short film festival organized by Dan and Nancy Morrow. It is the only major tent-pole cultural event left standing in Yamhill County’s largest city. The festival barely squeezed under the quarantine wire last year because the event is held in February, which is otherwise a bit of a cultural dead zone. But organizers learned last fall, with their annual fundraiser, that people can and will attend such an event in significant numbers if the goodies are streamed online, which is where most of us are watching movies anyway. So instead of scaling down, they’re ramping up. The festival kicking off Feb. 18 will unveil 127 films with screening blocks scheduled over nearly two weeks. Visit the website to check out the titles and register.

“Chocolate Cake & Ice Cream,” an animated short about friendship between a dog and cat by Steve Cowden of Lake Oswego, is on the schedule for the McMinnville Short Film Festival.
“Chocolate Cake & Ice Cream,” an animated short about friendship between a dog and cat by Steve Cowden of Lake Oswego, is on the schedule for the McMinnville Short Film Festival.

Paper Gardens: Yamhill County’s annual writing contest, culminating in a spring publication of the best of the best, will soldier on. “We know the pandemic has sparked lots of writing,” said one of the organizers, Deborah Weiner. “So we encourage children, teens, and adults who live, work, or go to school in Yamhill County to submit their pieces.” Entries are due March 3 and a release party is tentatively scheduled for May 13 at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. As that date looms, organizers will reassess the COVID situation in crafting protocols for gathering in person.

Willamette Shakespeare: The theater company is sound financially, according to board chairman David Pasqualini, and operating on the assumption that an outdoor production of Pericles will be unveiled at select area wineries in August. They’ll be working with Patrick Walsh, executive artistic director of the Northwest Classical Theater Collaborative, and expect to have COVID safety protocols in place for both the company and audience. 

Chehalem Cultural Center: Along with local art galleries that remain open, the Newberg nonprofit will continue to be a cultural beacon for visual art. The exhibition calendar has shows booked through April 30, and beyond that, Director of Arts Programs Carissa Burkett has 2021 mapped out for visual art. “I do have additional exhibits planned for the rest of the year that aren’t on the website yet, primarily because of delays in getting info from the artists,” she said.

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2020 in review: At last, over & out

2020? Perish the thought. The ups, downs, disasters, trends, outrages, and occasional triumphs of Oregon's arts & culture in a tortuous year.

2020? Perish the thought. Good riddance to bad rubbish: We’re gonna wash that year right out of our hair. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Or, as the old curse has it, “may you live in interesting times” – but not quite this interesting, thank you very much.

The Year That Should Not Speak Its Name led pretty much everyone, including all of us here at Oregon ArtsWatch, on a frantic and astonishing chase. It was discombobulating, because for the most part we were chasing in isolation inside the confines of our own homes, like cats in a cardboard box desperately racing after our own tails. Oh, sure, there were those fair-weather walks through the neighborhood, and the masked-up trips to the grocery store. But, really: Things might’ve been new, but they were far from normal.


LOOKING BACK: 2020 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR


Normality, of course, is how the year began. Even optimism. On Jan. 1, 2020, a year ago today, ArtsWatch strode brashly into the Brave New Year with the first dispatch in Vision 2020, an ambitious series of 20 interviews over 20 days with a cross-section of Oregon arts figures who agreed to talk with us about how things looked from their corners of the cultural world, and what they hoped to see in the coming year and decade. They had some terrific insights and ideas, and the series makes for some fascinating reading: From Rachel Barreras-Kleeman’s tale of why she teaches dance to low-income kids on the Coast, to Dañel Malan’s vision of creating bilingual arts through Teatro Milagro, to 18 compelling stories in between, you can find all 20 interviews here. But nobody – least of all those of us at ArtsWatch Central, in our eager editorial innocence – anticipated what was lurking just around the corner.

In January Maya Vivas and Leila Haile talked with Martha Daghlian for ArtsWatch’s “Vision 2020” series about the joys and challenges of running an adventurous art gallery on North Mississippi Avenue featuring work from a wide range of artists who identify as QTPoC (Queer Trans People of Color). Because of the Covid-19 crisis, their Ori Gallery has since shifted to an online presence. Photo courtesy Ori Gallery

And how could any of us have? Yes, news reports buried on the inside pages of the newspapers alerted us to some new virus very far away, but it didn’t seem like much to get alarmed about. Then things began to build, until, come March, the virus was all very real, and all over the place, and in spite of a determined right-wing campaign to persuade people that it was all fake news and the disease was a hoax, the world began to shut down.

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Sandra Roumagoux: ‘I’ve stayed in art my entire life’

The oil painter and former Newport mayor, whose work is featured at the Newport Visual Arts Center, says she can't separate politics and art

When the Newport Visual Arts Center opens its virtual Pop Up Craft Show on Wednesday, Dec. 16, it will kick off the celebration of local artists with a live-streaming talk at 6 p.m. by Sandra Roumagoux. She will unveil her new exhibit catalog, Sandra Roumagoux: Retrospective, and discuss her featured paintings in the show.

Known for her love of nature and passion for politics, Roumagoux has described her art as an “interpretation of the ever-relevant paradoxes of faith, war, and nature. Much of what I do is predicated upon a personal, fundamental acceptance of the ‘divine absurdities’ of existence, and the dualities in our existence of love/hate, violence/peace, silent/sound, night/day.”

We caught up with Roumagoux by phone to talk about her life in art. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been painting for what seems your entire life. Talk about your early inspiration to become an artist and how you’ve evolved.

Roumagoux: I grew up with sisters, all older. They were always interested in drawing. They’d be listening to the radio and drawing with charcoal and paper. As a child, I was fascinated how a two-dimensional drawing could look three dimensional. It’s using perspective space. That’s where the interest started. I also had girlfriends who liked to draw. We would get figurines and draw them. 

The other part was I was the only left-handed person in the family and that was encouraged. Even though I held the pen all wrong. That was allowed. It wasn’t even an issue. Because I’ve spent so many years training … I have become more ambidextrous now that I am old.

Sandra Roumagoux will discuss her paintings in the Pop Up Craft Show at the Newport Visual Arts Center during a live-streamed talk on Dec. 16. Photo courtesy: Newport Visual Arts Center
Sandra Roumagoux will discuss her oil paintings in the Pop Up Craft Show at the Newport Visual Arts Center during a live-streamed talk on Dec. 16. Photo courtesy: Newport Visual Arts Center

You’ve been quoted as saying you were raised in a family of avid environmentalists and gun lovers. How did that impact the artist you became?

For one thing, it was so much a part of the culture of the family for deer hunting season, pheasant season, duck season, hunting dogs. My dad had his own duck blind, he shot traps. He won several trophies in shooting traps. I remember as a child going with him on Sunday shoots. That was our church. I would go behind him and pick up shotgun shells and use them as castanets.

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Nye Beach Banner Project goes international

The 12th annual fundraiser for arts education includes work by artists in Newport's sister city of Mombetsu, Japan

Shigeru Yamai depicted the Yaquina Bay Bridge, with love from Mombetsu City, for the Nye Beach Banner Project.
Shigeru Yamai depicted the Yaquina Bay Bridge, with love from Mombetsu City, for the Nye Beach Banner Project.

Twelve years after a group of Nye Beach merchants sought to define their little neighborhood’s identity, the Nye Beach Banner Project has gone international.

This year’s banners include four from artists in Newport’s sister city of Mombetsu, Japan. After Mombetsu delegates visited Newport last year, banner project organizers were inspired to offer artists an additional option for the banner theme — traditionally meant to represent some aspect of Nye Beach.

“Many of the artists embraced that and did something representative of Mombetsu,” said Veronica Lundell, project coordinator. “Last year when the delegates came, they were given a tour and really enjoyed what we were doing.”

The banners hang from neighborhood lamp posts during the spring, summer, and early fall, before being taken down for the fall auction. The artists donate their time and talent, with auction proceeds benefiting youth arts education and public art through the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.

Former Newport City Councilor Wendy Engler, who recently visited Mombetsu, came up with the idea for a banner exchange with the sister city. So this year, project organizers sent eight blank canvasses to Japan. Four painted by Mombetsu artists were returned, the other four stayed in Mombetsu for that city’s own display, to join four chosen from among those by Oregon artists.

“The idea was that Mombetsu would start their own project,” Lundell said. “But COVID has presented some challenges we could not have anticipated. How we proceed for next year is still to be decided. We hope to continue.”

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Linfield Theatre thinks outside the pandemic box

Yamhill County calendar: A "season like no other" on campus, plus a watercolor show in Newberg and a preview of McMinnville Short Film Festival

The pandemic has forced artists in every discipline to think outside the box, so I’m guessing that’s the analogy Linfield University’s Theatre department had in mind when it plowed into its 101st season Friday with an evening of improvisational sketches titled Out of the Box.

Students performed the live sketch comedy not before a live audience in the auditorium, but before audience members watching the live show on Linfield’s YouTube channel from home, regardless of whether home was a dorm room on the McMinnville campus or not; the show broadcast free to anyone with an internet connection.

They’re calling it “A Season Like No Other,” which it obviously is.

Out of the Box amounted to just more than an hour’s worth of sketches very much bound up with the present political and cultural moment, written and performed by a troupe of student actors and writers on a giant tic-tac-toe-style checkerboard with only a few set pieces constructed with what appeared to be PVC pipe. Graffiti adorned the rear wall: BLACK LIVES MATTER. SAY HER NAME. AMERICA IS BURNING.

Linfield Theatre students (from left) Caroline Calvano, Avery Witty, Sam Hannagan, Brielle Kromer (on ladder in back), Sara Cerda (on floor), Jordan Tate, and Sarah Ornelas perform an improvisational sketch during rehearsal for “Out of the Box.” The show can be seen on Linfield Theatre’s YouTube channel. Photo courtesy: Linfield Theatre
Linfield Theatre students (from left) Caroline Calvano, Avery Witty, Sam Hannagan, Brielle Kromer (on ladder in back), Sara Cerda (on floor), Jordan Tate, and Sarah Ornelas perform an improvisational sketch during rehearsal for “Out of the Box.” Photo courtesy: Linfield Theatre

Pieces were titled Womb to Tomb, We Don’t Need No Distance Education, A La Carte, and BBM in a TLB. Students wore transparent face masks. Student directors Clementine Doresey and Hailee Foster were assisted in putting the evening together by theater professors Derek Lane and Janet Gupton. With no copyright issues involved, the shows remain archived on the channel, available to watch anytime.

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Finding freedom in adversity

A pandemic, a wildfire – while the hits keep coming, the Lincoln City Cultural Center responds with an online fundraiser and a transition to arts incubator

Some people just can’t catch a break.

Yes, it’s a cliché, but clichés exist for a reason, and at the Lincoln City Cultural Center this one may seem doubly true. And still they rise.

Last spring, after the pandemic changed our world, the center made the difficult decision to cancel its annual Culture, Of Course! fundraiser. The 6-year-old event typically brings in $20,000 to $30,000, unrestricted operating funds the center uses for necessities.

Niki Price, co-chair of the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition and vice chair of the Oregon Cultural Trust, says of donating to the trust, “Once we convince a donor to do it once, we rarely have to resell that donor. Once you try it, you’re in.”
Niki Price, executive director of the Lincoln City Cultural Center, says with travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the center decided to focus its auction on adventure, “interesting things we could go and do and dream about, something great to look forward to.”

Then, after months of finding innovative ways of operating safely — streaming concerts, virtual workshops, drive-in movies, take-out art supplies — center leaders knew they were ready to bring Culture, Of Course! back in a new way. There would a drive-in movie screen, food provided and prepared by Kyllo’s and delivered to tables set up alongside cars, entertainment by the surf/punk band Retroactive Gamma Rays, an arcade, and auction.

Then the Echo Mountain fire blew up. Parts of Lincoln City were evacuated and Pacific Power crews took over the center parking lot as a staging zone.

Canceling the Sept. 19 in-person event wasn’t a hard choice — they had no choice. But they did have options and, of course, they grabbed one — an online auction.

“We focused on adventure,” said Executive Director Niki Price. “Given all the travel restrictions and the way we have been kept at home, we focused on interesting things we could go and do and dream about, something great to look forward to.”

The list of items continues to grow, and so far includes a biplane ride, a mushrooming camp at Camp Westwind, an art class and retreat at Sitka Center, and a plein air artist getaway in Baker City, including accommodations, a tour of downtown, a gift card for lunch, and an artist-guided day-long high desert plein air workshop.

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