Linfield College

‘A world of uncertainty’

Voices from the front: Arts philanthropist Ronni Lacroute says COVID-19 is forcing arts groups to think in new ways. Her role? “I just calm people down a lot.”

If you’ve attended plays or concerts in Portland or visited the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland with any regularity over the past decade, chances are good you owe at least one afternoon or evening of cultural enrichment to philanthropist Ronni Lacroute.

Lacroute lives in Yamhill County, where in 1991 she co-founded a vineyard and world-class winery on property that had been a cattle farm. As co-owner with her former husband of WillaKenzie Estate, she immersed herself in the wine business for a quarter century, until the winery was sold in 2016.

Lacroute, whose father was in the foreign service, had traveled extensively abroad in her youth. She studied romance languages and literature and has degrees from Cornell University, the University of Michigan, and both the licence ès lettres and the maîtrise ès lettres in North American literature from the Paris-Sorbonne University. She was a college professor and taught French language and culture in high school in Massachusetts in the 1970s and 1980s.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Along the way, she became a patron of the arts and for years has given widely to a variety of Oregon arts organizations. She’s a generous donor to arts programs at Linfield College in McMinnville, where she’s a member of the Board of Trustees. (From the Department of Full Disclosure: She’s also a donor to Oregon ArtsWatch, and earlier this year I appeared in a play at Gallery Theater in McMinnville that she sponsored.)

Ronni Lacroute says arts organizations hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown are those locked into a venue, like a symphony hall or a theater that doesn’t allow flexible spacing. Smaller, project-based companies are better able to look at alternatives. Photo by: Carolyn Wells-Kramer
Ronni Lacroute says smaller and project-based arts organizations that have flexibility in terms of venue are coming up with creative alternative ways of connecting with audiences. Photo by: Carolyn Wells-Kramer

She now is involved full time in individual philanthropy, holding nonstop meetings with the nonprofit community. She’s particularly interested in artistic projects and groups that promote important conversations across social, economic, and political divides and that effect social change.

Because Lacroute is so connected with the region’s artistic life, we thought it would be enlightening to find out what she’s hearing in the wake of COVID-19. A lot, it turns out. And she was more than happy to share. The following interview was conducted via Facetime and has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me what it was like for you, when this really hit, as far as your meetings and contacts.

Lacroute: Well really, the only thing in my life that’s changed is no live meetings. I used to have people here every single day for meetings. The structure of my work life was to meet live and spend a couple of hours brainstorming ideas. It’s really hard to do that when you just have a phone call. You don’t do that for two hours. We exchange ideas, but how much can you put into an email or a 10-minute phone conversation? I’m missing the depth of exploration that we had before, where people were expecting that we’re going to hang out until we have some plans.

How did those conversations change once everyone really understood what was happening?

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Solidarity through song

Voices from the front: Aquilon Music Festival founder Anton Belov brings a community of singers together through Facebook Karaoke

The pop culture reference point of the moment is Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller Contagion, which is surely streaming into quarantined homes at some kind of record. That COVID-19-inspired resurgence of popularity is justifiably shared with Albert Camus, whose 1947 novel The Plague rendered a pandemic.

For our purposes, however, the most salient line from an artistic rendering of pestilence may be found in Mary Shelley’s little-known novel, The Last Man, published in 1826. Yes, that Mary Shelley. Eight years after she unleashed Frankenstein, Shelley tried her hand at a literary pandemic.

In one section, she laments on the passing of what today we’d call the humanities: “Farewell to the arts, to eloquence,” she wrote. “Farewell to music, and the sound of song… !”

Ah, but Shelley wasn’t on social media.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Anton Belov, founder of the Aquilon Music Festival and a Linfield College music professor, recently launched Facebook Karaoke. Photo courtesy: Linfield College

The “sound of song” is alive and well in Yamhill County, thanks in part to the efforts of Aquilon Music Festival founder Anton Belov, who this week began teaching his spring term classes at Linfield College online. Earlier this month, I stumbled upon a video of him on Facebook singing Sunday Morning Coming Down, a Kris Kristoffersen song that was included in Ray Stevens’ final album, Have a Little Talk With Myself, for Monument Records in 1969. Johnny Cash later recorded it for a hit on Billboard’s country chart.

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Portland’s All Classical teams with Linfield College

Yamhill and Polk county residents will have clearer listening to the classical radio station beginning Thursday

Starting Thursday, Yamhill and Polk county residents will have an easier time listening to classical music on the radio. FM station All Classical Portland is integrating Linfield College’s campus radio station into its network, meaning the signal of 24-hour classical music and arts programming will be much clearer for the 100,000 people who live in McMinnville and surrounding communities.

The donation of Linfield’s KSLC 90.3 FM to All Classical Portland was, according to a press release, initiated by McMinnville college students.

1955 Toshiba Vacuum Tube Radio. Masaki Ikeda/Wikimedia Commons
All Classical Portland fans would not actually be able to hear their station on this 1955 Toshiba vacuum tube radio, because it is AM only. But isn’t a thing of beauty? Photo courtesy: Masaki Ikeda/Wikimedia Commons

ICAN, the station’s International Children’s Arts Network channel, also will be available to residents of Oregon’s Wine Country through All Classical Portland’s HD2 channel. It offers noncommercial entertainment and educational programs for children through age 12.

In the press announcement, Joe Stuart, a Linfield student and KSLC’s general manager, said: “Although student radio has been a staple of the college experience for decades, we at KSLC are excited about this new era of digital student media that will help journalism students inform and engage with their community in the constantly evolving modern media landscape.”

Roughly 3 million listeners across Oregon and Southwest Washington have access to classical music on the FM dial through All Classical Portland’s current broadcast coverage. The existing signal already reaches Yamhill County, of course, but depending on weather and other conditions, the quality can be spotty.

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Music, poetry, and visual art, all within walking distance

Yamhill County calendar: Linfield College offers a little of everything, shows are changing at the Chehalem Cultural Center, and nearby, Salem goes steampunk

Totem Shriver uses various media to explore imagery in PATH SKY DREAM at Linfield College. Photo by: David Bates

We close out February in wine country with a rich bundle of cultural opportunities on the Linfield College campus in McMinnville. In the James F. Miller Fine Arts Center on the southwest side of campus, you’ll find Totem Shriver’s PATH SKY DREAM, an interesting collection of sculpture and imagery. The show runs through March 21.

This Thursday would be a great day to drop in, because afterward you can head over to the Nicholson Library and hear Dartmouth College professor Joshua Bennett read from his work. Bennett is a nationally recognized poet, the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin Books, 2016), and a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. His Linfield appearance runs 5 to 6 p.m. Feb. 27. Then, at 7 p.m., you’ll find Linfield music instructor and flutist Abigail Sperling in the Vivian A. Bull Music Center. All events are free and open to the public.

STEAMPUNK CELEBRATION IN SALEM: Portland is still the weirdest, but Salem is doing what it can to keep up. Exhibit A this weekend would be the third annual Salem Steampunk Ball of Oregon. This year’s event promises a “circus element” and runs from 8 p.m. to midnight in the Reed Opera House Mall downtown. Craven Valentine serves as the ringmaster, and steampunk band Faerabella will provide the soundtrack for a pool of jugglers, magicians, burlesque dancers, and a parade led by Capitol Pride. Proceeds benefit Prisms Gallery, which strives “to make art accessible for all.” Tickets are $25 presale, $30 at door.

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Nine short takes on 85 short films

With subjects ranging from Indian relay horse-racing to Newberg's own 99W drive-in, there's a lot to like in this weekend's McMinnville Short Film Festival

The McMinnville Short Film Festival will unveil more than 80 films this weekend, beginning Friday night, and even the very limited sneak preview I got — “only” a couple dozen films — was enough to leave a variety of impressions along with a few thoughts about the state of cinema as an art form and the cultural health of Yamhill County.

In the spirit of the event, I’ll present these random thoughts, observations, and impressions in a series of easily digestible short takes.

“Eat the Rainbow,” in the Experimental/A Bit Strange block Sunday, is a musical fable about an odd-yet-kind man who becomes a disruptive force when he moves into a conservative suburban neighborhood.

THE FESTIVAL IS A SIGNIFICANT YAMHILL COUNTY EVENT. Just shy of a decade old, it has emerged as one of the more ambitious cultural undertakings in the area, arguably in the same league with infrastructure projects such as Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center as well as the more recently launched Aquilon Music Festival, which runs several weeks. The film festival started small and rather anonymously with a few screenings and has  blossomed into a three-day extravaganza that fills McMinnville Cinema 10’s largest auditorium with often-breathtaking work from around Oregon, the United States, and the world. Founders Dan and Nancy Morrow set out to make it a filmmaker-friendly event. If the testimonials of film artists (many of whom come to talk about their work) are any indication, it is indeed that. But it’s also something that ought to have mass appeal to mainstream audiences (not just cinephiles) and those who perhaps don’t get to the theater as much as they used to. Bottom line, locals haven’t really discovered this thing yet in large numbers. They need to.

“Word on the Street” is a one-joke comedy in the style of film noir that dazzles with a clever, rhyming, linguistic hook. One might say it’s an interesting presentation of cinematic experimentation that’s likely to win your admiration.

THERE’S NOTHING NEW HERE. By that I mean: Cinema started as a short-format medium. When the National Film Preservation Foundation released the first of its many American Treasures collections in 1997, the package squeezed 50 films from the earliest days of filmmaking onto four DVDs. Most ran 10 minutes or less and some ran little more than a minute or two. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded its first film-short Oscar in 1932 — to The Music Box, a Laurel and Hardy flick about the pair trying to move a piano up a flight of stairs. Under one name or another, live-action short films have had their own category at the Oscars since 1957. Thanks to a variety of streaming services, it’s never been easier to see them.

SO MANY CHOICES, BUT SO EASY TO CHOOSE. The single best thing about this year’s festival is that it’s easy to see precisely what you want. For three days starting Friday at Linfield College, 85 films will be shown in nine screening blocks organized by theme. Documentary-lovers need not be subjected to horror films; animation fans will find their thing in a Saturday afternoon block; those with an interest in the environment or Indigenous stories and issues will find most of those films in separate screening blocks.

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Coming attractions: McMinnville Short Film Festival

The Yamhill County calendar also includes three new gallery shows and a jazz performance by the Christopher Brown Quartet

We begin this week’s column with a quick run through the essential news-you-can-use for the McMinnville Short Film Festival, set for Feb. 21-23. In recent years, it’s emerged as yet another tent-pole cultural event in Yamhill County. Next week I’ll have a deep dive into some of the films that will be screened.

Filmmaker Scott Ballard will be keynote speaker at the McMinnville Short Film Festival.

By every measure, the event — founded by Dan and Nancy Morrow of McMinnville in 2011 — has grown considerably from very humble beginnings. The festival next week expands to three days to accommodate a whopping 85 films from the United States, Canada, and the international film community. A second venue has been added: Along with booking the largest auditorium at McMinnville Cinema 10, organizers have arranged for an opening-night screening in Linfield College’s Ice Auditorium.

The festival is for everybody, even those who don’t think of themselves as cinephiles or who watch movies infrequently. Nine categories are arranged by genre and include two narrative viewing blocks. Besides offering documentaries and environmental films, horror and “experimental” works, the festival has two new categories this year. It is partnering with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde on a Native American block, and with McMinnville Kiwanis and Sunrise Rotary on a Student Showcase block that will feature work by students in grades 6-12 and college.

The awards dinner is Feb. 23 on the Chemeketa Community College campus in McMinnville, next to the theater. Portland filmmaker Scott Ballard is the keynote speaker.

Check out the website, peruse the titles and screening blocks, and plan on a weekend of interesting, thoughtful work that’s as good as or better than anything Hollywood spits up these days. Purchase tickets here for as few or as many screenings as you like.

Kathleen Buck’s abstract paintings are among the works in a new show in McMinnville’s Currents Gallery.

YAMHILL COUNTY’S GALLERY scene has three new shows open or coming up fast. Two are in McMinnville: Currents Gallery downtown offers More Glorious Gourds and Powerful Paintings, by local artists Claudia Herber and Kathleen Buck. Both artists are award-winners in their fields. Herber has won in the annual Wertz Gourd Festival; Buck has long been active with the Watercolor Society of Oregon and has won her share of awards. Both will present abstract work in the show, which runs Feb. 17 through March 15. An opening reception will be held Friday, Feb. 21, during the 3rd Friday on 3rd Street Art & Wine Walk.

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Yamhill County calendar: From tea to ‘Tightrope’

Gallery shows focus on glasswork, the Rogue River Wars, and tea service; Linfield hosts a one-night play reading; and a native son is coming to town

Yamhill County’s lively gallery scene continues to intrigue this week with a couple of new openings, and we’ve also got a one-night theatrical affair at Linfield Theatre. Finally: Have you read Nicholas Kristof’s new book? There’s still time before he comes to town.

Let’s get to it:

“Ancient Cedars at Fort Orford Site,” by Rich Bergeman. The U.S. Army fort housed more than 200 men and more than 1,000 Indigenous prisoners during the peak of the Rogue River Wars in 1855-56. Nothing of the fort remains.

CHEHALEM CULTURAL Center has several shows ready for your viewing pleasure. Hanging River, an installation of glasswork by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko, occupies the Parrish Gallery, visible to visitors as they enter the Newberg center. You’ll marvel at both the glass pieces themselves and the exquisite care it must have taken to install them. In the Founder’s Gallery at the rear of the building is a collection of Fretta Cravens’ stunning botanical photography, titled Intimate Conversations.

Down the hall to the right is a new exhibit that’s been traveling around Oregon: Rich Bergeman’s collection of photographs documenting the landscape of the mid-19th-century Rogue River Wars of Southern Oregon. The Land Remembers is both an exhibit and a handsome book (available for sale). Bergeman used infrared light for the images, which are mostly void of any sign of human presence. “I felt that the haunting quality of infrared would help transport viewers to another time,” he writes in the introduction to his book. “And because the infrared spectrum is invisible to the human eye, it seemed especially appropriate for photographs that follow in the footsteps of ghosts.” The show runs through Feb. 28. Highly recommended.

Tea is the theme of a show by ceramicist Jonathan Steele in George Fox University’s Minthorne Gallery. Photo courtesy: George Fox University

A FEW BLOCKS AWAY at George Fox University, we find … tea! I haven’t seen this one yet, but it looks inviting: In the Service of Tea features ceramic work by Jonathan Steele in  the university’s Minthorne Gallery in the Hoover Academic Building. A reception for the show, which opened last week, will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, in the gallery. Steele will perform a Chinese tea service at the free event. An artist’s talk follows from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Chehalem Cultural Center.

“Tea is a quiet joy – art is a fervid one,” Steele said of his exhibit in the press materials. “I make the tea to be still, to observe the present moment, to watch slowly unfurling leaves, feel the weight of the warm cup pressing against my fingertips, steam rising through my nostrils, the sweet, light astringency of the perfect steep welling on my tongue. I make the teapot, the cup, the tray and boat, the floral arrangement, the interior décor, the room and the house itself – all to the same end.”

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