McMinnville Public Library

As autumn approaches, art finds a way

COVID-19 canceled much of the summer season, but with fall around the corner, arts and culture events are creeping back onto the Yamhill County calendar

Autumn is nearly upon us, and arts and culture are alive, if not exactly well, in Yamhill County. We lost most of Gallery Theater’s 2020 season in McMinnville, along with the Aquilon Music Festival, the UFO Festival, and Walnut City Music Festival. In Newberg, the Camellia Festival and Tunes on Tuesday also fell to COVID-19, along with virtually every small-town summer festival in the county. Linfield College, meanwhile, has welcomed new and returning students, but the public recitals, concerts, guest speakers, and author readings that made the campus a beacon of cultural enrichment in the community… Those are gone.

But as illustrated by the September calendar, art continues to find a way. Here’s what’s happening in Yamhill County, currently and coming soon:

CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER: Two exhibits are continuing through Sept. 19 in the Newberg center. They are Cache Nine: The Hope Material (How to Feel Not Scared in a Pandemic) by Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos) and Selections From Art Studios of Yamhill County (in lieu of this year’s Art Harvest of Yamhill County Studio Tours). Plus, the Central Gallery contains a nifty surprise in a 2-week pop-up exhibit featuring art posters by Converge 45, nonprofit arts coalition founded in 2016 by influential gallery owner Elizabeth Leach. It opened Tuesday, so the clock’s running. 

George Fox University graduate Joann Boswell of Camas, Wash., will return to Yamhill County on Thursday when the McMinnville Public Library resumes poetry readings and open mic night. Photo by: MPR Photography. Courtesy of Joann Boswell
Joann Boswell will read her poetry Thursday in McMinnville. Photo by: MPR Photography. Courtesy of Joann Boswell

THE RETURN OF POETRY NIGHT: The McMinnville Public Library will resume poetry readings and open mic events this week with poet Joann Boswell, a Washington resident with deep Oregon roots. She grew up in Roseburg and attended George Fox University, where she studied music, theater, writing, and literature, graduating in 2010 with a master’s degree in teaching. Along the way, she started doing natural-light photography and writing poetry, and in June she became the poetry editor for Untold Volumes at Christian Feminism Today. Boswell will read her poetry in McMinnville’s Lower City Park west of the library at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. Bring chairs or blankets, wear your mask, and bring a poem to share if you like. Sign up for open mic by calling 503-435-5554.

ELIZABETH CHAMBERS CELLAR: With a slew of COVID-19 protocols in place, McMinnville’s storied winery and tasting room on the south end of the Granary District, settled in brick digs that originally housed the local power company, is hosting live music. Friday Fandango events are open to the public (with reservations you can make here) after wine club members pre-reserve tables. Shows, held in a beautiful garden courtyard, start at either 5:30 or 7:30 p.m., so keep that detail in mind when planning. Starting Friday, this month features Jacob Westfall, JoAnna Lee, Ronni Kay, and Britnee Kellog.

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Yamhill County calendar: Assume it’s canceled

Things are changing daily, but most local art and cultural events have been closed or postponed because of COVID-19 concerns

The response to COVID-19 in Yamhill County, as elsewhere in Oregon and around the country, is moving almost too quickly to track. Already, we’ve had one case reported in the area. By the time I finish writing this, something likely will have changed. By the time you finish reading it, unanticipated developments may have added another brick in the wall of our new normal.

“Call Me,” by Susan Kunitsky (oil, 8 by 10 inches), on display at The Gallery at Ten Oaks, is an apt image for our social-distancing times.

Right now, the new normal means this: Assume it’s canceled, regardless of what “it” is. Nevertheless, you should check websites or call ahead to make sure, because as of this writing, not everything is canceled. So far, some of the local cultural scene’s biggest COVID-19 casualties include:

  • The 12th annual Newberg Camellia Festival, an all-day celebration of Newberg’s official flower and its Asian origins. The Chehalem Cultural Center has traditionally played a key role in organizing it in partnership with Chehalem Parks and Recreation District. Originally set for April 19, the event is canceled.
  • The Terroir Creative Writing Festival, scheduled for April 18, has been postponed. Organizers are working with the host site, Chemeketa Community College’s McMinnville campus, to nail down a new date.

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‘Tightrope’: A working class in tatters

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will make a series of local appearances to talk about their book, "Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope"

Many Yamhill County residents will recognize the street scene on the cover of Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope as downtown Yamhill. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof grew up in the 1970s on a farm outside the tiny town and rode the bus to school with people whose stories are told in the book written by Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.

The couple, the first husband and wife to share a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, will visit McMinnville on Friday to talk about the book, which, despite its title, largely focuses on Americans who have lost hope after decades of vanishing blue-collar jobs.

Tightrope is the latest in a growing body of journalistic work examining what George Packer in 2013 called The Unwinding in his book of that name: The seismic economic shifts that have left the working class in tatters, trying to find a way in an economic world very different from the one their parents grew up in.

Yamhill County native Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, are authors of “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” which chronicles the epidemic of loneliness that has overtaken the American working class. Photo by: Michael Lionstar, courtesy Penguin Random House

What distinguishes Tightrope, however, is its deeply personal nature. Kristof is writing — with great respect and obvious affection — for many of his former classmates. He estimates that about one-fourth of those kids he grew up with died in adulthood from drugs and alcohol, suicide or reckless accidents — “deaths of despair,” as they have come to be called. One official quoted in the book talks about the epidemic of loneliness, a social phenomenon that’s hardly surprising in a society coming apart at the seams.

A few weeks ago, piles of Tightrope appeared at Third Street Books in downtown McMinnville and also at the McMinnville Public Library, in anticipation of the latest MacReads, a community-wide book discussion series that traditionally culminates with an appearance by the author.

Kristof and WuDunn will appear at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, in the McMinnville Community Center. Additional discussions will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in Linfield College’s Nicholson Library and at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in McMinnville Public Library’s Carnegie Room. All those events are free. In addition, the couple will appear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, in Portland’s Newmark Theatre in a ticketed event.

I caught up with Kristof by email, and he was gracious enough to respond to a few questions. Our exchange appears below:

Not that it’s important to fit Tightrope into a neatly defined genre, but given that you’ve known some of these folks for most of your life, it occurs to me that it has elements of memoir or autobiography. Maybe that’s a stretch, but beyond the straightforward work of reporting, did you ever think of it in those terms?

Yes, we did. Tara Westover, author of Educated, is a friend, and I hugely admire not only her journey but also her book. I also knew that a personal story would be more accessible than an analysis from 30,000 feet about Americans left behind. But Sheryl and I were also clear that we didn’t just want to write a memoir, and we wanted the focus to be on the issues and solutions, and not on my journey. One of my frustrations with Hillbilly Elegy was that it didn’t offer enough in the way of solutions.

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National Poetry Month draws near, and Yamhill County is lit

April brings readings, workshops, performance, and a documentary about poetry slam to venues around the county

In his introduction to The Best American Poetry 2018, published last fall by Scribner, editor Dana Gioia took a swing at the question, “What is the state of poetry?” and concluded with a wink and eye roll that it was both awful and had never been better.

Alas, never have so few read poetry, he lamented. And yet, this happy proclamation: The audience has never been bigger, etc., until finally: “All of these contradictory statements are true, and all of them are false, depending on your point of view,” he concluded, ceding to the obvious subjectivity in play. “The state of American poetry is a tale of two cities.”

Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman performs Monday at Linfield College.

If your point of view originates from Yamhill County, there’s cause for optimism. Poetry is alive and loud here, even when it’s not National Poetry Month, as it will be in just a few days. April marks the 23rd annual celebration, which was conceived by the Academy of American Poets in 1995. I’ve mapped out the month for poetry lovers in wine country, so this is a column to bookmark.

Ongoing: The McMinnville Public Library’s annual Spring Poetry Contest is live, with a 2019 theme of “literary spring.” It’s open to adults 18 and older. Poems must be original, unpublished, and no more than a page in length; limit of two entries per person. Bring them to the information desk upstairs or email to libref@mcminnvilleoregon.gov through May 21. Entries will be judged anonymously, and winners will be the featured readers for the library’s Poetry Night on June 4.

Nickole Brown

Nickole Brown

April 1: The month begins with a tough act to follow: Activist, educator, and poet Denice Frohman will perform “Stories of Ourselves: Celebrating parts deemed unworthy” at 6 p.m. in the Ice Auditorium, which is tucked away in Linfield College’s Melrose Hall. Frohman, a former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, has appeared on hundreds of stages in the United States and around the world, including the White House (when the occupants valued the literary arts), the Nuyorican Poets Café, and The Apollo. Frohman is a CantoMundo Fellow whose work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, and she is the organizer of #PoetsforPuertoRico. The performance is free and open to the public.

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