oregon coast aquarium

String trio offers a virtual valentine

Newport Symphony musicians bring a concert to your living room, and the Coaster Theatre does the same later this month with scenes from Shakespeare

Normally, if you’re going to see the Newport Symphony Orchestra, it would be at the Performing Center Arts with as many as 72 players on stage. And normally, you wouldn’t catch them on Valentine’s Day, because the schedule usually calls for January and March concerts. Normally, too, you wouldn’t expect one-price-fits-all or the intimacy of a living room chat.

But then, of course, these aren’t normal times.

And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Violinist Alistair Kok will host Newport Symphony Orchestra musicians in his home for a virtual Valentine's Day concert.
Violinist Alistair Kok will host Newport Symphony Orchestra musicians in his home for a virtual Valentine’s Day concert.

This Valentine’s Day, the orchestra is hosting an intimate evening performance by the string trio of Alistair Kok, Julie Asparro, and Erik Nils Velasquez, along with conductor Adam Flatt. The concert will be recorded live and followed by a conversation with the audience, Flatt, and musicians.

The idea behind the performance is to enhance people’s lives despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19, which has seen the Newport Performing Arts Center closed, said Don Nelson, the orchestra’s executive director.

“There are a lot of videos on YouTube where people can watch, but they are not participating,” Nelson said. “They are seeing people they may usually see at concerts or even online. It’s a way for people to get together at this individual time, both in keeping with the symphony’s mission to enhance quality of life on the Oregon Coast, and to help each individual person who is attending.”

The 7 p.m. concert will include the Adagio from J.S. Bach’s Viola da Gamba Sonata in G Major, Beethoven’s String Trio in G Major, Op. 9 No. 1, and Serenade in C Major for String Trio by Dohnányi. The performance will be recorded in violinist Kok’s living room in Portland, where ceilings are vaulted and the ambiance airy and light, Flatt said. The live, in-house recording also eliminates the need to find accommodations for the musicians who normally stay with local homeowners when visiting the coast. Those welcome mats aren’t quite as abundant during a pandemic.


Music to see otters by

Coast calendar: Cellists perform for Oregon Coast Aquarium residents; online talk about Rick Bartow; Andean music; fiber arts; and pairing words and images

If 2020 has revealed anything, it’s that strange times call for creative minds, and sea otters and the symphony are certainly that. It’s a bright spot once again born out of disappointment.

Melody Lavrakas was making final plans for a youth concert with Newport elementary school students when she learned the concert, like so much else, was canceled. A day later, Lavrakas, a volunteer at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and a member of the Newport Symphony Orchestra board, began pondering how the two nonprofits might help each other. Her idea: video a pair of musicians performing at the aquarium.

It took some time to put together, but two videos of cellists Adrienne Welsh and Vicki Strauss playing Handel’s Variations on Water Music Themes outside the sea otter pool are now available: a short one (below) and a longer version here.

Hard to tell by watching what the sea otters think of the free entertainment, but aquarium marketing director Julie Woodward assures me they soaked it up.

“The sea otters really did enjoy it,” she said. “They came up and were very curious. Our curator of marine mammals was standing right next to me when they recorded it. She could tell they were very interested.”


Riding the musical merry-go-round

ArtsWatch Weekly: Thanks and farewell to David Shifrin, music virtual & live, news briefs, a gallery sampler, saving public art, left turns

IN A WORLD SO VOLATILE AND ABSURD that the president of the United States declares war on the post office (!), it might seem difficult to find a solid rock of stability, something to cling to with assurance and trust through snow or rain or heat or gloom of night. Yet for forty years David Shifrin has been just such a rock in Oregon: a musical anchor, guiding and safekeeping the estimable Chamber Music Northwest to a creative blend of traditional and contemporary music-making through a combination of grace, good humor, generosity, vision, variety, and a positively swinging clarinet.

David Shifrin, after forty years still caught up in the music. Photo courtesy Chamber Music Northwest

With the wrapping-up of the chamber festival’s virtual summer season, which drew 50,000 listeners worldwide for its 18 streamed concerts, Shifrin is finally passing the torch. Though he’ll continue to perform with Chamber Music Northwest on occasion, he’s passing the festival’s artistic leadership to the married team of pianist Gloria Chien and violinist Soovin Kim. In A hearty encore for David Shifrin, Angela Allen takes a look at Shifrin’s four decades of leadership and talks with several of the musicians who know him best, and to a person admire him. The reviews are in, and from his colleagues as well as the festival’s many fans, they are glowing.


Coast calendar: Getting back in the swim

The Oregon Coast Aquarium partially reopens this week and other news from the art and animal worlds

After five long, lonely months with no visitors allowed, the Oregon Coast Aquarium got the green light to open its doors to the public beginning this week.

You can visit the puffins again at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, as outdoor exhibits received the go-ahead to open to the public this week.
You can visit the puffins again at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, as outdoor exhibits received the go-ahead to open to the public this week.

“We are thrilled to welcome our guests back to the aquarium,” said Carrie Lewis, president and CEO of one of the biggest tourist draws on the coast. The experience will be different with only outside exhibits open, as well as reduced admission ($15, purchased online only), enhanced safety protocols, and no crowds.

The one-hour guided outdoor tour at the Newport aquarium includes five exhibits:

  • The Turkey Vulture Exhibit featuring siblings Olive and Ichabod, who were taken as hatchlings into a private home, then turned over to wildlife rehabilitation specialists. Acclimated to humans, they could not be released into the wild and found a home at the aquarium in 2009;
  • The Sea Otter Exhibit of northern sea otters, playful little critters known to come up to the window to engage with visitors;
  • The Seabird Aviary Exhibit, the largest in North America with two pools home to tufted puffins, horned puffins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and common murres;
  • The Rocky Habitat Exhibit featuring intertidal life normally found in the rocky shores exhibits, minus the touch pool;
  • The Seals and Sea Lion Exhibit with a recently expanded viewing area allowing visitors “to get up close and personal with the pinnipeds.”

KEEPING IN THE VEIN OF A LITTLE GOOD NEWS from the arts and animal worlds, The Secret Gallery in Astoria announced its virtual auctions have raised $1,625 for Clatsop Animal Assistance.

The Secret Gallery held six online auctions for custom pet portraits, from May 1 through July 31. Winners of each auction will receive a custom framed portrait of their pet.

“Clatsop Animal Assistance sends a huge thank you to The Secret Gallery, the participating artists and the bidders for this very creative virtual fundraiser,” Marcy Dunning, president of the group, said in a press release. “What a great way for our community to support Clatsop Animal Assistance AND local artists during the pandemic.”

Clatsop Animal Assistance, a nonprofit animal welfare organization, supports the Clatsop County Animal Shelter by paying for veterinary care and other necessities and by promoting the shelter’s adoption program.


Caught in the coronavirus doldrums

Carrie Lewis, CEO of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, says the popular Newport attraction awaits the governor's OK to reopen: "Our over-sanitized hands are tied."

Visitors to the Oregon Coast Aquarium have made it one of the most popular attractions on the entire Oregon Coast. Opened in 1992, it was named one of the top 10 aquariums in the country by Parade magazine only one year later. When it was chosen to rehabilitate Keiko, the orca star from the film Free Willy, its popularity boomed.

But in 2000, two years after Keiko was transferred to Iceland for release in the wild, the nonprofit seemed doomed. The aquarium was $4 million short on the tab for its new $11 million, 1.3-million-gallon Passages of the Deep exhibit, and it was unclear if the aquarium would survive. But the community – local and beyond – rallied, and in recent years the aquarium again has thrived.


Then the virus hit, and Newport’s most popular attraction and a crucial component of the coast culture, struggles. We talked with aquarium president and CEO Carrie Lewis about the future.

When did the aquarium close?

Lewis:  On March 16. It was the right thing to do at the time because things were ramping up. That’s right around the time Gov. Kate Brown put out her mandate for businesses to close. We were in lockstep with all the other zoos and aquariums around the country. Unfortunately, it was right before spring break. It was a huge hit.

Any idea when you’ll be able to reopen?

The anticipated opening date remains unknown. We’re really concerned. Because Lincoln County is on the “Watch List,” we can’t open until Lincoln County gets into Phase 2. I am appealing to the governor to get a redesignation of our status, which is indoor/outdoor entertainment facility. The Oregon Zoo, the High Desert Museum in Bend, and the Sea Lion Caves are open. We have a lot of exhibits outside. We have a lot of things we can do to keep our guests safe. I don’t know what hoops we’ll have to jump through to reopen. We’re taking it very seriously, but our over-sanitized hands are tied.

Carrie Lewis, Oregon Coast Aquarium CEO, has been charting a course for reopening. “We’re small but we’re mighty,” she says, “and we will get through this.”

What are your plans for reopening?

We have a couple of opening plans. There would be a reduction in fees and everything would be purchased online: No coming up to the window to buy a ticket, and you would have to reserve a time. We’re seeing that this is a really productive way of getting visitors in.

We would set up stations at all outdoor exhibits, and visitors would go from exhibit to exhibit in groups of 10 with volunteers interpreting. We would be able to do 40 people an hour for seven hours. It would be a much shorter stay time. Usually, 2 to 2½  hours is the normal stay time. This would be about one hour.


Coast calendar: Long-lost drawings and celebrating the nude

A fundraiser auctions a Rick Bartow sketch, the 14th annual "Au Naturel" show opens in Astoria, plus play and author readings, and cranky old men in Cannon Beach

Newport artist Rick Bartow died nearly four years ago, but his work is the gift that keeps giving, in some cases, surprisingly so. Last year, staff at the Olalla Center, a nonprofit in Toledo that provides mental health care for children, set out to do some spring cleaning. In the process, they discovered seven line drawings by Bartow stashed away and gathering dust.

They’ve set aside one of those drawings to be auctioned off at a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, Sea of Love, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The framed drawing will be revealed the evening of the auction.

A Rick Bartow sketch similar to these, found in storage at the Olalla Center, will be auctioned during a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. Bartow created the drawings as part of an Earth Day exercise for children.

“We were literally clearing out a storage room of old games and toys and random items, sort of typical rummage sale items, and we found Rick’s pieces all at once,” said Diane Teem, executive director at the center. “We were so happy to find them. It was like a treasure. Our staff had changed since they were created, and we didn’t realize they existed. I don’t know how they came to be in storage, but we’re super happy we discovered them and can now honor Rick’s memory and contribution to the children of the Olalla Center. Rick was all about the children.”

The pieces, which Bartow called “eco art,” were created in 2010 as an Earth Day classroom exercise Bartow participated in. The drawing to be auctioned is 2.5 feet wide by 2 feet tall, framed in metal and signed. Teem is working to have the artwork appraised.

The other drawings have the children’s names on them, and on the back, a bio and picture of Bartow along with an Earth Day poem and the answers to a classroom assignment.


School’s out, but art classes are in on the Coast

From children making masks to adults learning about the Japanese art of fish-printing, the Coast offers a multitude of artful happy happenings this summer

School’s out, but here on the Coast, classes are just beginning, and they’re not just for kids.

Mary Ann Gantenbein will teach a class for adults on collage during the Cannon Beach Summer Art Camp.
Mary Ann Gantenbein will teach a class for adults on collage during the Cannon Beach Summer Art Camp.

The Cannon Beach Arts Association has opened registration for its 17th Annual Art Camp, July 8-12. Five-day classes for the younger set include yoga (ages 4-12), 3D mask-making (8-12) and for the really wee ones — ages 3-5 — “Mini Makers.” The brochure describes the class as a “happy happening” for young and aspiring artists, who will draw, paint, create collages, and just plain play. 

Adult Art Camp offers three classes including “Watercolor by the Sea,” an introductory class in which artists will create a watercolor inspired by Cannon Beach and learn tips and tricks about painting with watercolors. It’s open to all levels, but designed for beginners.

Among classes at Sitka Center for the Arts is an  August workshop on the “Art of the Letter. " Besides creating illustrated envelopes, the class will explore how letter-writing can survive in the digital age.
Among classes at Sitka Center for the Arts is an August workshop on the “Art of the Letter. ” Besides creating illustrated envelopes, the class will explore how letter-writing can survive in the digital age.

THE SITKA CENTER FOR THE ARTS is also gearing up for summer workshops — many are already full, but wait lists are available. Those still open include “Color Confidence for Artists,” a class for anyone working in any medium. Instructor Cynthia Herron will demonstrate mixing and matching paint, discuss color schemes for a variety of media, and talk about color as it is found in nature around the Sitka campus near Otis. In “Photography and Place,” students will examine the “potential of photographic practice to address contemporary issues of land use and environmental concepts.” And in “Mining Your Life for Laughs,” teacher Robert Balmer will take a look at “how humor writers turn the painful, the absurd, the odd, the embarrassing, the memorable,” into something to laugh about. Who couldn’t use that?