Oregon culture

$50 million? It’s a beginning

ArtsWatch Weekly: An emergency lifeline to Oregon's cultural sector staves off pandemic disaster. But the economic problem is still urgent.

FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT. AND IT IS. But spread it across the entire state of Oregon to aid a cultural infrastructure devastated economically by pandemic shutdowns and the cash runs out pretty quickly. The Legislature’s Joint Emergency Board approved the bailout on Tuesday, as part of a $200 million general economic package distributed by the state through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. The significant cultural part of the package came after a spirited lobbying push by groups and individuals, and notably recognized an economic truth that is often overlooked: Cultural workers are workers, and when they lose work they undergo the same stresses as anyone else thrown out of a job. “People who work in cultural organizations have families, have to pay the mortgage or the rent, have children to feed,” Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission, said in a telephone conversation on Wednesday. “Without these funds coming in, these organizations are having a difficult time.”

The Emergency Board, and the state itself, can’t solve all the problems of the reeling cultural sector by themselves. The $50 million E Board allocation is exactly what it says it is – an emergency measure, meant to lend a significant hand during a disaster and help stave off collapse. It can’t magically make up the lost income of an entire industry that’s been hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic. A statewide Cultural Trust survey in May projected a $40 million loss by June 30 for the 330 cultural groups (out of more than 1,400 that the Trust tracks) that responded. It’s now mid-July, with no clear end in sight, and the losses keep piling up. For perspective, the $4.71 million that the E Board is delivering to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which got the biggest allocation granted, covers a little more than 10 percent of the festival’s annual budget.
 

Everything’s coming up virtual. The 70-year-old Salem Art Association Art Fair and Festival, pictured in a previous year, becomes a virtual event this year, celebrated long-distance on Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust 

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Sheer poetry with Grabel and the fishing crew

Leanne Grabel and Breads & Roses, FisherPoets and the song of the sea. Plus the week's dance, drama, sight, and sound.


IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR POETS IN OREGON, and an especially big week for longtime Portland poet Leanne Grabel, who’s been named the winner of the second annual Soapstone Bread and Roses Award. The prize, given by the women’s literary organization Soapstone to honor a writer who has helped sustain the writing culture in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, comes with a $1,000 award. It’ll be officially presented at a Soapstone board meeting on March 6, two days before International Women’s Day.

Portland poet Leanne Grabel, the 2020 Soapstone Bread and Roses Award winner. Photo courtesy Soapstone, Inc. 

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Vision 2020: Maya Vivas and Leila Haile

Pioneering at Ori Gallery: "We often joke about how we would love to not be the only Queer, Black-run art space in town."

North Mississippi Avenue’s Ori Gallery is about to celebrate its two-year anniversary, and founders Maya Vivas and Leila Haile have a lot to show for a relatively short span of time. Ori has had more than a dozen exhibitions featuring work from a wide range of artists who identify as QTPoC (Queer Trans People of Color).  They have held workshops on grant-writing, tattoo history, and methods for direct political action through art; and hosted life drawing classes, artist lectures, and parties. As if all that weren’t enough, Vivas and Haile were recently awarded their second Precipice Fund grant to support Ori’s programming into 2020. The two also maintain their own creative practices – Vivas is a ceramic and performance artist whose work has been shown throughout Portland and across the country, and Haile is a tattoo artist who specializes in working on melanated skin.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Their collaboration as co-directors of Ori has brought attention to the voices of historically marginalized artists and contributed to the larger conversation surrounding equity, institutional bias, and the arts in Portland. Amidst a jam-packed schedule that included the opening reception for an exhibition of the Nat Turner Project’s Drinking Gourd Artist Fellows and the award ceremony for the Precipice Fund at PICA, Vivas and Haile found a few moments to share their thoughts on what the coming decade has in store for the arts and artists in the Rose City. (Responses without a name preceding them were submitted as joint comments.)

Maya Vivas and Leila Haile, taking charge. Photo courtesy Ori Gallery

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The art of giving, large and small

It's not just an action but a process, as big as a sea lion and as small as a salmonberry

The act of giving can be so simple and yet so complex. Giving in a sense that is not just good cheer, but something deeper and nuanced and more layered. It’s not just a word, but an entire etiquette. It’s not just a formality, but a way of life.

It’s a matter of respect, a shared experience, an exchange of goodwill, a nod to humility, a deference, a show of appreciation, a payback, a responsibility, a form of courage, an act of selflessness. It’s what matters most and gives meaning. Go deeper. Go higher. A language unto itself. A conversation.

All these words are important, and each is different.

Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos), aretha franklin (1942-2018) reins supreme dance cap, yellow cedar bark (Kodiak, AK): Vickie Era; black berry and beet dye (Columbia River, OR); red cedar bark (Kingcome, British Columbia): Marianne Nicolson; salmon vertebrae (Kingcome, B.C.); sweet grass: Theresa Secord; spruce root (North Spit of Jordan Cove, Coos Bay, OR); glass and shell beads: Amazon, the world.
Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos), aretha franklin (1942-2018) reins supreme dance cap, yellow cedar bark (Kodiak, AK): Vickie Era; black berry and beet dye (Columbia River, OR); red cedar bark (Kingcome, British Columbia): Marianne Nicolson; salmon vertebrae (Kingcome, B.C.); sweet grass: Theresa Secord; spruce root (North Spit of Jordan Cove, Coos Bay, OR); glass and shell beads: Amazon, the world.

A trip to the Oregon Coast a while back got me thinking about all that, and has stayed with me for more than a year. What does it mean “to give?” It’s all about a balance in the universe, but it’s not simply to balance out “to get,” and certainly not “to take.” But what does it mean to give in a sense that achieves an equilibrium?

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ArtsWatch Weekly: old, new, always

Same old story? Brash new wave? In Oregon arts & culture this week, old and new mix it up, and it's sometimes tough to tell which is which

ART IS ABOUT STRIDING BOLDLY INTO THE FUTURE and discovering the new. The Portland Art Museum, for instance, is getting ready to open the first major retrospective of the work of American artist Hank Willis Thomas, whose photography, sculpture, video, and collaborative public art projects turn their focus sharply and sometimes satirically on the flashpoints of contemporary culture and the struggle for social justice and civil rights. Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal …, which will run Oct. 12-Jan. 12, is the museum’s big fall-season attraction, and a central part of a run of shows in the next few months about the work of artists of color: the essential Portland painter Isaka Shamsud-Din, the great Robert ColescottFrida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and the just-opened exhibition Question Bridge: Black Males.

Hank Willis Thomas, The Cotton Bowl, from the series Strange Fruit, 2011. Digital c-print. 50 x 73 inches. © Hank Willis Thomas, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

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Today seems a good time to introduce you to one of our newest correspondents, C.S. Eliot. When the movie Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul prowled into town (it’s landed at Cinema 21 after a couple of sold-out screenings at the Portland International Film Festival) we found ourselves looking for just the right sort of writer to respond to the film’s unusual subject matter, a writer with inside knowledge of the peculiarities of the feline world. And C.S. made a poetic plea to speak up.

Well, all right, it was a yowl. C.S., we regret to report, is an imperious sort, given to stark pronouncements and prone to making unseemly demands on the management. Thus, forthwith, C.S.’s first dispatch for us, ‘Kedi’ review: Turkish delight.

The streetwise cats of Istanbul.

To tell the truth, this partnership is a work in progress. We’re not sure C.S. understands the concept of objectivity at all. But C.S. makes no bones about his opinions (he prefers to leave the bones for the dogs), and C.S. will speak out. There’s no stopping him, really, although you can slow him down if you put out a bowl of tuna juice. Let’s stipulate that a good writer is not necessarily a saint.

In the case of Kedi, not only is C.S. an expert on the subject, he also has a talented collaborator, longtime ArtsWatch correspondent Maria Choban. She speaks Cat semi-fluently and is adept at translating the pith of C.S.’s opinions. We see their partnership as vital to our coverage of the next touring production of Cats to hit town (lyrics and original concept by C.S. Eliot’s distant relative T.S.), and to the Puss in Boots scene in Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. And if someone in town will please put up a production of the musical Archy & Mehitabel, C.S. likely will be our representative in the reviewer’s box. We’ve tried, but we just can’t seem to come up with a literate cockroach who’ll work for what we can pay.

 


 

A GLIMPSE INSIDE THIS WEEK’S DATEBOOK:

 

Companhia Urbana de Dança at White Bird. Photo: Renato Mangolin

Companhia Urbana de Dança. White Bird brings the energetic Brazilian dance troupe to the Newmark Theatre for shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Born in the shanty towns and suburbs of Rio, the company blends hip-hop, urban, and contemporary dance into an Afro-Brazilian stew.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: February roars

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

The Fertile Ground festival of new works is tucked safely in bed for another year, and the city’s still tuning up for the Portland Jazz Festival, coming February 18-28 (Charles Lloyd! Dianne Reeves! Sonny Fortune! Brian Blade!). That doesn’t mean you get to relax. We’re heading into an extraordinarily busy week, from theater openings to First Thursday in the galleries to a revamped Late Now to the Oregon Symphony’s visit to The Planets, with a side trip to some piano parables by Paul Schoenfeld.

Enough with the intro. Let’s dive right in, starting with theater:

Dael Orlandersmith. Photo: Mikey Mann

Dael Orlandersmith. Photo: Mikey Mann

Forever at Portland Center Stage. The newest from writer/performer Dael Orlandersmith, in the intimate Ellyn Bye Studio. Marcel Proust, Richard Wright, Jim Morrison, and the legacies of family, biological and chosen. In previews; opens Friday.

What Every Girl Should Know at Triangle. It’s 1914 in a Catholic reformatory. The new girl shows up, bringing an attitude and some contraband: pamphlets on birth control distributed by Margaret Sanger. Opens Thursday.

You for Me for You at Portland Playhouse. Gretchen Corbett directs Mia Chung’s provocative drama about two sisters attempting to flee North Korea. Opens Friday.

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