pandemic and the arts

Pandemic prose and poetry

The Cannon Beach Library hosts a virtual reading Saturday of pieces inspired by life during COVID

Lisa Mayfield’s relationship with her partner was not an easy one. He was a Vietnam vet, a hoarder, an artist. And she loved him. She was reminded of that six months after his death, as the world was adapting to the new normal dictated by COVID-19.

Mayfield is one of 37 writers who responded to a call from the Cannon Beach Library to write about what the pandemic means to them.

Among the things Lisa Mayfield’s boyfriend left her after his death were masks he carved from stone. The story she will read in the Cannon Beach Library’s Writers Read Celebration explores the gifts she gained from that difficult relationship. Photo Courtesy: Lisa Mayfield
Among the things Lisa Mayfield’s boyfriend left her after his death were masks he carved from stone. The story she will read in the Cannon Beach Library’s Writers Read Celebration explores the gifts she gained from that difficult relationship. Photo Courtesy: Lisa Mayfield

She called her submission to the Writers Read Celebration On Toilet Paper.

“It actually has to do with toilet paper, but it’s not really on toilet paper,” said Mayfield, talking by phone in the midst of an ice- and snowstorm as trees crashed around her Salem home.

“I gave it that title because when the pandemic came and people were hoarding toilet paper, I had found myself with a 48-roll package of toilet paper … because my boyfriend hoarded things.”  The piece, she said, “is really about him and about some of the gifts of that very difficult relationship.”

This is the third year the library’s NW Authors Series committee has put out a call for manuscripts for the contest. The goal, said Nancy McCarthy, library volunteer, is to reach out to the community and “let people know, yes, libraries do exist and we really want to be part of the community.”  Ten writers will participate in the virtual reading at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. For information on how to access the reading, go to the library website and click the banner at the top of the page, or check out the library’s Facebook page.

Five judges — four library volunteers and a staffer for the Cannon Beach Book Company — selected the 13 submissions to be read; three authors each had two pieces chosen. Judges picked from the 51 submissions, which included stories, essays, and poetry, based on language, interest, theme, and emotions the piece evoked.

The library received more submissions this year, McCarthy said, “probably because people had more time to write, also because of that universal theme. Everyone is going through it. I was interested to see people’s different perspectives how they are handling that. One person wrote a poem, and you realized it wasn’t about this pandemic, but the polio pandemic in the early ‘50s. It was very interesting how she wove it.”

Several of the selected submissions address mourning, though who, what, how, and why are vastly different.

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Will Portland protect its ‘Big 5’?

The city's precarious arts funding structure and "small is better" ethos imperil the major arts groups, Portland Opera's former leader says


By CHRISTOPHER MATTALIANO


It was difficult to read a recent Willamette Week article (May 21) about Portland Opera canceling its fall season. I love the company. I’m very grateful for the 16 years I served as General Director and I wish to see it thrive. The article was also difficult to read because of significant inaccuracies. To write that the company has suffered from “years of substantial deficit” is simply not true. This can be verified by examining the financial documents on the company website.

But I’m not writing today to correct faulty characterizations of what has occurred in the past. Instead, I’ve been thinking about Portland, its arts organizations, and our future together. This time of quarantine provides an opportunity to take a “big picture” look at Portland’s arts community and what may lie ahead, post-pandemic.

First, let’s look back at the economic support conditions prior to the pandemic. The subscription model, which has been the life-blood of so many arts organizations, was already faltering and on life support. Consumers simply are not purchasing season subscriptions as they once did. There are a number of reasons why this has happened. Michael Kaiser, who has led many nonprofits and is known as the Turnaround King, has written extensively on the subject. There’s general agreement that the subscription model may improve somewhat in the years ahead, but it’s not coming back anywhere near where it was 20 years ago.

Christopher Mattaliano. Photo: Portland Opera


A number of Portland foundations that previously provided dependable, annual operating support have changed their focus and funding priorities. This often happens over time, particularly with a change of foundation leadership. Arts organizations have had to adjust quickly, as foundations have either reduced their support or no longer support the city’s arts organizations at all.

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