Portland Pride

Art on the move: responding to crises

ArtsWatch Weekly: The Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing coronavirus challenge are reshaping the arts world

WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF LIFE-CHANGING TIMES, and in the face of multiple crises remarkable work is being done. How do artists fit in? Sometimes, smack in the middle of things. Many news organizations have been doing excellent work of discovering the artists speaking to the moment and bringing their work to a broad audience. Oregon Public Broadcasting, for instance, has been publishing some sterling stories – including the feature The Faces of Protest: The Memorial Portraits of Artist Ameya Marie Okamoto, by Claudia Meza and John Nottariani. Okamoto, a young social practice artist who grew up in Portland, has made it her work not just to document the events of racial violence in Portland and across the United States: She’s also, as OPB notes, “crafted dozens of portraits for victims of violence and injustice.” 


Ameya Okamoto, “In Support of Protest.” Photo courtesy Ameya Okamoto

“People get so attached to the hashtag and the movement of George Floyd or Quanice Hayes,” Okamota tells OPB, “they forget that George Floyd was a trucker who moved to Minneapolis for a better life, or that Quanice Hayes was actually called ‘Moose’ by his friends and family. When individuals become catalysts for Black Lives Matter and catalysts for social change … there is a level of complex personhood that is stripped away from them.” In her work she strives to give that back.

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Zoom: Portland Pride goes virtual

As the festival and parade gear up for an online celebration, K.B. Dixon gives a glimpse in photos of pre-pandemic Pride parades past


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


As with so many signature productions this year, Portland Pride’s Waterfront Festival and Parade has been radically reimagined. The salute to sex, civil rights, and sequins will appear via Zoom and in streaming videos of festivals past. For a schedule of the revelry I refer you to Pride Northwest’s new website, which houses a calendar of virtual events beginning Friday, June 12, and continuing through June 19.

Similarly, the photographs collected here are from previous celebrations—celebrations that presented a special challenge to the black-and-white photographer who, armed with only humble midtones, was obliged to face off against the full spectrum of saturated color—and then some.

Motorcycle, 2017

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‘Bodies’ review: Pride is a verb

Resonance Ensemble's Pride Week concert commemorates LGBTQIA community's struggles and celebrates its creativity

“One of the most common questions I get is ‘what is pride?’,” said Pride Northwest Executive Director Debra Porta at the Q&A following Resonance Ensemble’s June concert, Bodies. “It’s difficult to put into words.” This echoed Porta’s words from the beginning of the concert (an official Pride Week event), when she praised the pride and perseverance of those who “broke the universe into pieces” to be who they are and concluded that “Pride is a verb.”

The Cerimon House stage was lit with splashes of color, a rainbow of lights arrayed along the wall, a doubled Roy G. Bv coruscating out from central violets to perimeter reds. The concert commenced with Dominick DiOrio’s The Visible World, a sort of modern madrigal treating the struggle for marriage equality with a quilt of texts ranging from Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis” and a love poem by Catullus to quotes from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and civil rights activist Paul Barwick. The title comes from Théophile Gautier’s quote “I am a man for whom the visible world exists,” but the piece was dominated by a line taken from a poster spotted outside Seattle City Hall in 2012: “Sorry it took so long.”

PRIDE Executive Director Debra Porta with Resonance Ensemble’s Katherine FitzGibbon at ‘Bodies.’ Photo: Kenton Waltz.

That phrase spooled out through the ensemble in a Proverb-type canon that immediately put me in mind of Renaissance counterpoint, Meredith Monk, Caroline Shaw, David Lang. The harmony often veered into very chromatic realms, not dissonant (if the word even means anything anymore) but those dense, jazzy, Manhattan Transfer jazz chords that Resonance knows how to sing better than anyone else in Portland. Wolfe-style post-minimalist pulsations and flashes of Gabriel Kahane’s populist lyrical sensibility elevated quotidian lines like “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives” while two millennia of queer poetry intermingled over drones and semitone shimmers and cascades of “sorry it took so long.”

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Photo First: The Pride Parade

The Portland Pride Parade is just around the corner, and K.B. Dixon's had his lens on the annual march for years. A portrait in photographs.

The Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade is coming up on Saturday, June 9, which means summer in Portland can’t be far behind—but more importantly, it means the Portland Pride Parade can’t be far behind. An extravagant, glitter-dusted celebration of LGBTQ culture, it offers a little something for everyone—horses, motorcycles, bands, drill teams, and drag queens.

Evolving from a small march of 200 intrepid souls back in 1977 to a parade with more than 8,000 participants last year, this flashy pageant has become the centerpiece of a Pride Week that includes a two-day Waterfront Festival. With the increasing acceptance come sponsors, and with sponsors come dollars, and with dollars come more floats and feathered boas. A list of this year’s guarantors (Intel, Alaska Airlines, Fed Ex, U.S. Bank, etc., etc.) will give you a good idea of the progress that has been made over the years. Being on the right side of history, it seems, is just good business.

The fight against discrimination in all of its myriad forms is a founding principle. It is more important now than ever given the creeping cretinism of contemporary times.

However serious the underlying message, organizers have never let it get in the way of the fun. A gaudy and grandiose homage to civil rights, the parade is basically a moving party. It’s about looking spectacular and having a good time—about kinetic energy and saturated color. It is a character-building challenge to the black-and-white photographer.

This year’s Portland Pride Parade will be on Sunday, June 17, beginning at 11 a.m. Below, several scenes from past Pride Parades:

“Thumbs Up,” 2013

“Motorcycle,” 2013

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