Rose Festival

Vanport Mosaic’s flood of memories

ArtsWatch Weekly: A festival to remember, theater heats up, All Classical's leap forward, whither Europe, Chachalu steps up, more

MONDAY IS MEMORIAL DAY, a national remembering of soldiers who have died while on duty, and this is a week for other meaningful anniversaries, too. Tuesday marked a full year since George Floyd was murdered at the knee of a Minneapolis policeman, setting off national protests, accelerating a nationwide battle over race and cultural and political life, and reverberating through the presidential election and the failed Capitol takeover of January 6.

And Sunday will be the 73rd anniversary of the Vanport Flood, which on May 30, 1948, burst through a a 200-foot section of railroad berm just north of Portland on land where Delta Park and its surrounds now sit. Floodwaters from the Columbia River poured in, inundating the wartime city of Vanport, sweeping away its infrastructure, killing at least 15 people, and leaving 18,500 homeless. It was a sudden cultural reshaping with historic consequences. Built in 1942 to house workers at the Portland and Vancouver Kaiser shipyards and their families, Vanport had a population of 40,000 at its height, making it the second-largest city in Oregon at the time. It was also, for its few years, the most racially and ethnically diverse city in Oregon: Wartime workers came from all over, creating an instant city that looked and acted very differently from the Oregon of its time, and more like the multicultural nation that the United States is becoming in the 21st century.

A few of the faces of Vanport, Oregon’s most racially diverse city before floodwaters washed it away in 1948. Photo: City of Portland Archives

SIX YEARS AGO THE VANPORT MOSAIC FESTIVAL sprang into being, building on the memories of Vanport to expand upon its meanings in contemporary life. Created by Laura Lo Forti and Damaris Webb, it began as a Memorial Day Weekend event at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, with a historical display, play productions, and other events. It’s grown since into a citywide event lasting several weeks in various venues, including online. This year’s festival, which involves about 200 artists, activists, historians, collaborating groups, and others, began Wednesday and continues with both virtual and in-person events through June 30. 

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Street Scene: Pooches on Parade

As the scaled-back Rose Festival prepares its Porch Parade, K.B. Dixon creates a streetwise tribute to the canceled Rose City Classic Dog Show

One of the many events that disappeared from the calendar this year as a consequence of Covid was the Rose City Classic Dog Show. A local favorite and one of the largest such shows in the country, it is normally held at the Expo Center in mid-January.  It is a show that has always had a tone of its own. The snoots are there, of course (both owners and dogs), but not in the numbers needed to co-opt the general ambiance. One was just as likely to find a dog named Rex wandering about as one named Baron of Crofton.

Inspired by the Rose Festival’s “Porch Parade” (the Festival’s answer, running May 31-June 13, to the cancellation of its Grand Floral extravaganza), I have cobbled together belatedly a down-market homage to the Rose City Classic—the “Pooch Parade,” a cynophile-friendly selection of archived photographs from Portland’s dog-dappled streets.


Studying Menu, 2019

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Rose Festival: A fond look back

This year's big parades and carnival are gone with the pandemic wind. As scaled-back "Parading in Place" begins, we salute the way it was.


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


A Rose Festival by any other name may not smell quite so sweet, but this abbreviated retrospective, this “Virtual Rose Festival,” will have to do this year as Portland’s annual celebration of the genus rosa has, like so many other essential celebrations, wilted in the heat of this global pandemic. In place of parading there is parading in place. The photographs here are collected from past years of sporadic attendance, and are offered as a reminder of what many may be missing today, but almost certainly will be enjoying again in the not too distant future.

This year’s festival, the 113th, was to have opened on Friday, May, 22, and continued through June 7, complete with its showcase parades: The Starlight Parade, the Junior Parade, and the culminating Grand Floral Parade. Holding their place will be the Rose Festival’s Parading in Place: Check the link for details.


2013: Hitched

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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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Festivals, awards, a college dies

News & notes: an arts festival in Wilsonville, the PAMTA musical theater awards, Marylhurst's loss to the arts, PassinArt goes deep east side

It’s not quite summer, but it’s festival season – and Wilsonville, just a short skip south of Portland on the freeway, is leading the charge. Coming up Saturday and Sunday, June 2-3, is this year’s Wilsonville Festival of Arts, which will spread out over the city’s Town Center Park with contemporary music, dance, visual art, theater, literary events, film, design, and performance art.

Master maskmaker and director Tony Feummeler will lead maskmaking events at the Wilsonville Festival of Arts.

“This year, we are introducing three commissioned interactive art installations by artists Damien Gilley, Palmarin Merges and Tiana Husted,” festival director Sarah Wolfe noted in a press release. “Also new is a partnership with NW Film Center in Portland. We are teaming up to offer a Micro Movie Theatre, featuring short films by filmmakers throughout the Pacific Northwest. And we will be featuring several Oregon Book Award winners and finalists as special guests for our focus on literary arts, Art of the Word. Latinx and alter-abled contemporary artists will also be highlighted.”

Singer Saeeda Wright

The lineup looks ambitious and intriguing, with attractions ranging from a reading by this year’s Ken Kesey Award fiction winner Omar El Akkad (American War); to demonstrations in skills from etching to 3D printing to weaving and spinning; to performances by R&B star Saeeda Wright and the innovative troupe DanceAbility. And of course, there’ll also be artists’ and crafters’ booths, ice cream and other food stands, and beer: It wouldn’t be a festival without ’em. Festival entry is free; hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Black with colored amoeba-shaped pieces from artist Palmerin Merges’ installion art in Wilsonville.

The granddaddy of ’em all, the Portland Rose Festival, is working up a head of steam, too. The city’s annual extravaganza kicked off Friday, May 25, with a Memorial Day weekend CityFair on the riverfront (much more to come, from elephant ears to open-air concerts, in Tom McCall Waterfront Park), and the big event, the Grand Floral Parade, is June 9. After that, dig out your maps and fill in your calendars: you can pretty much hop from festival to festival around Oregon all summer long.

 


 

 

AND IF FESTIVAL SEASON IS HERE, CAN AWARDS SEASON BE FAR BEHIND? Portland’s double whammy of theater award celebrations kicks off Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m. in the Winningstad Theatre with the annual PAMTA musical-theater awards. Started and produced by Broadway/Portland producer/actor/director Corey Brunish, who’s picked up more Tony producing honors in recent years than he can count on all his fingers, it’s always a fun, well-produced event. Actor Darius Pierce, who’s just about perfect in the role, returns as the evening’s host.

A few of the musical-theater productions that have been under consideration for this year’s PAMTA Awards.

Awards will be presented in 21 categories, and as befits the musical theater, which thrives as much on revivals as new work, the best show category has been divided into two parts. This year’s nominees for outstanding revival are Broadway Rose’s The Addams Family, Gypsy, and Always, Patsy Cline; Pixie Dust’s Billy Elliot and Beauty and the Beast; and Triangle’s Avenue Q. Nominees for outstanding original show are Portland Playhouse’s Scarlet, Northwest Children’s Theatre’s Cinderella and Peter Pan, Stumptown Stages’ Folk City, Broadway Rose’s Trails, and Staged!’s John Hughes High. See the complete list of nominees here.

The older and more inclusive Drammy Awards will celebrate their 40th anniversary at 7 p.m. Monday, June 25, at Portland Center Stage – an interesting choice for venue considering that last year the city’s two biggest theater companies, Center Stage and Artists Rep, dropped their participation in the awards. Both awards events are free.

 


 

BUT WHAT ABOUT MARYLHURST? The recent announcement that Marylhurst University, the small institution south of Lake Oswego, will close its doors after 125 years sent alarms not only through the education world but the arts world as well. The university has been rocked by sharply declining enrollment and swiftly rising deficits since the national recession of a decade ago, Jeff Manning reported in The Oregonian. Fall term enrollment was more than 1,400 in 2013, and fewer than 750 in 2017.

An active opposition made up of students, former students, and faculty members has emerged in an attempt to overturn the board’s decision and find a new path to financial sustainability, but it faces a steep uphill battle. The closure of Portland’s vital and lamented Museum of Contemporary Craft, which was carrying a much smaller deficit, proved final.

From Christine Bourdette’s 2008 show “Riddles, Bunnyheads and Asides” at The Art Gym.

Marylhurst has been well-known in art circles for The Art Gym, an innovative and essential contemporary art center that paid deep attention to the work of living regional artists and usually published catalogs of its shows. Its loss, if the decision remains final, will be large. The university also offers a variety of valuable academic art programs, some of which, including its masters program in art therapy counseling, cross over into other disciplines.

The university has an active music presence and was home to many fine concerts in its intimate performing spaces: I still remember seeing the innovative 20th century composer Terry Riley (In C) in performance in the mid-1990s not playing his own minimalist-leaning music but singing traditional Indian ragas, sweeping and gliding and bending and always landing right. “Tonally, the raga is more like a string suspended between two sticks: Usually it’s slack, but you can draw it taut when you want,” I wrote at the time. “Riley is a master of the slide from slack to taut.”

A community loses such traditions at its own peril.

 


 

PassinArt takes the theater where the people are.

REPULSING THE MONKEY. PassinArt: A Theatre Company, in collaboration with ROSE Community Development, is entering its final two performances of Michael Eichler’s play Repulsing the Monkey, about a brother and sister who inherit a blue-collar bar in Pittsburgh and must decide, in the face of gentrification, whether they can keep it going. Final performances are at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29-30, with a discussion after the Wednesday show, and one of the interesting things about the production is where it’s being performed – at the T.E.A.M. Event Center in deep East Portland, at 9201 S.E. Foster Road. As Portland’s own gentrification and escalating housing prices force many people farther from the city center, arts and performance almost certainly will have to follow them. PassinArt’s most recent production, in North Portland’s Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, was a well-received run of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. Tickets for Repulsing the Monkey are a wallet-friendly $5-$15 sliding scale.