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Fighting the one-two punch

ArtsWatch Weekly: Amid twin crises, arts and social awareness mix and meld and come together

IT’S BEEN A WEEK TO PICK OURSELVES UP, DUST OURSELVES OFF, START ALL OVER AGAIN: The one-two punch of pandemic and racial injustice has kept the culture on the ropes even as some of the contenders take a premature victory lap. The United States has solidified its dubious distinction as the epicenter of the global coronavirus crisis: Dr. Anthony Fauci, who in the face of a rudderless national response is the closest thing we have to a national leader on the issue, warns that if Americans don’t get serious about the threat we could be facing 100,000 new cases a day. While the nation gradually and sometimes not so gradually reopens, the numbers of infections and deaths have spiked. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has ordered that people wear masks in indoor public settings in every county, a directive that many, even those assigned to enforce the law, feel free to flout. 

The designer Milton Glaser’s final project. miltonglaser.com 

Culturally, in the past week the nation’s lost two towering figures. The great comedian Carl Reiner, who with the likes of Sid Caesar and Mel Brooks helped shape a stream of antic and sometimes subversively open American popular comedy, died at 98. And Milton Glaser, the graphic artist/designer/entrepreneur/American hybrid, died on his 91st birthday. Glaser’s touch was all over the culture, from book and album covers to concert posters to restaurant designs to the iconic “I (Heart) NY” logo that’s been copied by cities from here to the farther moons of Pluto, or so it sometimes seems. At the time of his death he was working on a new cultural connector to bridge the divides of troubled times: a distinctive image of the word “Together.”

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The candidates have reached a consensus on the arts

A candidates forum reveals broad support for the arts tax and RACC, but not a lot of new thinking

The Candidates Forum on Arts and Culture at the Armory Building in the Pearl District on Tuesday afternoon was a tame affair.

On one hand, the five candidates there to persuade the arts community to vote for them (Stuart Emmons, Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Jules Bailey and Ted Wheeler) all expressed at least conditional support for the arts policy status quo. That means they said nice things about the Regional Arts & Culture Council, which administers the $5 million or so the City of Portland gives to the arts every year, and they didn’t want to trim that back if at all possible. And they all supported the Arts Tax, though they wanted to increase compliance so that the arts groups and school kids who benefited from it could receive the full amount due them.

The candidates for city council and mayor gather to talk about the arts...and other things./photo by John Strieder / OPB

The candidates for city council and mayor gather to talk about the arts…and other things./photo by John Strieder / OPB

On the the other hand, no one had exciting new programs to propose or striking new formulations about how the arts and the culture in which they are embedded serve each other now and might serve each other better in the future.

So, yes, the late afternoon forum (on the very afternoon federal and state authorities apprehended Ammon Bundy in eastern Oregon, killing onein the process) was pretty sleepy, despite the best efforts of Oregon Public Broadcasting moderator April Baer to stir things up.

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