virtual art

2020 in review: At last, over & out

2020? Perish the thought. The ups, downs, disasters, trends, outrages, and occasional triumphs of Oregon's arts & culture in a tortuous year.

2020? Perish the thought. Good riddance to bad rubbish: We’re gonna wash that year right out of our hair. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Or, as the old curse has it, “may you live in interesting times” – but not quite this interesting, thank you very much.

The Year That Should Not Speak Its Name led pretty much everyone, including all of us here at Oregon ArtsWatch, on a frantic and astonishing chase. It was discombobulating, because for the most part we were chasing in isolation inside the confines of our own homes, like cats in a cardboard box desperately racing after our own tails. Oh, sure, there were those fair-weather walks through the neighborhood, and the masked-up trips to the grocery store. But, really: Things might’ve been new, but they were far from normal.


LOOKING BACK: 2020 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR


Normality, of course, is how the year began. Even optimism. On Jan. 1, 2020, a year ago today, ArtsWatch strode brashly into the Brave New Year with the first dispatch in Vision 2020, an ambitious series of 20 interviews over 20 days with a cross-section of Oregon arts figures who agreed to talk with us about how things looked from their corners of the cultural world, and what they hoped to see in the coming year and decade. They had some terrific insights and ideas, and the series makes for some fascinating reading: From Rachel Barreras-Kleeman’s tale of why she teaches dance to low-income kids on the Coast, to Dañel Malan’s vision of creating bilingual arts through Teatro Milagro, to 18 compelling stories in between, you can find all 20 interviews here. But nobody – least of all those of us at ArtsWatch Central, in our eager editorial innocence – anticipated what was lurking just around the corner.

In January Maya Vivas and Leila Haile talked with Martha Daghlian for ArtsWatch’s “Vision 2020” series about the joys and challenges of running an adventurous art gallery on North Mississippi Avenue featuring work from a wide range of artists who identify as QTPoC (Queer Trans People of Color). Because of the Covid-19 crisis, their Ori Gallery has since shifted to an online presence. Photo courtesy Ori Gallery

And how could any of us have? Yes, news reports buried on the inside pages of the newspapers alerted us to some new virus very far away, but it didn’t seem like much to get alarmed about. Then things began to build, until, come March, the virus was all very real, and all over the place, and in spite of a determined right-wing campaign to persuade people that it was all fake news and the disease was a hoax, the world began to shut down.

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An invitation to ‘unleash the artist’

Manzanita's Hoffman Center for the Arts responds to the coronavirus shutdown by encouraging artists in all media to participate in a virtual show

Like so many others, artist Christine Wichers is feeling a bit out of sorts these days. She and her husband are 72; her mother, 94, lives with them.

“We’re in that high target range” for susceptibility to the novel coronavirus, said Wichers, who lives in Washougal, Wash. “I worry every single day that I am going to make some kind of mistake and cause us harm. I could do something wrong and bring that home or make one trip to the grocery store too many.”

When Christine Wichers saw how her painting, “At Home Day 9,” turned out, she thought, “Dang, that’s how I feel.”  The painting is part of the Hoffman Center for the Arts’ “Creating in Place” virtual show.  Photo courtesy: Hoffman Center for the Arts

But she does take comfort in her afternoon painting routine and recently found herself channeling the anxiety and uncertainty into her art. She’d been working on a series of sea creatures, with a focus on the eyes.

“I just started putting paint on the canvas,” she said. And as the work she has since dubbed At Home Day 9 evolved, she knew she’d captured her stormy spirit. “I said, ‘Dang, that’s how I feel.’”

Then came that moment of serendipity, the place every artist hopes to land – a gallery to share her work.

The Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita is hosting Creating in Place: Connecting in a Time of Uncertainty. The project was Hoffman Center board member David Dillon’s idea.

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