WE DON’T KNOW IF SOMEONE’S GOING TO GIVE HIM THE KEY TO THE CITY, but today is Stan Foote Day in Portland, and if there’s anyone we’d trust with the key, Stan’s the man. After a stellar 28-year career with Oregon Children’s Theatre, Foote is retiring as artistic director and headed south to the sun and sea of Mexico. Mayor Ted Wheeler has announced that Thursday is officially Foote’s day in Portland (it’s also his birthday: talk about a two-fer), and at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, the proclamation will be read. For a man who’s devoted his career to creating first-rate theater for young people, this amounts to an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime review: a kind of standing ovation from an entire city.
What makes Stan Foote so special? In May, on the day that he was in Atlanta to accept one of the highest honors in the world of American children’s theater, ArtsWatch dug deeply into the question, and one of the things we noted was his respect – for the theater itself, and for the intelligence and openness of his company’s young audiences. “Under Foote’s tenure Oregon Children’s Theatre has developed a reputation not only for producing new works and clever adaptations aimed at young audiences of different ages, but also for maintaining high professional standards and not playing down to its audiences, but respecting their ability to meet the storytelling on its own terms,” we wrote in our profile Stan Foote, at the top. “Theater is theater, Foote says. He objects to the belief ‘that directing a children’s play is different from directing for adults. It’s directing. It has all the same techniques; all the same elements of telling a story to an audience.’”
If that’s not the key to the city, it’s surely a key to success. Happy Stan Foote Day, Stan. And thanks for everything.
EXQUISITE GORGE: A PRESSING ENGAGEMENT
ON A BRIGHT AND SHINING SATURDAY, IT ALL CAME TOGETHER: Maryhill Museum of Art’s audacious, multiple-artist print project depicting 220 miles of land and life along the Columbia River Gorge went to press via steam roller. Friderike Heuer was there to complete her extraordinary series on the project. Exquisite Gorge 11: It’s a print! details in photographs and words the museum’s long and extraordinary process of building a 66-foot-long print, created by eleven artists and their helpers, each with a specific section of the river and each with a four-by-six-foot woodblock to design, prepare, and link to the others. On Saturday the crowds gathered, the artists pieced their sections together, the steam roller rolled, and – voila!
More than creating a highly unusual work of art, Heuer writes, Exquisite Gorge “brought people together who had not known each other before, bridged divides among groups that had often contradictory views, and created a national network of artists who now consider themselves part of a team. It brought attention to the issues of environmental decline, economic hazards, climate disaster, and, above all, a sense of shared love and admiration of this precious piece of land we inhabit, understanding that we cannot delegate its protection, no matter where we come from or how we relate to it.”
TO THE YOUNG PRINCE: MEN R DANCE. GO FOR IT.
HERE AT ARTSWATCH WE CONFESS THAT UNTIL DANCEGATE HIT MORNING TV a few days ago we didn’t really know who Lara Spencer was, but apparently she’s a pretty big deal. And apparently when she says something sort of dumb on her show, Good Morning America (which isn’t on ArtsWatch’s morning schedule, either) the world – and the dance world in particular – takes passionate notice. Spencer has apologized profusely for making fun of a young British royal, Prince George, after it was revealed that he likes to study ballet. Boys, Spencer suggested, just don’t do that sort of thing.
To Prince George, and any other young man with a hankering to dance, all ArtsWatch can say is, Go for it. It’s strenuous, and tough, and challenging, and extraordinarily rewarding. It’ll teach you things you never knew you needed to know. And you’ll be in excellent company, right up there with people named Baryshnikov and Ailey and Astaire and Hines. If you’d been in Portland in April you could’ve seen one of the very best, Savion Glover, in a show on the White Bird dance series called Savion Glover’s ALL FuNK’D UP (yes, it’s OK to say things like that). Here, in part, is what ArtsWatch had to say about it:
“Glover’s 75-minute show … was a high-decibel, almost nonstop clackety-clack of rhythm and sound, and Glover, in a display of sustained athletic energy, was the core attraction through almost all of it, dancing, singing snatches of song, even, toward the end, taking over the drum set with a smooth rattle of rhythm, as if to prove that the beat runs through his fingers as well as his toes. … (H)e wore his body with grace, strength, and bravado, casually yet furiously, arms swinging high in counterweight to his feet, teasing the borders of balance, sometimes with a towel slung across his shoulder to swipe at the sweat.”
Yes, George Balanchine famously said that ballet is woman. He was half-right. Dance decidedly is man, too. Make a noise. Be brave. Do what you want to do.
ART AND TERRITORY INTERTWINING IN THE WEST
MAYBE MORE THAN ANY OTHER REGION OF THE NATION, THE WEST is attuned to the rhythms of the land and water that do so much to shape and define its people and its ways of life. Artists have long taken note of this connection and explored it in their work: Maryhill’s Exquisite Gorge project along the Columbia River is just one example, if a particularly ambitious one.
This week Lori Tobias reports on another deep dive into the territory. In 40 years and 36 miles along the Oregon Coast she tells the story of the Sandgren Coast PaintOut Project, created 40 years ago by Oregon artist and OSU art teacher Nelson Sandgren and carried on by his son and fellow artist Erik Sandgren. Focused on outdoors painting, it’s evolved into “a two-week, informal summer gathering where subject matter varies from sea to forest, headlands to harbors, streams and rivers, beaches and boats, wave-swept rocks, seabirds, and lighthouses,” Tobias writes. You can see the work of more than forty PaintOut artists in the exhibition Art 363: Representing the Oregon Coast, at the Newport Visual Arts Center through Sept. 29.
And the Elisabeth Jones Art Center in Northwest Portland, which focuses most of its artistic energy through an environmental lens, is getting ready for a similar territorial project – this one, which has been incubating for years, a paint-out of the entire Pacific Coast, from the Mexican to the Canadian border. Called For the Seventh Generation, it’s meant eventually to create a mile-long mural of scenes covering the coast. You can see about a third of the paintings (including one by Erik Sandgren, pictured) in an outdoor installation Sept. 28-29 at the U.S. Post Office at Northwest Lovejoy Street and Eighth Avenue. In the West, people think big.
MUSIC: THIS LAND IS MINE (AND YOURS)
MUSIC EDITOR MATTHEW NEIL ANDREWS IS OFF IN BALI PLAYING GAMELAN, but that doesn’t mean he can’t cover what’s happening in Oregon, too. “This week and weekend you’ve got free funk and two days of local metal in downtown Portland, psychedelic cumbia and shreddy math punk across the river, and a retro-rock sextet up in NoPo,” he writes in MusicWatch Weekly: This land is mine. “But right now I need to put down my panggul mallet and my kretek cigarette and talk to you about Jimmie Herrod.” And then he talks about Jimmie Herrod, and a whole lot more.
- ‘I CATERED MY LIFE TO FIT THE MUSIC’. David Bates talks with Jerome Blankenship, founder of Ships to Roam, which opens McMinnville’s Walnut City Music Festival on Friday. Blankenship’s influences, he says, range from yodeling to bluegrass to Christian rock to grunge.
- MEANING AND QUALITY ON A SHOESTRING. Angela Allen writes about Opera Theatre Oregon’s This Land Sings: Songs of Wandering, Love and Protest, a chamber opera by Michael Dougherty about the life and times of Woody Guthrie, and how it succeeded on a slim budget.
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