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The year that was: Looking back on ’22

The opening of the Reser Center in Beaverton and the cautious return to post-pandemic "normal" top a vigorous year of arts events in Oregon.

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The new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, at night. Photo: Joe Cantrell

The biggest opening on Oregon’s arts scene in 2022 wasn’t in downtown Portland, or Ashland, or Eugene. On March 1 the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, a $55 million visual and performing arts center, opened on The Round in Beaverton, bringing Portland’s western suburbs an expansive cultural focus and attracting both national artists on tour and many of the state’s biggest arts players, from the Oregon Symphony to White Bird and BodyVox dance to Chamber Music Northwest and Portland Baroque Orchestra.


2022: THE CULTURAL YEAR IN REVIEW


The 43,000-square-foot complex includes an adaptable 550-seat performance hall that’s proven to be highly popular with audiences and performers alike, plus meeting and lobby spaces, rehearsal and workshop spaces, an outdoor plaza, a new adjacent parking garage, and an art gallery that already has produced some significant exhibits: It opened with Celilo — Never Silenced, a show that considered the impact on Native cultures of the flooding of Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, and that featured an all-star lineup of Northwest Indigenous artists.

The crowds came out of hibernation and an audience dance contest had festival-goers cutting the virtual rug at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Photo: Joe Cantrell

It was a year when, for better and for worse, people started moving around again after many long months of Covid-dictated isolation. Audiences began, tentatively, to return to plays and dance and music concerts, and although several runs were interrupted by Covid outbreaks among the cast or crew, on the whole the shows went on. It wasn’t exactly “back to normal,” and still isn’t. In Ashland, for instance, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival produced a curtailed season and was intermittently hampered by wildfires, smoke, and Covid outbreaks. But in performance halls across the state it was back on the boards, and audiences, if fewer than ordinary, were in the seats.

Out and about at the Camp 18 Restaurant and Logging Museum. Photo: K.B. Dixon

What did people (including ArtsWatch’s contributors) do with their newly reclaimed freedom? Photographer K.B. Dixon celebrated by grabbing his camera and visiting some forest-focused art at Camp 18 on the road between Portland and the North Coast. Over the Fourth of July holiday, photographer Joe Cantrell took in all four days of the revived Waterfront Blues Festival.

The Reser Center wasn’t the only building or civic landmark in the news in 2022. In May the City of Portland and Metro released a study declaring that Keller Auditorium, the 3,000-seat performance hall that is home to touring Broadway musicals, performances by Portland Opera and Oregon Ballet Theatre, and other attractions, has serious structural issues and could not withstand a serious earthquake. In September Brian Libby toured the auditorium for ArtsWatch, talked with the people trying to decide what to do about it, and in his story Keller Auditorium: Renovate or replace? laid out the options–all of them expensive, and all of them disruptive to one degree or another.

What might the success of Beaverton’s Reser Center mean longterm? A similar center, the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts, is in the deep planning and fundraising stages in Corvallis, to be built on a corner of the Oregon State University campus that would make it also easily accessible to the city’s downtown. In Newberg, the Chehalem Cultural Center is raising money for an ambitious, 9,000 square foot expansion for a performing arts wing.

And with thriving arts & cultural centers and/or museums in nearly every corner of Oregon, from Newport to Pendleton to Bend to Eugene to Klamath Falls to Baker City to La Grande and beyond, it’s not out of line to consider that the state might be well on the way to moving from a Portland-and-everyone-else cultural model to a model of many creative centers, spread out over a large geographic area. Such a shift could be hastened by a combination of broad internet availability and a Covid-prompted rise of virtual work spaces that carries the possibility of allowing many workers to live not where they have to live, but where they want to live. Already we’re seeing a mini-exodus of Portland artists to Astoria and other smaller places.

The issue of public statues, meanwhile, festered for another year. The beloved Thompson Elk Fountain, damaged during 2020’s downtown Portland social justice protests, remains in storage. Brian Libby wrote in March about The Elk’s compromised return, and ArtsWatch followed in May with a more hopeful but still tentative report, Elk and fountain, together again?. By year’s end it appeared that the elk would return to its public pedestal. But it was still in storage, and money issues hadn’t yet been nailed down, let alone which city bureaucracy would be responsible for maintaining and safeguarding it. Meanwhile, several public statues torn down during 2020’s protests, including ones of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt from downtown’s South Park Blocks, remain in storage, with no word of their eventual fate.

And disaster struck in August, Marc Mohan wrote, when a fire swept through the historic Roseway Theatre, a neighborhood movie palace in Northeast Portland that had been in continuous use for almost a century. Structural damage was extensive, and although renovation was considered, it proved too costly. By year’s end demolition had begun. A bright spot: The Roseway’s neon marquee, with its bold red rose, was salvaged and headed for permanent display at the National Neon Sign Museum in The Dalles.

A slice of the big reveal of “Exquisite Gorge II,” above the Columbia River on the grounds of the Maryhill Museum of Art. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Twenty-twenty-two was a year of big collaborations and doing things together, in spite of health restrictions. That meant, for Northwest fiber artists, a truly big project: Exquisite Gorge II, a grand creation of artwork organized by Maryhill Museum of Art and reflecting the life and land along both sides of a 220-mile stretch of the Columbia River, from the confluence of the Willamette River to the confluence of the Snake River. Photographer, writer, and visual artist Friderike Heuer followed the entire project, producing a dozen stories culminating with the finale, Exquisite Gorge II: It’s a Wrap! You can see the entire series here.

And it was a year for changing faces–or at least names, and possibly directions, too. In March, as Marc Mohan reports, the venerable Northwest Film Center became PAMCUT: Center for an Untold Tomorrow. The “PAM” emphasizes the film and video center’s ties to its parent organization, the Portland Art Museum. The “CUT” remains mysteriously untold. Mohan followed up on May 24 with Change Is Hard, a look at the broad array of reactions to the shift: “It’s complicated – and not everyone’s happy about that.”

***

ArtsWatch has been taking a long look at the highlights of the cultural year, and has spent the past week publishing the results:

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  • Monday: 2022: A literary year in review. Amy Leona Havin looks between the lines at the year’s highlights, from the Portland Book Festival to chats with Oregon Book Award winners and more.
  • Tuesday: In the arts world, a year of new faces. A look at who’s moved into arts leadership positions in 2022 in Portland and around Oregon.
  • Wednesday: The cultural and hot wars of 2022. From Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to vaccine wars, street protests, racial reckonings and more, the arts world has responded to the larger world.
  • Wednesday: 2022: The year at the theater. From Clowns Without Borders to a queer-perspective Our Town, Oregon’s theater scene took the year literally in stages, from Covid caution to something resembling (but not quite) full speed ahead.
  • Thursday: FilmWatch Yearly: The Top 10 Movies of the Year. Marc Mohan picks the cream of the ’22 movie crop from Hollywood and around the world.
  • Thursday: Screening room: Behind the camera in ’22. From the glories of Movie Madness to a flock of festivals to the tale of Will Vinton’s lost dreams, it was a very good film year in Oregon.
  • Friday: Here’s looking at you: Visual arts in 2022. From Frida Kahlo to Banksy to Arvie Smith to Elizabeth Leach’s 40 years to Michelangelo vs. the dinosaurs, a year of invigorating things to see and think about in Oregon art.
  • Friday: MusicWatch Annual: My name is Janus. Like a two-headed ancient Roman god, music editor Matthew Neil Andrews looks backwards and forward to the trends and traditions he hopes will continue into the next year.
  • Saturday: 2022: Dance in the rear view mirror. Jamuna Chiarini considers the resilience, grit, and transcendence of Portland’s dance community in 2022.
  • Saturday: Memorial: Those we lost in 2022. Remembering 25 leading Oregon arts figures who died during the calendar year.

***

PEOPLE

Photographer and writer K.B. Dixon continued his series of portraits of leading Oregon arts figures in 2022. Above is Christina Kortum, an award-winning make-up, prop, and effects artist and founder and owner of Ravenous Studios. Her work can be seen on shows such as Grimm, Portlandia, Leverage, The Librarians, Star Trek Discovery as well as in numerous independent feature films. To see more of Dixon’s work from ArtsWatch, look here.

Art, of course, doesn’t exist on its own. It’s made by artists, and made possible by a host of other people: teachers, technicians, administrators, fundraisers, audiences who pay to experience the art. In 2022 ArtsWatch’s writers told the stories of many of these people–artists and advocates alike, including people making art happen in Oregon, and artists bringing their work from elsewhere. A few of the people who made their marks:

From Joamette Gil’s “MAÑANA” comic anthology.

Jan. 10: Joamette Gil on MAÑANA: Latinx Comics From The 25th Century. TJ Acena talks with comics artist and publisher Gil about her new all-Latinx comic anthology, the latest from the award-winning Portland independent comics publisher P&M Press.

Cassia Dawn performing under the pink lights at her EP release/farewell show in Redmond in late January. Photo: D. “Bing” Bingham

Feb. 21: Cassia Dawn: And the show goes on. D. “Bing” Bingham catches up with the singer/songwriter, who’s been making music around Central Oregon since she was 15, as she finishes an EP and just before she heads to Nashville for a shot at something big.

March 25: This is your brain on art. Brian Libby profiles Portland psychobiographer William Todd Schultz, whose book The Mind of the Artist demystifies the driving forces behind creative inspiration.

Dr. David Morrow conducts while Portland State University’s Dr. Ethan Sperry observes. Photo: Daryl Browne

April 14: That note in music not heard with the ears: Dr. David Morrow visits Oregon. The esteemed director of the Morehouse College Glee Club came to Portland and taught a poem–James Weldon Johnson’s O Black and Unknown Bards–to singers from several high schools and three Portland State University choirs. Dr. Morrow, Daryl Browne writes, helped the singers get to the heart of the African American Spiritual.

May 29: Carey Wong & “The World Transformed.” In a Stage & Studio podcast, Dmae Lo Roberts talks shop with the prolific opera and theater scenic designer, whose work is spotlighted at the Portland Chinatown Museum.

June 1: A Wonderful message: Randall Vemer’s paintings in “MusArt.” An award-winning short documentary film, James Bash writes, blends classical music, musicians, paintings, and an uplifting biography of Vemer, who was the Oregon Symphony’s principal violist for 20 years but began a new career as a visual artist after focal dystonia severely affected his hands and put an end to his career as a musician.

Inspiration on the home front: Novelist, memoirist, poet, publisher, collage artist, and cat lover Kevin Sampsell, cradling Susan. Photo: Brian Libby

July 17: Kevin Sampsell’s Happy Accidents. Brian Libby visits the Portland novelist (This Is Between Us) and memoirist (A Common Pornography) to talk about Sampsell’s new book of collages, I Made an Accident, a celebration of his creative second act.

July 20: A beginner every day: Considering Zlatomir Fung. The 23-year-old virtuoso cellist’s visit to Oregon for Chamber Music Northwest, Angela Allen writes, included concerts, a master class, an afternoon with four cellists even younger than him, and “one of the best string recitals” CMNW’s co-leader Soovin Kim has ever heard.

Portland writer Judith Arcana, a member of Jane, the Chicago underground service that helped women get safe illegal abortions before the Supreme Court ruling in 1973 that legalized abortions. The year prior, Arcana was one of seven women arrested from the Janes; her arrest and the history of Jane are detailed in the HBO documentary The Janes.

Aug. 1: Judith Arcana: This is Jane. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning in 2022 of abortion rights, Stage & Studio podcast creator Dmae Lo Roberts has a timely pro-choice conversation with Portland writer Arcana, a veteran of the pre-Roe v. Wade fight for abortion rights.

Aug. 1: Jon Raymond: To Oregon and Beyond. Brian Libby has a long conversation with writer Raymond, known best for his Oregon-set movies with director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff; First Cow), whose new novel Denial ventures beyond our borders and into the future.

Aug. 10: “If the center is the human soul”: Composer Osvaldo Golijov. Angela Allen profiles the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival’s multifaceted resident composer.

Oct. 3: Bookbinding: The Art of the Old and New. In a city that revels in the art of the book, Portland bookbinder Jason Patrician revives and restores the beauty of printed history. William C. Stack tells Patrician’s tale of the art in the craft.

Oct. 5: Portland: Comics City, U.S.A. Must be something in the water, or the creative talent pool: TJ Acena spotlights five of this year’s seven Oregon winners of Eisner Awards, the Oscars of the comics industry.

Holly Griffith, new artistic director of Corrib Theatre. Photo: Shon Curtis

Dec. 6: Who is Holly Griffith? Bobby Bermea talks with the new artistic director of the Irish theater Corrib about Dublin and contemporary playwrights and her twisting path to Portland.

Dec. 20: In ballet class, “I want kids to be happy.” With an emphasis on technique and also inclusion, Martha Ullman West writes, new director (and former OBT dancer) Katarina Svetlova is leading Oregon Ballet Theatre School in a fresh new direction.

INDIGENOUS RESILIENCE

In 2022 ArtsWatch continued its longstanding exploration of Indigenous arts and culture, from the completion of Kalapuyan visual artist, writer, and curator Steph Littlebird’s two-year series “Indigenous History & Resilience” to museum exhibitions to remembrances of Celilo Falls to a profile of a MacArthur “genius” Indigenous filmmaker:

Kay Walking Stick, “Wallowa Dreaming,” created at Crow’s Shadow and exhibited at Hallie Ford. Four-color lithograph on Rives BFK White. Edition of 16. Collaborating printer Frank Janzen, TMP. Image courtesy of Crow’s Shadow.

Feb. 22: Teaming Up: Crow’s Shadow and Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Littlebird concluded her two-year series with this piece about the creative collaboration between Crow’s Shadow Institute of Arts, the innovative center on the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, and Hallie Ford, the Northwest-focused Salem art museum. Other pieces in the series in 2022: one on former Oregon Poet Laureate Elizabeth Woody and her strategies as leader of the Museum at Warm Springs; one on the High Desert Museum in Bend and its collaborations with the Warm Springs museum and other Indigenous cultural groups. You can find the entire ten-story series here.

Brilliant beadwork and other traditional designs brought a sense of celebration to the gathering on the 65th anniversary of the flooding of Celilo Falls. Photo: Joe Cantrell

March 12: After the flood: Remembering Celilo. On the 65th anniversary of the flooding of Celilo Falls by The Dalles Dam, the River People gathered to remember, revisit, and look ahead, and photographer Joe Cantrell was there, capturing the spirit of it all.

Film still from “Things You Know But Cannot Explain” by Michelle Hernandez and Chantal Jung (2022), part of “The Bartow Project.”

May 7: “The Bartow Project” and the life and work of Rick Bartow. The pandemic turns a theater project by Dell’Arte International and the Wiyot Tribe into an online effort by four filmmaking teams to explore and honor the work of the late, great Oregon artist Bartow, Jordan Essoe writes.

Oct. 7: “If it goes with you when you go, it’s gone.” With the aid of major grants, Shelby Oppel Wood writes, Indigenous Oregonians are reviving language, knowledge, and traditions via videos, apps, and radio waves, from a Native radio program in Klamath Falls, to creating educational apps for young people to learn the Northern Paiute language, to creating a multimedia exhibit about the places and experiences of Indigenous people from the Columbia River system, and more.

“Legend Adaox,” by David Boxley (Tsimshian, b. 1952), at Hallie Ford Museum of Art. 1988, ash, alder, paint; 26.5 by 25 by 6 inches. Collection of George and Colleen Hoyt.

Oct. 24: Northwest Coast art at Hallie Ford Museum challenges expectations about Indigenous art. More than 100 pieces from the George and Colleen Hoyt collection show that Native art is both contemporary and as much about beauty as utility, David Bates writes.

Nov. 21: Sky Hopinka: Poet of Indigenous Cinema. Brian Libby talks film and life with experimental filmmaker Hopinka, winner of a 2022 MacArthur “genius grant” and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. Hopinka grew up in northwest Washington state and began his film career in Portland, where he lived for several years and graduated from Portland State University.

Nov. 28: Sounding a “Larger Voice” from Indigenous America. The Larger Voice–the Portland-based Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s new anthology of work by 13 prominent Native writers, edited by Washington state Poet Laureate Rena Priest with an introduction by recent U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo–is a celebration and a provocation. And it’s free.

Dec. 16: Jeffrey Gibson and Oscar Howe at PAM. Laurel Reed Pavic considers the Portland Art Museum’s dual exhibitions of work by the pioneering contemporary Indigenous artist Howe and the younger Gibson, and how their art offers interrelated reflections on identity and the historical record.

CULTURAL HUBS

In 2022 ArtsWatch began a series on cultural hubs: places that attract artistic energy, becoming centers of engagement for groups large and small of people seeking to engage in areas of cultural interest. Some are in large metropolitan areas. Many are in small cities, towns, or rural areas, and become essential gathering spots. We wanted to know what makes such centers tick, and what role they play in their communities. We’ll be continuing to profile such places in 2023. Here are several we visited and wrote about in ’22:

Students in an intermediate ceramics class at the Oregon Coast School of Art – (from left) Kathy Booker, Sue Olinger, Robin Powers, and Randi Braaten – work on pots in a ceramics class. Photo: Danita Cahill

Feb. 19: In tiny Gardiner, a home for art and community. On the South Coast, two potters have turned an abandoned middle school into a center for art classes serving adults and Reedsport School District students. Danita Cahill tells the tale.

March 22: Manzanita’s Hoffman Center for the Arts: A legacy of art and community. Lloyd and Myrtle Hoffman, who offered classes and opened their home to friends and strangers, left a gathering place for art lovers, Jordan Essoe writes.

April 19: Art Adventure: Heading to Hillsboro. From its Walters Arts Center to its Civic Center, a Lee Kelly sculpture and more, Portland’s booming western neighbor offers a surprise for the eyes. Friderike Heuer tells the story in words and photographs.

The Coos History Museum opened at its waterfront location in 2015. A 1902 steam spool logging donkey is in the foreground. Photo: Jordan Essoe

June 14: Coos History Museum looks beyond the past to issues of social justice. The museum, a thriving cultural hub on the Oregon coast, is asking its audience to consider how the past shapes the future, Jordan Essoe writes.

Dr. S. Renee Mitchell, outside the Soul Restoration Center. Photo: Bobby Bermea

June 24: Restoring the Soul: A center for Black life. The Soul Restoration Center, begun by Darrell Grant and carried forward by Dr. S. Renee Mitchell, revives a key cultural space for Black Portlanders, Bobby Bermea writes.

Nov. 9: New plays, new ideas, all around the town. In Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Ashland New Plays Festival wrap up seasons of bold plays that grapple with modern issues and life. Brett Campbell tells the story.

Dec. 16: Artists gather round the table at The Workhouse in Bend. D. “Bing” Bingham profiles the combination of studios and gallery in the old Bend Iron Works, which has been transformed into a communal space for artists to share their creative process with the public.

Volunteers prepare to stoke East Creek Art Camp’s anagama kiln from four ports in the kiln’s sides. Every potter with a piece in the kiln helps with the firing. Photo: David Bates

Dec. 27: At East Creek Art Camp, a community of potters gathers around the anagama kiln: Near Willamina, Joe Robinson has created a haven for ceramicists working with the wood-fired kiln. “When you stand next to a fire,” he says, “you feel like you belong.” David Bates shapes the story.

AROUND OREGON AND THE NORTHWEST

Yakama artist Jon Shellenberger: “These images are a manifestation of the culture as it relates to the environment.  They demarcate sacred sites, warn people to beware, indicate the presence of animals or plants, and are at times prophetic.” Photos: Friderike Heuer

Feb. 12: Honor the Past, Respect the Present: On the Pictographs and Petroglyphs of the Columbia River Gorge. A morning spent amid the Columbia Hills inspires musings on the rock paintings and carvings that dot the landscape. A photo essay by Friderike Heuer.

Feb. 17: Juan Santiago at Gambrel Gallery. Seventy-one porcelain princesses graced Juan Santiago’s exhibition No Mirrors in This House at Gambrel Gallery in Ashland. Though cast from a single mold, each figure’s appearance varies due to the mold’s inevitable degradation, Georgina Ruff writes.

Juan Santiago, Porcelain Meditation (2013). Photo courtesy Gambrel Gallery, Ashland.

May 9: Eugene Ballet gives a Shakespeare classic a feminist twist. The company’s Taming of the Shrew takes a steampunk edge, resurrects the work of a 19th century woman composer, and flirts with the idea that the play was written by a woman, Gary Ferrington writes.

June 13: Bobby Bermea: Welcome to Elgin. In far northeastern Oregon, the curtain rose on a brand new Shakespeare festival. Portland actor and ArtsWatch columnist Bermea revels in the adventure as he travels 280 miles east to star as Othello at the new, ambitious Opera House Shakespeare Company, in the town of Elgin, population a little more than 1,500, about 20 miles north of LaGrande. It is, he declares, a grand adventure. On July 1, in Au Revoir, Elgin, Bermea bids a fond farewell to the little town, and festival, that could.

June 20: “Cheese War”: Sisters tell story of dairy dispute that divided Tillamook County. Yes, there really was a cheese war–and Lori Tobias talks with sisters Marilyn Milne and Linda Kirk, who were so intrigued by how it came to be that they wrote the book (titled Cheese War: Conflict and Courage in Tillamook County, Oregon) on the 1960s battle that followed changes in the local dairy industry.

“Floating,” by Hanne Niederhausen, at The Arts Center in Corvallis. 

June 23:“A Journey” into lifelong creativity. At the Corvallis Arts Center, Tosca Ruotolo writes, an exhibition of works by Hanne Niederhausen and Judith Wyss reveals a continuing artistic evolution and inventiveness in maturity.

June 26: Ode to summer: Manzanita’s poetry walk. And the word on the street is: words. On July 9 poets would read their work around town, Lori Tobias wrote in a preview to the stroll-and-tell sponsored by the Hoffman Center for the Arts, and the event would culminate with a July 31 reading by Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani.

July 6: A journey into Hanford, then and now. A trip into the toxic center of the Northwest’s nuclear legacy, and to the museum that tells part of its story, reveals still-potent fissures over power, safety, and rights. A photo essay by Friderike Heuer.

July 16: Sandra Roumagoux: On the road again. The Newport artist (and former mayor) finds her new show’s inspiration along the tidal flats of Yaquina Bay Road, Lori Tobias writes.

July 24: Egypt through 19th-century eyes: David Roberts’ paintings at Hallie Ford Museum. The Scottish painter created images from the Middle East, traveling “at a time when things looked very different,” John Olbrantz, the exhibition curator and director of the Salem museum, says. David Bates writes about Obrantz’s four-decade fascination with Roberts’ journeys, and the exhibition that finally came about.

“Aging in Place,” by Janet Geib Pretti of Port Orford (painted bronze and wood, 19 by 16 by 13 inches), in “Rural” at Umpqua Valley Arts in Roseburg. Photo: David Bates

Aug. 8: “Rural” at Umpqua Valley Arts: “Art that makes sense in a world of rural values.” David Bates visited the Roseburg show of nearly 100 pieces in various media, all created by artists living outside the state’s major urban areas. The work explored the gap between urban and rural Oregon — and strove to bridge it.

Aug. 28: Actor George Dzundza on living in Netarts and putting on plays “you won’t ordinarily see.” Lori Tobias talks with the movie and television veteran, now living on the Oregon Coast and directing Edward Albee’s Seascape onstage. Dzundza calls theater a “blood event”: unlike the movies, “you have a direct, visceral response.”

Duane Snider, at home with art in Waldport. Photo: Lori Tobias

Oct. 2: The collection of a lifetime. A health scare got Waldport art collector Duane Snider thinking about where his art would go after he died. The process continues – with helping hands, Lori Tobias writes.

Dec. 6: Metal Arts Gift Show: “Crazy people who light things on fire and hit them with big hammers.” The show at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center features 30 artists who make everything from jewelry to Viking armor, David Bates writes.

Maggie Fromme Bowman of McMinnville has spent years honing her skills as a silversmith, to make jewelry. She organized December’s metal arts show at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center in McMinnville. Photo courtesy Maggie Fromme Bowman.

Dec. 20: Aspirants and educators: Orchestra Next’s decade of dance music. Ten years ago, Brett Campbell writes, the talented but cash-short Eugene Ballet couldn’t afford a live orchestra for its annual production of The Nutcracker. Brian McWhorter, the contemporary classical trumpet virtuoso and music prof at the University of Oregon, wanted to take his kids, but wanted them to experience the ballet with live music. Talks began, and McWhorter created Orchestra Next, an ensemble that blends seasoned professional musicians with advanced students, to happy results. A decade on, they’re still at it, and The Nutcracker dances to a happy, and live, tune.

IT’S A PUZZLE

“Adoration of the Magi,” Albrecht Dürer, 1504, oil on pane, 39.3 x 44.8 inches, Uffiizi, Florence. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In March of 2022 Daryl Browne, ArtsWatch’s choral-music columnist, embarked on a fresh adventure: creating a monthly crossword puzzle on a musical or other artistic theme. Her first puzzle (you can solve them online, or print them out and solve them the old-fashioned way, with a pencil) focused on the music of film composer John Williams. Her most recent, from December, is on well-seasoned holiday art, including Dürer’s 1504 painting Adoration of the Magi, above. You can see (and solve) all of Browne’s brain-ticklers here.

THE ART OF LEARNING

Arts and culture don’t just happen. They’re learned, and passed along, shifting from generation to generation, but building on, or responding to, what came before. In 2022 ArtsWatch continued its commitment to telling stories about the art of learning, and the people who urge it along. A few of those stories:

Flash the Blue Marlin erupts from a spume of plastic garbage in front of the Lincoln City Cultural Center. Flash was part of the center’s “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” exhibit. Photo courtesy Lincoln City Cultural Center.

Feb. 10: “Washed Ashore” turns plastic garbage into art-with-a-message on the Oregon Coast. That giant blue marlin shooting toward the sky in front of the Lincoln City Cultural Center was made by students from Lincoln County’s public schools from plastic harvested from the sea. Students made 19 such sculptures from plastic detritus gathered from the shores, learning about art and vital environmental issues at the same time.

March 14: Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra gives young musicians the tools to groove. Rising in the wake of two generations of cutbacks in Oregon education after state tax limitations were put in place, the privately run youth orchestra has helped fill an important gap, Brett Campbell writes, pairing aspiring younger musicians with experienced jazz artists and helping them learn by doing.

March 14: PlayWrite: Using theater to transform the lives of at-risk Portland youth. Bennett Campbell Ferguson talks with PlayWrite founder Bruce Livingston about how the focus of theater and writing can provide purpose and structure to young people on the edge, and create “a safe space for participants to explore themselves in a new way – to build a story that’s never been written before.”

Hospitality, or omotenashi, is central to the tea ceremony. Photo: Brett Campbell

April 18: The Art of Tea. Through a lifelong study of the Japanese tea ceremony, Brett Campbell writes, Oregon’s Margie Yap learned how to brew an intentional life–and now, through her Issoan Tea School, passes the traditions on to a new generation.

May 9: Young Jazz Composers: Jazz to the Future. How do you learn the specialized skills of creating new music in the ever-evolving jazz medium? Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s education program helps young musicians create new music, Brett Campbell writes.

Aug. 3: Art Conspiracy gives youth in rural Yamhill and Polk counties a deep dive into the arts. The nonprofit offers two-week immersive classes in everything from printmaking to Ghanian drumming to performing in a Shakespearean play, concentrating on smaller, cash-strapped cities and school districts where such programs are in short supply, David Bates writes.

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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