To Anne Hughes and Ed Asner

ArtsWatch Weekly: Remembering an iconic Portland cultural figure and a brilliant TV star; Art in the Pearl, September events & more

ANNE HUGHES, A WARM, EMBRACING, SHARPLY INTELLIGENT, and quietly influential cultural force in Portland for decades, died August 26. She was 76 years old, and had been living with Alzheimer’s disease. Her obituary calls her, accurately, “the Gertrude Stein of Portland, a patron of our city, and the patron saint of community and neighborliness.”

Anne was known for a lot of things, maybe most widely for the Anne Hughes Coffee Shop she ran for several years inside Powell’s City of Books, providing good hot coffee and snacks and a place to nestle in with the books you were going to buy or thought you might buy or just wanted to leaf through, and to meet up with friends and feel the buzz of all the other people all around you doing the same things. She was a political activist, and no pushover: Arrested with 51 others during a 1992 downtown protest against Dan Quayle and charged with unlawful assembly, she sued the city successfully and gave the money from her settlement to others at the protest who’d had their cameras and photographic equipment damaged or destroyed by police.

She was a co-founder of Portland Saturday Market. She operated a Northwest Portland bed-and-breakfast place in the years before Airbnb, and in the 1970s ran an art gallery, representing important artists including Henk Pander, Sherrie Wolf, Judy Cooke, and Louis Bunce; it was also, according to her obituary, the first gallery outside of California to exhibit the work of Judy Chicago. A widely admired promotional poster for the gallery – on a lot of Portland walls, it was part of a matched set with Bud Clark’s “Expose Yourself to Art” poster – featured a photo of Anne sitting in as easy chair by a fireplace, nude, along with a quote from Gertrude Stein: “If you are not rich you either buy clothes or you buy art.”

Two to remember: Anne Hughes (photo via Facebook) and Ed Asner (photo: Tim Leyes).

Anne gathered a wide variety of friends, including artists and writers and politicians and students and architects and even journalists, and for a while in the ’80s hosted salons, mixing and matching her guests with a deft hand. They were bohemian gatherings in the best sense of the word: You never knew who might be invited on a particular day or where the conversations might go, and that was part of their civilized charm. In the 1990s the party moved to the Buckman neighborhood, where she operated a gathering place called the Kitchen Table Cafe and lived in the apartment above. Always, Anne provided a kind of community glue, quietly arranging things and holding them together. “There is no greater way to pay your respects nor honor her memory, than by treating anyone you know with love, by being kind to strangers, and by being considerate and thoughtful as you navigate all of life’s choices, whether great or small,” her son Joe Hughes wrote. “To her, those were the keys to a happy life.”

September 21, which would have been her 77th birthday, has been declared a citywide Anne Hughes Day. You can follow news about plans for the celebration on the Facebook page Anne Hughes Day in Portland.


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ED ASNER, THE GREAT CHARACTER STAR OF TELEVISION (and sometimes movies, including the comedy Elf, in which he played Santa Claus, and the wonderfully buoyant animated film Up, for which he did scintillating vocal work), also died in the past week; on Sunday, Aug. 29, at 91. Asner, who played the belovedly irascible newsroom boss Lou Grant on the TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Lou Grant, stayed active until the end, as Scott Feinberg’s entertaining interview in The Hollywood Reporter – the last interview Grant gave – makes clear. Asner also acted onstage: Just two years ago, at age 89, he starred on the Oregon Coast as God (no small part) in the political comedy God Help Us!, in a benefit production for the Newport Center for the Performing Arts. ArtsWatch columnist Lori Tobias interviewed him on the occasion for her story Ed Asner: On politics and performing, and it turned into something of a standup comedy act. “Anything you’re still hoping to accomplish?” Tobias asked. “Have they picked the Nobel Peace Prize this year?” Asner shot back.




For the 25th year, Art in the Pearl

Among the art and artists in this weekend’s Art in the Pearl, clockwise from top left: Chas Martin’s sculpture “Mentor”; Kristy Kun’s fabric art “Ninth Moon”; Lisa Burge’s painting “Grayson”; Kelli MacConnell’s print “Gorge Winds.”

ART IN THE PEARL FINE ARTS & CRAFTS FESTIVAL. It’s been 25 years since the inaugural Art in the Pearl gathered flocks of artists, tents, food vendors, and curious visitors into Portland’s North Park Blocks for a Labor Day Weekend market and party. The festival’s only grown in the years since, establishing an identity that’s part carnival, part Saturday Market, part country fair in the city, part open-air art gallery, and entirely its own. 

This year’s three-day festival – which runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-5, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6 – is a bit trimmed back because of the Covid crisis and the abrupt rise of the Delta variant. Masks and social distancing will be required. There’ll be no food carts, and no hands-on section: See the festival’s Covid safety information here

Within those limits, there’ll be plenty to see and do. The number of artists is a little smaller than usual to provide ample space for distancing, but still a robust hundred-strong, ranging from well-known to emerging artists, and encompassing craft and fine art and the fertile territory between: sculpture; painting, drawing, and printmaking; digital art; fiber, glass, and metal art; jewelry; photography; woodworking.




Double exposures, closeness, rituals & reckonings

 ART IN THE PEARL ISN’T THE ONLY VISUAL GAME IN TOWN. ArtsWatch’s writers have been looking at art in a lot of other nooks and crannies in the past week, then thinking and writing about what they’ve seen. Here’s a trio of responses in essay form.

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THE ALLURE OF DRAWING NEAR. “What is the value of closeness?” Shannon M. Lieberman asks, and discovers some possible responses, in a time of pandemic and isolation, in a pair of exhibits at the Alberta District gallery Nucleus Portland. Sasha Ira’s solo show of portraiture and a group show of miniature artworks, Lieberman writes, “are very different from one another but both succeed in creating a sense of closeness that feels both rare and precious. Ira’s portraits bring viewers in through their sense of intimacy and immediacy, while the scale of the works in Microdose 3 beckons visitors to draw near and look carefully at the universe in microcosm.”

Gary Burnley, “Aunt Hagar’s Children #3,” 2020. Courtesy Elizabeth Houston Gallery.

SEEING DOUBLE. “It all started with a waterfall I knew I’d seen before,” Brian Libby writes. “Only this waterfall seemed to be coming through a window.” The image, by Portland photographer Mike Vos, was from his double-exposure Dead Cities project, “combining a shot of Snoqualmie Falls in Washington with a shot of a square window amidst a wall of lapped wood siding with a few stray bullet holes.” Vos’s photos led Libby to a pair of other artists working in double exposures of idea and technique, via photo weavings or collaged work  – the Vietnamese American artist Dinh Q. Lê, showing at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, and the artist Gary Burnley, who is showing historic photographs of Black life combined with classical paintings, at Blue Sky Gallery. The three artists’ work, Libby suggests, “is not just about the combined effect or the riffing of one image off another, but the transition itself, which can be violent but can also lead us to some kind of greater truth.”

SPRING AND OTHER CYCLES: THESIS EXHIBITIONS FROM PNCA’S LOW-RESIDENCY VISUAL STUDIES. At Pacific Northwest College of Art over the past month, Lindsay Costello writes, “five candidates for the Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies installed work in the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture galleries, one week at a time. That means I listened to five thesis talks and visited the gallery five times: my own kind of ritual. In some rites from a spring reckoning, organized by curator Laurel V. McLaughlin, the artists—Kelsey Hamilton Davis, Ryan Kitson, Madison Queen, Wade Schuster, and Douglas Wiltshire—approach the concept of ritual through sculpture, installation, painting, photography, and more. To varied effect, their works unravel how rituals benefit or encumber us: the experience of them, the memory of them, and the construction of them.”



Backstage tales: A peek behind the curtains 

Jane Mantiri. Photo by: Karen Weliky/The Immigrant Story
Jane Mantiri. Photo by: Karen Weliky/The Immigrant Story

JANE MANTIRI: COMING FULL CIRCLE AT LAST. Nancy E. Dollahite, in a story originally published by The Immigrant Story, writes a compelling profile of Mantiri, who was born in Indonesia, immigrated with her family to the Netherlands, and finally came to the United States. Between cultures, she eventually discovered theater after moving to Oregon, and it provided an emotional home. Performing but also using her skills behind the scenes, she founded the advocacy group Advance Gender Equity in the Arts, or AGE, and more recently has begun a new organization, Ignite, a national program for BIPOC theater people, with mentors for emerging artists.

ON THE NATURE OF EARTH AND GRIEF. Bennett Campbell Ferguson talks with composer Andrea Reinkemeyer about natural and unnatural disasters and the musical territory she’s carved out “somewhere between [All Classical] 89.9 and Kurt Cobain.” Ferguson calls the composer “a chameleon who can convey the gloom of a dismal winter or a fascinatingly grotesque insect transformation, finding discordant grace where other composers would flinch.” 

JORDAN SCHNITZER SPEAKS ON OBT. Following up on Oregon Ballet Theatre’s abrupt severing of its ties with artistic director Kevin Irving, Jamuna Chiarini talks with philanthropist Schnitzer, whose family foundation, along with the Miller Foundation, sent a letter of concern to OBT’s board and then met with it – satisfying, Schnitzer says, many of the foundations’ questions. Schnitzer presented no startling disclosures about what led to the divorce of the ballet company and its artistic leader. He did lay out, in illuminating detail, his view of the responsibilities of nonprofit boards.

KEN PEPLOWSKI: “I ALWAYS LIKED ENTERTAINING PEOPLE.” The Oregon Coast Jazz Party in Newport doesn’t kick off for another month, but ArtsWatch columnist Lori Tobias gets a jump on things in a lively interview with Peplowski, the jazz clarinetist who’s directing this year’s bash. Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Dorsey, Placido Domingo, Leon Redbone, and the Beatles pop up in the tale.

GEORGE MANAHAN DEPARTS PORTLAND OPERA. The opera company announced Tuesday that Manahan, its highly skilled music director, is stepping down after nine years. The company will launch a national search to fill the role. Manahan, 69, also has recently left his post as music director of the American Composers Orchestra; he retains his position as director of orchestral activities for the Manhattan School of Music. Manahan came to Portland after 14 years as music director of the artistically adventurous but financially troubled New York City Opera. Another NYCO alum, mezzo soprano Christine Meadows, retired late this spring from the music faculty of Portland State University, where she had built the PSU Opera into an innovative force among student opera companies. The departures of Manahan and Meadows will change the landscape of opera in Portland. 

SANCTUARIES. Excitement is building for Third Angle New Music’s premiere of this jazz chamber opera, which will be performed outdoors Sept. 7, 8, and 9 at the pavilion of Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Watch for in-depth ArtsWatch previews by Brian Libby and Brett Campbell, who dive into this collaboration among librettist Anis Mojgani, Oregon’s poet laureate; Portland jazz giant and composer Darrell Grant; opera director Alexander Gedeon; and others. As Campbell notes: “This is an original project involving one of Oregon’s most admired and accomplished musicians and its poet laureate, directed at probably the state’s most urgent subject (Oregon’s historic and continuing racism), at a crucial moment when we’re confronting it.”




TBA Fest & more: What’s cooking in September

  ONE OF PORTLAND’S SIGNAL ANNUAL CULTURAL EVENTS, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s TBA Festival, swings into action once again Sept. 16-Oct. 3, and ArtsWatch writers are on top of it, including TBA highlights in dance, literature, and visual arts among their picks for the months. A look at the September calendars:

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LITWATCH SEPTEMBER: PROMPTS, POETRY READINGS, LIVE PERFORMANCES, AND PICA’S TBA:21. Amy Leona Havin scopes out literary September, from TBA to Ghost Town Poetry and poetry as prompt.

MUSICWATCH MONTHLY: BACK TO HYPERNORMAL. Amid Covid resurgence, school reopenings, and political disasters, Charles Rose writes, the music world is getting back to something that feels almost surreally “normal,” from outdoor concerts to open venues to Pink Martini and excitement over Portlander Jimmie Herrod’s run on America’s Got Talent.

VIZARTS MONTHLY: TBA IS HERE! PLUS OTHER HAPPENINGS IN SEPTEMBER. Lindsay Costello highlights what’s happening  on the gallery and museum scene, from TBA to art about agriculture to Louise Bourgeois to a shimmer in Astoria and more.

Choreographer and dancer Raja Feather Kelly performing in his work “Hysteria,” which will be in PICA’s TBA Festival. Photo: Kate Enman

SEPTEMBER DANCEWATCH: TBA-PLUS. Jamuna Chiarini’s monthly look at the dance world discovers a lot coming up in the TBA Festival – and a lot coming up elsewhere, too, as dancers and dance companies begin to stir out of the isolation of the past year and a half. 

FILMWATCH WEEKLY: WERNER HERZOG, POW FILM FEST, SOCIALISM, AND FRENCH ROMANCE. Marc Mohan looks at a feast of films by the legendary German director of “indelibly weird classics” and suggests a half-dozen followups; plus the return of the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Fest, and more. 

NOW HEAR THIS: SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION. Robert Ham takes his monthly amble through the catalog of the music distributor Bandcamp, looking for good fresh sounds from Oregon musicians. This month: Portland/Tokyo jazz, Gothic chamber-folk, neo-psychedelia and more.




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About the author
Senior Editor

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

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