Women on the move: These are the days, again

ArtsWatch Weekly: History moves into the forefront, a new series on Indigenous resilience, it's film fest time, a month of culture

ON SATURDAY THE DOOR BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT CREAKS OPEN JUST A LITTLE BIT: After months of coronavirus shutdown and a couple of bouts of vandalism during protests in the South Park Blocks, the Oregon Historical Society reopens its downtown Portland center to visitors on a limited basis, joining such other Oregon museums and historical sites as Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Bend’s High Desert Museum, the Grants Pass Museum of Art, and Portland’s Pittock Mansion, which has also just reopened on a limited basis. The historical society will be open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays until further notice: Know the rules before you go

Abigail Scott Duniway voting for the first time, May 5, 1913, in Portland. The sister of Harvey Scott, the conservative editor of The Oregonian, she was a leading early suffragist and his political foil. Photo: Oregon Historical Society

MARCH IS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, and one of the big exhibits you’ll find at OHS is Nevertheless, They Persisted: Voting Rights and the 19th Amendment, which tells the story of the fight by women to win the right to vote. One of the movement’s prime figures in Oregon was Abigail Scott Duniway, a Portland suffragist and the sister of the stolidly conservative Harvey Scott, longtime editor of The Oregonian, whose statue in Mt. Tabor Park was torn down from its pedestal in October and recently, in a mysterious guerrilla art action, replaced by a handsome bust of York, the Black man who was a slave of William Clark and traveled with Clark and Meriwether Lewis on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1805. Among other things, Scott was a steadfast opponent of women’s suffrage. Sometimes, what goes around comes around.

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ALL CLASSICAL PORTLAND, meanwhile, is upping the ante this month on its broadcasts of music by women composers and performers, including a Played in Oregon program at 1 p.m. this Sunday, March 7, including music by Amy Beach, Caroline Shaw, Rebecca Clark, and mousai REMIX. And on March 13 the radio network will introduce Dijana Ihas, 2021’s Oregon Music Educator of the Year. In a story published originally by The Immigrant Story and picked up by ArtsWatch, Elizabeth Mehren wrote beautifully about Ihas’s journey from the wartime rubble of Sarajevo to European tours with the Sarajevo String Quartet to a performing and teaching career in Oregon. 

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The short-lived city of Vanport was home to families of many races. Photo: Oregon Historical Society

IF YOU HEAD INTO PORTLAND’S WEST HILLS TO THE JUST-REOPENED PITTOCK MANSION, you can catch the historic mansion’s new exhibition Vanport: A Surge of Social Change, which will be on display through July 12. Put together in collaboration with the invaluable historical and cultural organization Vanport Mosaic, it tells the story of Vanport, an “instant” wartime city established in 1942 in what’s now the Delta Park region of North Portland to house workers in the Portland and Vancouver Kaiser shipyards. The city was highly unusual in mostly white Oregon for its varied cultural and racial mix: The shipyard workers came from all sorts of backgrounds, and so did their families. On May 30, 1948, a wall of water breaking through from the surging Columbia River swept the entire city off the map, killing at least 17 people and leaving more than 18,000 without homes. Many, particularly Black families, moved into Portland’s Albina District, helping to create a small but vibrant Black community. More than seventy years later, the Vanport diaspora continues to feed Portland’s culture and character.

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Left: The new edition of NewSage Press’s landmark “One Woman, One Vote,” due out in May. Right: A poster for one of the marches from the year the United Nations officially proclaimed International Women’s Day.

ON THE CUSP OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY (it’s Monday, March 8), Soapstone, the Oregon group that supports women writers, has named its 2021 Soapstone Bread and Roses Award winner. In Maureen R. Michelson: publishing as an act of resistance, Amy Leona Havin talks with this year’s winner, Michelson, the publisher of Tillamook-based NewSage Press, about making a home for women’s stories and about NewSage’s forthcoming new edition of One Woman, One Vote, its landmark collection of writing about the women’s suffrage movement and the struggle to pass the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. “In my opinion, small presses have been lifesavers in the literary and publishing worlds; they have provided a platform for so many whose stories have been ignored or silenced,” Michelson tells Havin. “Now, their stories are in books for the universe to read, long after the storyteller has gone. I am proud to be a part of that tradition.”

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TRIANGLE PRODUCTIONS’ DON HORN is something of a historian himself, digging deep into Portland’s alt-history to find true tales of people who laid the often fascinatingly jagged tracks for the city’s free-wheeling underground culture. He’s written and/or produced plays about Walter Cole, a.k.a. the celebrated drag star Darcelle; the old Storefront Theatre, which grew out of countercultural resistance to the Vietnam War; the Indigenous jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper; a rock opera about the ice-skating melodrama of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan; and nightclub queen Gracie Hansen. Now Triangle is following up on Gracie’s story with the video documentary The Gracie Hansen Story: My Life As I Want To Tell It, streaming March 4-20. Gracie, who had begun by producing racy PTA shows in a small Washington logging town and then made a scandalous name for herself with her “exotic” burlesque shows at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, was lured south to open an expensive and rip-roaring nightclub, the Roaring 20s Room, in downtown Portland’s old Hoyt Hotel, where she reigned in notoriety until 1971 – and struck up a lasting friendship with the young man who would become Darcelle. “In 1970,” Horn wrote in his entry on her in the Oregon Encyclopedia, “Hansen ran for governor of Oregon as a Democrat, with the slogan, ‘The best governor money can buy.’” Maybe fortunately, she didn’t win. 

Nightclub operator and entertainer extraordinaire Gracie Hansen in 1969. Photo: Oregon Journal/Oregon Historical Society Research Library


NEW SERIES: INDIGENOUS RESILIENCE IN OREGON


Left: Steph Littlebird, author of the ArtsWatch series “Indigenous Resilience in Oregon.” Right: Artist and educator Greg Archuleta, leader of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s “Lifeways” classes.

AFTER MONTHS OF PLANNING, writer Steph Littlebird and editor Laurel Reed Pavic have rolled out the beginnings of a new series for ArtsWatch, “Indigenous Resilience in Oregon.” It’ll look at the history of colonization in what is now Oregon, the deliberate suppression of tribal cultures in such places as state-run Indian schools, the resilience of contemporary Indigenous people as they reclaim and extend their traditions, and the role that art plays in the process. Here at ArtsWatch we’re excited to have the first two stories out in the open and available to be read:

  • STEPH LITTLEBIRD: ‘AM I HONORING THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE ME?’ In this kickoff story, the artist and writer Littlebird – “a proud member of the Grand Ronde Confederated Tribes and a descendant of the Kalapuyan and Clatsop Chinook people” – lays the groundwork for the series: “History is deeply important to Indigenous culture. History informs our way of life. I believe history and tradition are the grounding forces of resiliency. It is literally how we survived colonization, by hanging on to whatever traditions could be salvaged through the often violent settlement of this land.”
     
  • GREG ARCHULETA AND LIFEWAYS: CULTIVATING RESISTANCE THROUGH EDUCATION. When the contemporary artist Archuleta realized the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde didn’t have any cultural education classes, Littebird writes, he created them himself. With their Lifeways classes, Archuleta – a descendant of the Clackamas Chinook, Santiam Kalapuya, and Chasta people – and his friend and fellow artist, Chinookan carver Greg A. Robinson, have created a place “to share traditional knowledge about ancestral foods, the cultural arts, crafts, and ecology, while fostering a sense of community for all who attended.”  


PIFF TIME: PORTLAND GOES AROUND THE WORLD IN FILM


Treasure Lunan in “See Me,” from Artists Repertory Theatre’s DNA: Oxygen group. The short film premieres Friday in the Portland International Film Festival.

PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: 5 PICKS TO CLICK FROM (VIRTUAL) PIFF. Portland’s 43rd annual international film fest kicks off its mostly virtual run on Friday, and ArtsWatch film columnist Marc Mohan sifts through the pack to spotlight a handful of good bets, among them the “charming Filipino coming-of-age comedy” Death of Nintendo. Mohan gives the lowdown on how to approach the festival, which continues through March 14 (with its second annual Cinema Unbound Awards ceremony on Thursday, March 4).

  • SPOTLIGHTING THE LIVES OF BLACK PORTLANDERS IN THE PANDEMIC. Theater goes to the movies on Friday when See Me, a short film from the DNA: Oxygen group at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, premieres at PIFF. Bennett Campbell Ferguson talks with the filmmakers about the making of the project.

REMEMBERING LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: 101 POETIC YEARS


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of the landmark book of poetry “A Coney Island of the Mind” and proprietor of San Francisco’s legendary book store City Lights, at a reading.

IN HONOR OF LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: THE LAST OF THE BOHEMIANS. “Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped to set literature ablaze with passion and madness, saw merit in the works of the angry and the wandering, of the dazed and the dreaming; writers sweating with the muse of purpose in Caffee Trieste over refilled mugs of coffee and half-scribbled manuscripts. Ferlinghetti created the root system from which the Beat generation grew, flourished, and reigned in the cramped book stores of the Bay Area, late-night hotels of Tangiers, and Italian coffee shops of North Beach, transcribing the visions of their riotous minds into groundbreaking works that paved the way for the writers and poets of today.” Amy Leona Havin remembers the indomitable poet and proprietor of San Francisco’s legendary City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, who died in late February at 101.   


HIGH DESIGN: CREATING LITERARY PICTURES IN THE MIND


Book designer Gigi Little and her latest cover design, for Beth Kephart’s new memoir.

GIGI LITTLE COVERS THE BOOK WORLD. Carmen Burbridge profiles Gigi Little, who ran away from the circus and into the midst of Portland’s fertile book scene, where she’s made a name for herself as a writer, editor, and an in-demand designer of books and book covers for Forest Avenue Press and others. How does she approach a cover-design project? “Number one: it has to sell the book best. Number two: I want all the people involved to be happy with it.”


ACROSS THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE, MARCH ROARS IN


Pace Taylor, “I think I’d like to be here for this,” from his show “I hear voices from the other room, but I can’t make out the words,” at Nationale through April 18. Image courtesy Nationale.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN OREGON ARTS & CULTURE IN THE BLUSTERY MONTH OF MARCH? ArtsWatch’s columnists gather up the … well, the lion’s share of attractions and activities, hoping to help keep you happily engaged until the lamb springs daintily into April’s blooming cultural pastures. Read on:

VIZARTS MONTHLY: SPRING REFLECTIONS ON SOCIAL UPHEAVAL. From new backyard spaces to established art galleries, Lindsay Costello discovers art that tackles the racial reckonings and Covid-induced isolation of the past year.

MUSICWATCH MONTHLY: MARCH OF PROGRESS. From virtual house shows to American composers to a micro-opera festival and more, Charles Rose rolls from the musical good old days to the sounds of things to come.

NOW HEAR THIS: MARCH EDITION. Robert Ham’s monthly scouring of the pages of music distributor Bandcamp uncovers a happiness of Oregon sounds for your listening pleasure, from some freshly released vintage Decemberists to Mo Troper’s audacious Beatles covers, jangly indie rock from Johnny Raincloud, and more. 

Joy Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate, launches a six-session seminar on writing. Photo: Karen Kuehn

LITWATCH MONTHLY. JOY HARJO AND AUTHOR CONVERSATIONS. Amy Leona Havin’s monthly look at the Oregon literary scene moves from a series of seminars with United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to lectures to writers’ conversations to livestream readings to virtual storytimes for kids and more.

LINFIELD UNIVERSITY HITS ITS STREAMING STRIDE. McMinnville’s cultural and educational hub, David Bates discovers, is combating the shutdown with an ambitious array of online cultural attractions, from poetry and podcasts to theater, music, and dance.

HITTING THE COASTAL ARTS TRAIL. Lori Tobias talks with Niki Price, executive director of the Lincoln City Cultural Center, about Price’s newest adventure: hiking the Oregon Coast Trail to create a series of web-based itineraries for people eager to discover some of the 800 artworks along the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail.

DANCEWATCH: MARCH HARE EDITION. Jamuna Chiarini quick-steps us through a month’s worth of online dance action, from ballet to contemporary to aerial to experimental.


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About the author

Bob Hicks is a Senior Editor and writer at Oregon ArtsWatch. He's been writing about arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, beginning at the Oregon Journal, then for 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, Prologue, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series “Today I Am.”

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