Yamhill County galleries begin to reopen, cautiously

Limited hours and requests to wear masks are common as galleries start welcoming back visitors

Yamhill County is beginning to emerge from its COVID-19 quarantine, which in mid-March shut down virtually everything, laying waste to a broad swath of cultural and artistic work. Gallery Theater’s production of Proof was literally days from opening, until it wasn’t. The Terroir Creative Writing Festival, traditionally held in April, was put on hold, as was the Aquilon Music Festival.

It’s too early to speculate on what the rest of the year holds. Gallery’s board meets later this month to chart a course for the remainder of the 2020 season. Linfield College, traditionally a fount of recitals and concerts, plays, readings, lectures, and visual art shows, is quiet for the moment but has made it clear it will welcome students back into brick-and-mortar classrooms this fall.

Debby Denno’s work, such as "Fascinatin’ Rhythm," (colored pencil drawing, 8.25 by 11.75 inches), is featured this month at Currents Gallery in McMinnville.
Debby Denno’s work, such as “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” (colored pencil drawing, 8.25 by 11.75 inches), is featured this month at Currents Gallery in McMinnville.

There is good news. The art gallery scene is coming to life. I reached out to about 10 galleries last week and heard back from most. The governing principle for all is, basically, assume they’re continuing to do business online, and assume fewer hours for on-premises visits. And while not everyone requires it, I hope it’s not too political to suggest that you wear a mask. Prior to reopening, Yamhill County was reporting from zero to three new COVID-19 cases daily for about two weeks, including five days of no new cases. Late last week, we had nine new cases in two days, and over the weekend, nearly a dozen. This thing is not over yet.

At Currents Gallery in downtown McMinnville, they’re very aware of that. All seven owners are, by virtue of age, in the “vulnerable” category with regard to COVID-19, Marlene Eichner told me. So for the three days a week they’re open (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), they require visitors to wear a mask — either their own, or one provided by the gallery.

“We’re anxious to interact again with the art-appreciating public, to have engaging conversations about art mediums and techniques, and life in general,” Eichner said. “And maybe even have them walk away with a satisfying purchase. But above all, we want to support all community efforts to ensure a safe environment for everyone.”

The artist-owned gallery is featuring the work of Debby Denno, whose intricate mixed-media line drawings feature remarkable detail. A few years ago, before the Red Raven Gallery in Salem closed, Denno placed first for two-dimensional drawings in the gallery’s steampunk show. I can’t imagine that the images on the website do them justice, but they definitely have a hint of steampunk vibe, which I personally like.

Marilyn Affolter’s work includes both paintings and photography. An exhibit through July 5 in her McMinnville gallery features animal portraits, such as “Ash.”
Marilyn Affolter’s work includes both paintings and photography. An exhibit through July 5 in her McMinnville gallery features animal portraits, such as “Ash.”

Down the street and around the corner, Marilyn Affolter’s gallery is open in June two days a week, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. “In July, we’ll re-evaluate the COVID and hopefully extend the hours,” she said. “The gallery will see some changes, as it will become more of a working studio for me and for students, where I’ll be offering private lessons in both photography and drawing. It has become an interesting world that we live in. Time to adapt!”

The Gallery at Ten Oaks, like everyone else, is pushing online sales but is also open a few days a week and is tentatively planning its first artist reception July 11. Nancy Morrow owns the gallery with her husband, Dan, and they’re also preparing for next year’s 10th annual McMinnville Short Film Festival in February. They recently “attended” (virtually) Ashland’s festival just to see how that sort of thing works, and they are making plans for all scenarios, both in-person and/or virtual.

A good rule of thumb for all galleries is to check the website first to see if they’re open, hours, special protocols, etc. One that isn’t open yet to the public, the McMinnville Center for the Arts, is open by appointment (as are most) in addition to offering online sales.

The Chehalem Cultural Center is showing basketry by Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos). The artist writes that she gathered and prepared all the materials for this Coos ceremonital cooking basket, which she calls “taxai loʔloʔ t'see məʰkməʰk kwansəm” (huckleberry pie forever).
The Chehalem Cultural Center is showing basketry by Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos). The artist writes that she gathered and prepared all the materials for this Coos ceremonial cooking basket, which she calls “taxai loʔloʔ t’see məʰkməʰk kwansəm” (huckleberry pie forever).

Things are also hopping in Newberg. The Chehalem Cultural Center is open regular hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. If you haven’t seen it, there’s still time to catch Shifting Tides by Studio Art Quilt Associates, curated by Carissa Burkett. Incredible show, previously covered here and also available online. It’s better in person, trust me. Also, the center has brought in a previously unscheduled show that’s on display in the lobby and mezzanine: CACHE NINE: the hope material (how to feel not scared in a pandemic), by Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos). I haven’t seen this one, but there are extensive notes here about the show, which will be on display through Sept. 19.

Also, the center is gearing up for summer art camps for kids pre-K through 18 and has all the COVID-19 protocols on the website. For those not yet ready to venture out, the center will offer Art from Home boxes beginning in July.

Finally, Yamhill County has a movie theater that’s open. The 99W Drive-In in Newberg opened Memorial Day weekend with COVID-19 protocols, and this week they’ve got cinema gold: the original Jaws will be screened nightly June 11-14. Limit of 200 cars.

ARTS JOURNAL: Along with the half a dozen books I have going at the moment, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a wonderful podcast. Weird Studies, available on most platforms, was created in 2018 by Phil Ford, a musicologist at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and J.F. Martel, a Canadian screenwriter, film, and TV director who is the author of a terrific book, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice. Every week, they talk for at least an hour about film, music, and literature. Of the 75 episodes so far, I’ve heard a dozen or so, with topics including Eyes Wide Shut (and, an entire episode dedicated largely to one piece of music in Eyes Wide Shut), Naked Lunch, H.P. Lovecraft, Carl Jung’s essay on psychology and poetry, Bob Dylan’s Jokerman, and Tarkovsky’s slow cinema masterpiece Stalker. As I write this, they rolled out a 90-minute discussion of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is why I’m now writing faster. Love these guys. If you’re a Keep Portland Weird sort of person, Weird Studies is very likely your thing.

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This story is supported in part by a grant from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Cultural Trust, and Oregon Community Foundation.

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