Category Archives: Cities

R.I.P.: Janet Bradley, Harold Schnitzer

Two significant figures in Portland arts and culture have died, and we express our appreciation to them and our condolences to their friends and families.

Harold Schnitzer, the prominent businessman who was a major supporter of the Portland Art Museum and many other organizations, died early this morning at age 87. In the past several years he and his wife, Arlene, have given $80 million to Portland and Oregon causes — an immense reinvestment. They were also astute and generous art collectors; Arlene founded the important Fountain Gallery that gave a commercial kick-start to the Portland art scene. D.K. Row has this report at Oregon Live. UPDATE: The Oregonian has filed this much expanded obituary on Oregon Live.

Janet Bradley, co-founder and for all of its years the vital organizing force behind the puppet company Tears of Joy, died unexpectedly yesterday, April 26. She was a warm, practical and generous woman, always behind the scenes but well-known and well-liked in the performance community. Tears of Joy is a company for kids but it’s also always been hooked in with some of the most innovative international practitioners of the art, and Janet’s openness and determination had a great deal to do with that. We don’t have a lot of details, but her daughter, Emily Alexander, posted this yesterday on Facebook:

My warm and perfect mother, Janet Bradley, passed away early this morning. She was, as you know, a vibrant, electric, and beautiful woman. Her passing is a shock. The cause can best be described as a birth-defect of her aorta that none of us, including my mother, knew about. She was an elegant queen with a green thumb who could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. And she truly loved and enjoyed her life. My mom was my very best friend, and a second mother to my children. I am so grateful to have had the time we did.

UPDATE: Michael Griggs, executive director of Portland Taiko and a longtime close friend of Bradley, sends this:

“Janet collapsed at work Monday afternoon, was rushed to Legacy Emanuel hospital and underwent surgery at 2 p.m., but died at 2 a.m. from a previously undetected congenital problem with her aorta.

“Janet was a leader not only in Portland and Southwest Washington, but nationally in the world of puppetry and performing arts touring. She was a tireless advocate for performing arts for children and arts education, and she will be greatly missed by her many colleagues, friends, and the Tears of Joy family and friends.”

A celebration of Janet Bradley’s life will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 16, in downtown Portland’s Newmark Theatre.

Contributions to Tears of Joy in Janet’s name may be made to:

Tears of Joy Theatre
323 N.E. Wygant St. #201
Portland, OR 97211

Oregon history: just a thing of the past?

By Bob Hicks

You can order popular images online at the OHS web site.It’s not often we call attention to a front-page newspaper story — after all, it’s right there on the front page; how could you miss it? — but today we’re doing just that. If you haven’t looked at it yet, please read Still Stuck in the Past, D.K. Row’s front-page story in today’s Oregonian about the continuing woes at the Oregon Historical Society in spite of the five-year levy that Multnomah County voters recently passed to help bail the place out.

This is no hatchet job. D.K.’s story is well-balanced and gives a good insight into the complex issues that have been hurting the society and its museum for years. In a way, OHS offers a disconcerting peek into the future of all sorts of public institutions, from schools to police and street departments, if the tax-revolt and “privatization” bandwagons continue unchecked. If you starve an institution long enough, it starts to make blunders and lose track of what it is and what it’s supposed to be doing.

Certainly the state’s now-you-see-it-but-mostly-you-don’t approach to funding has been a huge contributor to the historical society’s troubles. But the place has also had structural, managerial problems for years, to a certain extent since its glory days under its legendary leader Tom Vaughan.

Continue reading Oregon history: just a thing of the past?

Link: Rocco and the death of theater(s)

By Bob Hicks

The big cultural flap out of Washington, now that people have mostly moved on from the Smithsonian chief’s craven caving-in to reactionary blowhards over David Wojnarowicz‘s ant-crawling video at the National Portrait Gallery, comes from the flip side of the channel: Rocco Landesman, boss of the National Endowment for the Arts, has been busy telling people that there’s too much theater in America for the demand, and it would be a good thing if a bunch of companies went out of business. (That theater companies are continuously going out of business without any help or hindrance from the NEA, and starting up again in new combinations, appears to have escaped his notice.)

National Endowment for the Arts chief Rocco Landesman, March 18, 2010.  Photo: Mike Linksvayer/Wikimedia Commons.Locally, arts marketing whiz Trisha Mead sounded the alarm (she was even quoted in the New York Times) and Art Scatter’s brother in arms, Barry Johnson, has been carrying the conversation forward with several posts at Arts Dispatch. Mr. Scatter has even sprinkled a couple of comments into his threads.

Barry’s worked up a fine lather, and for good reason: with friends like this, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Keep an eye on Arts Dispatch, because we have a feeling a lot more is going to be pouring out on this subject, and in Portland, AD has become Information Central on this topic.

Here at Art Scatter, we noted a year and a half ago when Congress confirmed Landesman for the top arts job that things were bound to get stirred up.

Continue reading Link: Rocco and the death of theater(s)

Small town Folly, and other joys

By Bob Hicks

Down the street from my sister’s house, my home town is in the protracted process of acquiring a Folly.

A Folly in the making?Perhaps you’ve seen some on your travels to England: those little bursts of architectural whimsy sometimes found on the rolling estates of members of the minor nobility, cozy towering playhouses for the eccentrically and unaccountably rich. They serve no purpose other than the whim of their owner/designers — in a sense, they’re the original conceptual art — and they can be, when your mood and the play of light are right, delightful.

So far the Folly of Jam, Washington* seems more an astonishment than a delight. While it’s still possible that it may emerge splendidly, odds are against. For one thing, its scale seems wrong. One thinks of a Folly as a little visual surprise tucked into a larger landscape. The Jam Folly, rising like the tortured offspring of a test-tube experiment with an armadillo and a giraffe, dominates its surroundings. You might almost say it scares the bejabbers out of them.

Continue reading Small town Folly, and other joys

Budget ax takes forty whacks

By Bob Hicks

All right, times are tough all over. But who’d’a thunk Lizzie Borden would be getting the ax after all these years?

Lizzie Borden, ca. 1889. Wikimedia Commons.This morning’s Art Daily passes along a brief item from the Associated Press reporting that the 40 Whacks Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is going out of business after two years: high costs, low attendance.

The museum’s existence in Salem, about 70 miles north of Fall River, where Borden was acquitted of hatcheting to death her father and stepmother in 1892, was a bit of a puzzler. But then, Salem, where Mr. Scatter briefly lived almost 40 years ago, bases a good deal of its economy on commemoration and re-creation of its past, from its witch trials to its seafaring days — so why not steal another town’s infamy?

Four or five years ago, on a visit to Massachusetts, Mr. Scatter took the Scatter family to see the house where he’d lived in old town Salem, only to discover it had been torn down to make room for the front lawn of the rebuilt Peabody Essex Museum — a very good regional museum, by the way, run by Dan Monroe, a onetime director of the Portland Art Museum. To assuage their keen disappointment, Mr. Scatter took the family to the New England Pirate Museum, where several T-shirts and a treasure map were bought.

When they saw what they had done, the Scatters cried, “The pirates won!”


PHOTO: Lizzie Borden, ca. 1889. Wikimedia Commons.

Sneak peek at the new Broad in L.A.

Artist's conception of new Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles. Diller Scofidio + Renfro

By Bob Hicks

From Art Daily, the first look at designs for the new Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles. The 120,000-square-foot museum will house the expansive modern collections of philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, and in at least one way it aims to be friendly: It’ll be known as “The Broad,” something in the manner of Portland’s Dolores Winningstad Theatre (“The Winnie”) and Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (“The Schnitz”). Maybe it doesn’t have a lot of choice: It’s across the street from the supersonic flapping wings of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, as well as MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’ll build on what’s already a significant cultural district.

Designed by Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (which also handled the makeover of Lincoln Center in New York and created the not-yet-inflated “Bubble” at the Hirschorn in Washington, D.C.), The Broad will be a great big honeycomb with nearly an acre of column-free gallery space. It’s due to open in two years. The era of big-statement architectural designs for new museum buildings came tumbling down with the collapse of the world economy in 2008, but it’s not quite dead yet. It’ll be fascinating to see how the new Broad plays out.

Norm Winningstad: Taps for an original

Norm Winningstad: bigger than life. Photo: John Foyston

A lot of recent Oregonians know the name “Winningstad” mainly because of the Dolores Winningstad Theatre, the little red jewel box in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. Those who’ve been around longer vividly remember Dolores’s husband, Norm, the high-flying tech pioneer and philanthropist who represented the sort of freewheeling Western spirit that seems to have been largely swallowed up by the grayness of the new international corporatism. Norm never had an opinion he didn’t like to share, and in retirement he spread his views freely and frequently in venues such as the letters column of The Oregonian. After Norm took his life on November 24 at age 85, The Oregonian ran this obituary, this analysis of his business impact, and this editorial tribute. Norm was in considerable pain from severe health problems, and it’s good to think that he chose his exit with the same courage and flamboyance with which he lived his life. Friend of Scatter John Foyston was a longtime friend of the family, and he was on hand for yesterday’s memorial service. He files this report.


By John Foyston

Yesterday, I was one of the 500 or so people who attended the memorial for Norm Winningstad, the brilliant high-tech entrepreneur and philanthropist. I’ve been lucky enough to know the family since 1963, when Dick and I became friends in the eighth grade.

Norm was the smartest man I’ve ever known — scary brilliant — and he did not suffer fools. But he was also incredibly warm, generous and funny. He was a true mensch, and Oregon is a better place because of him.

The memorial was pitch-perfect for Norm, held in a huge hangar at Global Aviation with bizjets, a jet helicopter and a Ferarri at one end. There was a simple stage with a large-screen slide show of Norm’s life: his days in the World War II Navy as a radar technician; with his wife Dolores and their family; in the office at Tektronix, Floating Point Systems and Lattice; with his beloved bulldogs; and at the controls of his helicopters, airplanes and fast cars — and his 1953 MG-TD, which was not so fast, but which he also loved.

Son Dennis delivered a remembrance that must’ve made Norm grin in pride, and Harry Merlo also spoke about his old friend. At the end, the hangar door slowly cranked back and a military honor guard fired a rifle salute and a bugler played Taps. It was a fitting sendoff for a man the likes of whom we won’t soon see again …


Norm Winningstad: bigger than life. Photo: John Foyston

Home on the range: separated at birth?

Dead Eagle Trail, by Jane Hilton, front cover. Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam.

By Bob Hicks

Scatter friends Karen and John got home a few weekends ago from Hells Canyon Mule Days in Enterprise, in the Wallowa Valley of far eastern Oregon, and it got us to thinking about the big wide stretches and the places in America where work is still manual and landbound and practical in a vastly different and more elemental way than the workaday practicalities of living an ordinary urban life.

Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry, front cover. Random House.It was the thirtieth anniversary of Mule Days, and Mr. Scatter, who was on the spot for last year’s festivities, which he wrote about here and here, was sorry to miss the big blowout. Of course, with about 1,800 people (plus another 1,000 or so just up the road in Joseph) Enterprise is a giddy metropolis compared to the landscapes of two books we’ve been pondering lately — British photographer Jane Hilton‘s Dead Eagle Trail and Portland area novelist Rosanne Parry‘s Heart of a Shepherd. Both books take imaginative looks at territories where the high lonesome is not just a fact but also, often, a comfort of life. And don’t these two cowboys just look like they’re cut from the same cloth?

Continue reading Home on the range: separated at birth?

How about a bridge we can live ON?

Drawing of London Bridge from a 1682 London map. Surveyed by: Morgan, William, d. 1690. Published: London, London Topographical Society, 1904. Wikimedia Commons

By Bob Hicks

Once again the fates have flung Mr. Scatter to the far reaches of Ecotopia, where yet another dismal drive through the 90-mile sprawl of the great Seattle megalopolis has underscored how little eco is left in this topia of ours. They paved Paradise and put up a freeway that’s a parking lot.

Well, sometimes you need a car. And cars need roads. And roads, when they run up to little impediments like the mighty Columbia River, need bridges. And bridges, we hear, can cost a cool four billion bucks. And four billion bucks (plus interest), we understand, will be coming out of everyman’s collective wallet for a long, long time to come.

Interstate Bridge between Portland and Vancouver. Source: Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons.Up to now Mr. Scatter has stayed out of the fray over the Columbia River Crossing bridge, the proposed replacement for the aging Interstate-5 span between Portland and Vancouver, Wash. Should the bridge be an architectural icon, a splendid work of art? Should it be a utilitarian get-‘er-done, a cheap and (presumably) practical slab of concrete designed to move the traffic and not much else? Truth is, Mr. Scatter doesn’t really know, although he’s grouchily beginning to ask himself a more basic question: Do we really need to bother with the damned thing at all?

Continue reading How about a bridge we can live ON?

Rushdie to judgment: Idaho journal

First snow hits the blade of the Sawtooths north of Ketchum, Idaho, in September.

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter has been traveling the byways of America quite a lot of late, and by a quirk of fate he found himself in an open pavilion in Sun Valley, Idaho, on the eve of September 11, listening to Salman Rushdie talk about Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Sarah Palin, the nonpolitical and political natures of art, the difficulties of free speech and the true perils of reactionary jihadism.

The unlikeliness, and yet the unabashed Americanness, of this event occurring in this place and at this time, nine years minus a few hours after the jihadist suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was perhaps less ironic than celebratory. It was proof, in a way, that in a world wracked by violent religious and cultural insanity, good sense and mere goodness can survive.

Continue reading Rushdie to judgment: Idaho journal