Tag Archives: Culture Shock

Done deal in the Senate; on to the slashing in the House

The Oregon Legislature makes some radical cuts/Wikipedia CommonsOver at Culture Shock, which has been keeping a close eye on the Oregon Legislature’s efforts to bridge the budget gap, Culturejock has just reported the state Senate has OK’d a budget that, among other things, grabs $1.8 million specifically donated to the state for use by the Oregon Cultural Trust — money that was supposedly legally separated from the state general fund. The story is from the Eugene Register-Guard.

Now it’s on to the House, where a vote is expected by Friday — and don’t expect a sudden turnaround, but do continue to register your protest. We are watching a particularly unsavory — and quite possibly illegal — sausage being ground. Sometimes that’s what state legislatures do. Culture Shock’s coverage has been excellent. Its most recent post is must-read, including some informed conjecture about possible next steps. Don’t skip the comments.

An arts victory: celebrate, and stay on the alert

Philip Hazard "America!" neon/mixed media/Courtesy Zenith Gallery

Art Scatter’s had a case of the sniffles the past few days and hasn’t been keeping up with reporting duties. Fortunately, our friends at Culture Shock have been doing a bang-up job.

First, on Friday, Culture Shock’s Culture Jock came across
with the news that the Coburn Amendment, which would have denied any money for arts and cultural purposes in the economic stimulus bill, had been killed by the House-Senate conference committee, and that a fresh $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts — which had been part of the House version but absent from the Senate stimulus bill — had made it into the final stimulus package to be signed today by President Obama. Terrific news. And thanks to Americans for the Arts for spearheading the lobbying effort, which got scant play in the mainstream press but was buzzing all around the Internet.

Then, today, Culture Shock’s Mighty Toy Cannon pushed the argument forward with a provocative post arguing that it’s time for people in the arts to rethink their arguments for government support of the arts. There are two kinds of conservative opponents to arts funding (this is my words, not MTC’s) — the bear-baiting, cultural warmongering of the fake conservatives, the right-wing radicals who see arts-bashing as an effective tool in the conning of the general public by blaming all of life’s travails on the liberal effete; and true economic conservatives, who may actually be big supporters personally of the arts but who don’t understand why government should support art. Engaging those people might be most fruitful. You should read MTC’s entire post; I’ll quote just a little bit of it to whet your appetite:

Perhaps it is time to stop declaiming the goodness of art and pay more attention to making the case for why government should (or must) have a role in supporting it. And let’s be careful to avoid tautologies: e.g., “Government should support the arts because … well, just because that’s what the government should do.”

We should try to explicate the unique role government can play in the arts economy. What can government do for the arts that the private sector either can’t or won’t?

Finally, the New York Times, like most of the country’s press, was strangely AWOL while all the political jockeying was going on, at least so far as the tiny bit of arts money at stake in the stimulus package was concerned. But this morning it published Robin Pogrebin’s illuminating recap of how the fight came down and how arts advocates, for a change, won the day. The cast of characters ranges from Robert Redford to Nancy Pelosi to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, the Democrat from Washington state who was one of the quiet heroes of the battle to reinstate arts money. This is well worth reading.

My gut feeling is that this recession (or depression, depending on whether or not you still have a job) is going to be with us for a long time, and that we’re going to need a lot more stimulus than what’s been passed so far. Arts and culture should play a prominent role in that, as they did during the Depression of the 1930s and early ’40s, when cultural programs were a central part of the Works Progress Administration. (A personal aside: The first string bass I owned, which I picked up very used in about 1964 for a hundred bucks, had a WPA sticker on its back. I loved being part of its living history, carrying it into the future.)

And I think, as artists continue to press their rightful role in the American economy, it’s fair for Oregonians to keep pressing Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley for an explanation of their votes in favor of the Coburn Amendment. They need to stand up and be counted.

Dear Sen. McCain: It’s the arts economy, stupid

Lincoln was a Republican. The WPA didn't mind.So much for bipartisanship. All of a sudden it feels like we’re back in the bad old days of the 1980s and ’90s “culture wars,” when the right-wing juggernaut raised fears of chocolate-coated performance artists to push its narrow view of American culture and its broad view of the body politic as a happy economic hunting ground for the plucking of the many by the few. Maybe the language isn’t as strident as when Annie Sprinkle was flashing and Jesse Helms was waxing apoplectic, but the tactic’s still there, as Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (whose daughter, ironically, is a prominent opera singer) and the recently right-wing-radicalized John McCain are making clear.

For Coburn’s arts slashing-and-burning, see here and here.

And listen to McCain’s recent take on the economic stimulus plan, which he apparently fears might benefit someone other than brokers and bankers if he doesn’t act swiftly to stem the unwashed tide:

“$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts. Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs? After-school snack program is probably a good idea. Do we really want to spend $726 million on it?”

Hell, no. Let them eat Twinkies. On their own dime.

Now, listen to the response to McCain from Tim DuRoche, Portland arts administrator, drummer, and writer of the smart Burnside Blog at Portland Spaces magazine. Tim sent us a copy of his letter:

Dear John–

I understand you are not aware of how funding for the arts creates jobs and stimulates the economy. So, I’d like to tell you what I do for a living and what our organization contributes to the economy. I work in community programs for a major theater company in Portland, OR—providing outreach, access and public programs to local and regional audiences and schools (approximately 200,000 people a year visit our theater), all of whom buy tickets, eat in restaurants, pay for parking, shop, and ride public transit, activities which dramatically fuel the local and regional economy.

The construction and operations of our theater (which opened in 2006) is predicted to produce a total economic impact of $116.4 million during construction and the first 10 years of operations. Investment of these funds were associated with the provision of 510 temporary jobs during the 24-month construction period, and 12 permanent jobs created and then retained during operations of the theater.

In addition, 104 existing theater operations jobs were retained through this project. An estimated total of $46.7 million in direct, indirect and induced wages will be paid during the construction period and ten years of operations. $15.8 million in Federal, State and Local tax revenues are estimated to be generated over twelve years, including $6.7 million during the 24-month construction period, and $915k annually over 10 years when fully operational.

Additionally the building is a LEED-certified Platinum historic renovation that was redeveloped on a brownfields site, engaged high-performance green technology that reduces overall potable water usage by 89%, diverted 95% of construction waste from landfills, and retained over 79% of the existing 1891 structure, among other sustainable features—ensuring that every system was designed to maximize the health of users and reduce the energy use of the building.

This is triple-bottom line proof why Sen. Coburn’s Amendment 175 is so off-base. Investing in arts and cultural infrastructure is an investment in the American spirit, it produces jobs, creates an economic multiplier effect that buoys our city’s mobility and freedom to dream, and translates into dollars that make sense for communities. It is not just social capital that the arts produce but hard capital, economic impact on the highest order–and one you can applaud nightly.

Thank you so much for asking what I do.


Tim DuRoche

Community Programs Manager

Portland Center Stage


Our friends at Culture Shock have also been following this closely. They found this provocative challenge to the arts world from Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones for its “stunning political ineptitude.” Time to think tactics, ladies and gentlemen.

Stimulus, continued: Why did Wyden and Merkley vote with Coburn?

Works Progress Administration poster, 1930sAs reported earlier on Art Scatter and elsewhere, the U.S. Senate pulled a nasty Friday surprise by voting 73-24 in favor of an amendment to the national economic stimulus package that would ban any spending on a wide variety of arts and cultural projects — anything that would give federal reaction to the economic crisis the faintest whiff of a broad-based WPA solution.

For Oregonians, the biggest part of the surprise was that both of our senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, voted with the majority in favor of Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn’s monkey-wrench amendment.

Why? I haven’t talked with Wyden or Merkley, and I haven’t seen either explain his vote. But I think fellow Scatterer Barry Johnson is right. This was a vote about the numbers — the Democrats needed to swing three moderate Republican votes to reach the required 60 to pass the stimulus bill, and the moderate Republicans could afford to break party rank on the overall bill only by mollifying conservative Republicans on the details.

Surely there’s no love lost between Oregon’s senators and the Coburn gang, especially after Coburn’s one-man holdup last year of the Mount Hood wilderness bill that Wyden had spent several years helping to prepare. And Merkley, as the new kid on the block, is going to have to line up with party leadership on a vote like this. So, giving Wyden and Merkley the benefit of the doubt, we’ll just point out that part of politics is knowing when to lose a battle so you can win a war.

But another, equally important, part of politics is for voters to remind their representatives vociferously that they don’t accept the deal-making, and to push for what’s right regardless of political maneuvering. That’s why it’s urgent that Wyden and Merkley get this message. Otherwise, in the rush of business, they might not stop to clean up the mess they helped make. And this IS a mess. It’s punitive, wrong-headed, bullying, the kind of “populism” that isn’t in the people’s interest at all but instead makes political capital by demonizing anything that smacks of intellectualism.

Our friends at Culture Shock have been following this issue, too, and I urge you to check out their take on it all. They include the most important information: How to contact your senators and let them know that you want the cultural economy to be a part of any economic stimulus plan. You can contact Wyden, Merkley, and any other senator through a format set up by Americans for the Arts.

Here’s a portion of the Culture Shock post, complete with a link to the Americans for the Arts messaging site:

Arts advocates need to quickly contact Senators Wyden and Merkley and express our extreme disappointment in them for voting for the Coburn Amendment. We need these Senators to know that their vote would detrimentally impact nonprofit arts organizations and the jobs they support in their state. Americans for the Arts has crafted a customized message that can be sent automatically to the appropriate Senator simply by entering your zip code. (For our friends from out of state, the system will recognize if your Senator voted against the Coburn Amendment and will send them a thank you letter instead.)

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out, this is no time for silly political games. The world economy faces its biggest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and ordinary rules of engagement — the automatic-pilot tinkering with the free-market controls — isn’t going to work.

This crisis calls for a massive creative response, and although the times and details are different, the New Deal and its broad-vision Works Progress Administration provide a good model to work from. So far the response has been mostly “boys-club”: build roads, shore up the banks, get Wall Street back on its feet, throw a lifeline to crumblng industries. All necessary, even if the precise approach is open to argument. But equally important are the “girls-club” issues, the sustenance of the nation’s creative capital: its schools, its health system, its cultural and historical institutions, its environmental and conservation stewardship, all of which nourish the new ideas that help drive the larger economy in addition to providing millions of necessary jobs on their own.

If not now, when? If not us, who? If not Wyden and Merkley, why?

From Lar to PAW: a Monday link and scatter

Lar Lubovich Dance Company. Photo: ROSEThings have been busy here at Scatter Central the last few days; so busy that we haven’t had a chance to post since we left poor Jean-Paul Belmondo in the clutches of all
those nasty French critics
Never mind, Jean-Paul. As far as we’re concerned here on our far side of the puddle, you’ll always throw a mean left hook.

So, time for a little update.

Lar Lubovitch, a genuine. living and working part of American dance history, shows up Wednesday night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland, and the White Bird dance series reports it still has good tickets available. The Lubovitch company hasn’t toured in 10 years, and it’s been a good deal longer than that since it’s been in Portland, so this is a good opportunity. The program looks intriguing, and all of the dances are relatively recent: last year’s Jangle, Four Hungarian Dances, set to Bela Bartok’s Rhapsodies #1 and #2 for Violin and Piano; 2000’s Men’s Stories, A Concerto in Ruins, with audio collage and original score by Scott Marshall; and 2007’s Dvorak Serenade, set to Antonin Dvorak’s Serenade in E Major. Plus, Lubovitch will be on hand for a question and answer session after the show.

White Bird has some deals on tickets, including 30-buck Level 3 seats, in addition to its usual student/senior rush tickets two hours before the 7:30 curtain. Details here.

mandy_greer_dare_alla_luce_05Over at his alternate-universe home, Portland Arts Watch (or PAW, as we like to call it), Scatter impresario Barry Johnson has been following the proposed merger between two Portland art stalwarts: the financially struggling Museum of Contemporary Craft and the recently vigorous Pacific Northwest College of Art. Good idea? Bad idea? Necessary idea? In his Monday column in The Oregonian and on Oregon Live, Barry comes down with a case of cautious optimism. Read it here.

And speaking of synchronicity (we were, weren’t we?) my review of the craft museum’s two newest exhibits, by installation artist Mandy Greer and textile artist Darrel Morris, will run on Friday, Jan. 30, in The Oregonian’s A&E section and on Oregon Live. Look for it then.

Did we say alternate-universe homes? We’re embarrassed to reveal that only recently have we discovered the second virtual home of one of our best online friends, the ubiquitous and perspicacious Mighty Toy Cannon of the invaluable Portland arts and culture site Culture Shock. Seems MTC also maintains a fascinating, if less regular, music site called, appropriately, Mighty Toy Cannon. From Nick Lowe and Richard Fontaine to Ruth Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, MTC takes a welcome and refreshing curatorial approach to the wonders of the YouTube musical world. Give it a look, and a listen.

Henry James, by John Singer Sargent, 1913Meanwhile, who’d have guessed that the path to understanding Henry James runs through William Shakespeare’s most infamous stage direction? (That’s “exuent, pursued by a bear,” from The Winter’s Tale, by the way.) The grapevine that slithers through our mutual abode tells us that Part Five of Laura Grimes’ running riff on all things Jamesean, coming Sunday, Feb. 1, in The Oregonian’s books pages and on Oregon Live, is going to be a doozy, complete with Shakespearean bear. In yesterday’s Part Four, Grimes — Friend and Supporter of Art Scatter First Class — gets caught up in a neighborhood book group and unveils a Henry James contest, complete with a prize. Read it here.

Portland’s stages have been simply aburst with fresh new work, thanks to the citywide Fertile Ground festival of new plays. At The Oregonian, Scatter friend Marty Hughley kept up with some of the most recent action in Monday’s paper: Read it here.

Scatter’s been hitting the festival, too. We’ve already run our report on Apollo and Vitriol and Violets. And my review of Northwest Children’s Theater and School‘s new jazz version of Alice in Wonderland also ran in Monday’s Oregonian; read it here.

reGeneration: 50 photographers of Tomorrow
, a traveling exhibit that’s just landed in the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College, is a chilly but pretty darned fascinating look at 50 young photographers worldwide whose work, the shows’s curators believe, will still be vital and important in the year 2025. My review ran in brief in Monday’s Oregonian; for the much more complete version, see it on Oregon Live here.

Finally, we’ve been amused and bemused by the misadventures of operatic tenor Jon Villars,
who walked off the stage during a dress rehearsal of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, reportedly because he didn’t like the conductor’s tempo. Here at Art Scatter, we confess to skipping out on a show early a time or two over the years, too. But not when we were part of the cast.

We’re No. 1 with a dart! (pass it along)

Actually, it’s a multiply shared No. 1, a sort of pay-it-forward No. 1, a chain-letter pat on the back that feels nice and warm and fuzzy.

From somewhere out of the blue (OK, it was from our cyberspace friend Rose City Reader, the literary omnivore who in the real world hangs out just a few blocks away) comes to Art Scatter the Premios Dardo Award.

It’s not the Nobel, it’s not an Oscar or even a Pulitzer. But neither is it a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme. No money changes hands (isn’t that just life in the blogosphere, though?). The Premios Dardo robs no one of their dignity or life savings. It’s simply a way of saying, we like what you do, and we’d like you to tell us whose work you admire on the Web. Fair enough. A lot of wheezing takes place on the Net, and one good way to get to the fresh air is to listen to recommendations from people you trust.

We haven’t been able to track down where the Premios Dardo Awards began or who’s behind them, but it really doesn’t matter. By this point it’s a crazy quilt stretched loosely across the globe, and we’re happy to add our few stitches to the pattern. (As near as our feeble translating abilities can figure out, by the way, “Premios Dardo” means roughly “Top Dart.”)

Here are the rules:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.

3) Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

So, here goes. Here’s our pick of 15, listed in that boring-but-still-useful old alphabetical order. If you haven’t already, give ’em a look. You might find some new friends:

Bunny With an Art Blog

Charles Noble’s Daily Observations

Culture Shock

Dave Allen’s Pampelmoose

Dramma per Musica

Little Red Bike Cafe

Mark Russell’s CulturePulp

Mead Hunter’s Blogorrhea


Portland Architecture

Portland Spaces/Burnside Blog

Reading Copy Book Blog


Third Angle Music Blog

TJ Norris

Monday links: a Scatter round-up

We stopped measuring our heads in the mirror long enough to do a little online investigating. (One of our number spent the day with his head pressed against his full-length mirror attempting to disprove the contentions of Major Scientists that the image his eyes were seeing in the mirror was half the size of his real head. Scatter can be so easily amused. Unfortunately, he was trying to prove this with an Outside Observer — sorry, Lynn — when it’s the subject’s perception of himself that’s at stake.)

Here’s what we found:

Over at Power Slice, art history student Luke Fidler’s blog about “art, culture and contemporary living,” we found a keen eye and lots of excellent links. And we noted a shared interest in the painter Carl Morris. We’ll be back.

Via Power Slice, we were led to Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes on ArtsJournal, specifically his post on a Richard Diebenkorn show in the making. We agree with Mr. Green! An Ocean Park series exhbition would be wonderful. We only hope that the Portland Art Museum gets a piece of the action. Diebenkorn was born in Portland (OK, we can’t get too excited; he left when he was 2), but more importantly to us, his oscillations between abstraction and figurative art were similar to those going on among Portland artists during the Fifties and Sixties (I’m thinking of George Johanson and Carl Morris, specifically, but lots of our artists worked through an AE phase, so powerful was the movement). The interaction between San Francisco and Portland artists during that time — and I understand there was a lot — would be an excellent subject for an excellent exhibition.

We went back to Culture Shock, where we found a stirring defense of the Rights of Children to access to the arts. Art Scatter regulars will know that we couldn’t agree more. In fact, we believe that society should be organized around this right. A place that encourages its kids to create is going to be a great place to live.

Culture Shock linked us to Mead Hunter’s blog, MrMead’s Pupu Platter, which featured a post about headaches, specifically weekend migraines of the most debilitating sort. If you have a remedy, I’m sure Pupu Platter would entertain it. We also noted that MrMead was in the process of, um, redefining his blog and mentioned Art Scatter, which we found flattering, but that almost caused us to slip into an orgy of self-analysis ourselves. Or maybe that was the whole mirror thing.

The week beckons!