Tag Archives: KQAC

China, Wordstock, studios, ballet: What a weekend!

Days at the Cotton Candy #4, copyright Maleonn

ABOVE: “Days at the Cotton Candy #4,” copyright Maleonn, in China Design Now. INSET BELOW: “Graphic Design in China,” poster for the 1992 exhibition, copyright Chen Shaohua. Both photos courtesy Portland Art Museum.

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Quick notes on a Thursday evening:

CHINA DESIGN NOW. I took a much too rapid walk through the installation at the Portland Art Museum this afternoon, and this show’s going to be a dazzler. It opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 17, and you won’t want to miss it. The sheer eye candy is amazing: China’s surge into the 21st century grabs hold of the nation’s traditional love for brilliant color and reshapes it in amazing ways. The show, which originated at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, is barely a scratch on the surface of the new China. But, my, the things you see! An important show for Portland because of the Pacific Rim connection, it’s also a whole lot of fun. I have a short table-setting preview in Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian, and D.K. Row, the O’s lead art critic, will analyze the feast soon. Look for both.

Graphic Design in China, poster for the 1992 exhibition. Copyright Chen ShaohuaWORDSTOCK. Portland’s annual writers’ frenzy heads into its big weekend at the Oregon Convention Center with talks, workshops and publishers’ booths Saturday and Sunday. About a zillion Northwest writers will join such A-list types as James Ellroy and Sherman Alexie. Jeff Baker ran a good preview last week in the O. Willamette Week had some good interviews with participating writers on Wednesday, and I had a handful of interviews with participating writers (young adult novelist Rosanne Parry, mystery man Pierre Ouellette/Pierre Davis, Pendleton Round-Up historian Ann Terry Hill, poet Mark Thalman, kids’ writers Dawn Prochovnic and Brian Martin) in this morning’s Washington County edition of the O. The Wordstock Web site has the schedule; should be a kick.

PORTLAND OPEN STUDIOS. This weekend and next, 100 artists’ studios across greater Portland will throw their doors open and welcome visitors. You can see who, where and when here. I should have a bigger piece posted in a few hours. Grab your map and make your plans.

OREGON BALLET THEATRE. Time to forget the offstage drama and remind yourself of why we care about this brilliant troupe of dancers. This retrospective program, which opens Saturday in Keller Auditorium, features George Balanchine’s celebrated Emerald plus excerpts from a whole lot of highlights from OBT’s own history: Dennis Spaight’s Gloria and Ellington Suite; Trey McIntyre’s Speak; Bebe Miller’s A Certain Depth of Heart, Also Love; Julia Adam’s il nodo; Yuri Possokhov’s La Valse; James Kudelka’s Almost Mozart; and artistic director Christopher Stowell’s Eyes on You and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s a knockout of a program. Details here.

DOROTHEA LANGE IN OREGON. In the late 1930s the great photographic documentarian took a large number of photos of Oregon farmers and farm laborers for the federal Farm Security Administration, and the results are a rare combination of art, history and social comment. A selection from those 500-plus images has just opened in the Littman Gallery at Portland State University, and it should be worth going out of your way to catch. The campus paper, the Vanguard, has the story.

CLASSICAL RADIO’S FUND DRIVE. I’ve spent a fair amount of the last few days in my car (don’t ask), and that means I’ve been listening to a fair amount of classical station KQAC during its fall fund drive. Is it my imagination, or has it been a little harder than usual to shake money out of the tree this time around? Seems like every hour the station’s been falling short of its announced goal. I like this station. I wish it were more adventurous in its programming — I’d love to have a more liberal dose of contemporary and even 20th century stuff in the mix — and I shudder every time I hear a listener’s comment that classical music “soothes” them, as if it were some sort of handy on-demand muscle relaxant. But KQAC is an extremely important part of the city’s cultural fabric, and on the whole it does a good job, and it should succeed. Spare a buck?

Not out of the woods yet: Arts groups in a fiscal thicket

Hansel and Gretel, illus. Arthur Rackham, 1909. Wikimedia CommonsThe smashing success of last Friday’s Dance United gala benefit notwithstanding, it’s a Grimm world out there right now for Portland’s arts organizations: There go Hansel and Gretel, trailing bread crumbs as they traipse into the thick of the woods, and here come the birds, pecking away at the crumbs so there’s no trail out again.

There must be some way out of here. What Hansel and Gretel and the Oregon Symphony and Oregon Ballet Theatre and all-classical radio and Portland Center Stage and the rest need is a financial GPS.

For arts groups here and elsewhere, the fissures of the global economic meltdown have become a chasm, a canyon carved by the raging River Deficit. Given the state of the financial union it’s astonishing that Oregon Ballet Theatre has managed to almost wipe out its $750,000 emergency shortfall in less than a month. Celebrate this as a victory, because a victory it surely is.

But the sobering truth is, it’s only the beginning. Now the hard, tough work begins. And it’s going to be extremely difficult keeping up the sort of adrenalin that has at least temporarily pulled OBT back from the brink.

This string of financial crises has predictably pulled out the trollers, the mocking wise guys who laugh and declare that if arts groups can’t survive in the marketplace, they deserve to die (presumably, like Bank of America and General Motors). These loudmouths understand nothing about the not-for-profit world, or if they do understand it, they despise it with every fiber in their rugged-individualist, social-Darwinist bodies. Ignore them. They are happiest when someone shouts back.

Even among arts people the current crisis has inspired a lot of hand-wringing about “dead art forms” and the possibility that in an age of radically new media and runaway-success popular art forms, ┬ápeople just don’t care any more about things like dance and serious music.

I don’t buy it. In a way, the “traditional” arts have never been more popular. The Oregon Symphony, which has piled up a $1.5 million deficit in the just-ending fiscal year, sold more tickets in the just-past season than ever before. OBT is playing to packed, enthusiastic houses. Portland Center Stage keeps extending its Storm Large musical hit, Crazy Enough. Radio market share at KQAC, Portland’s all-classical station, is booming. As I make the rounds I see good-sized crowds at fringe events, too, from puppet shows to new vaudeville to cold readings of new play scripts. Dance and classical music, for all their financial woes, are undergoing a renaissance sparked by rigorously trained and exquisitely talented young performers — the very people who are supposed to have defected to American Idol and Twitter and “reality” TV. What’s more, they’re extending the boundaries of their art forms, reinterpreting them for today’s world even as they keep their heritages alive.

And audiences have responded. If there’s a crisis — and there is — it isn’t a lack of enthusiastic audiences, who are finding ways to continue to participate even in the midst of their own financial travails. The thirst for art is real, and our greatest hope for long-term optimism.

So what’s the problem?

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