Arts news from the Northwest: Jeffrey Thomas leaves the craft museum, Portland Playhouse appeals its expulsion, etc.

A retrospective of Betty Feves work at the MoCC is a culmination of Jeffrey Thomas term as interim director.

At the top of today’s local arts news, Jeffrey Thomas resigned from his post as interim director of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, a job he’s held down since January of 2011. During that time, he helped plan the museum’s 75th anniversary, increase membership and develop a long-term exhibition schedule. “With all this positive momentum in mind, it seems like a good time to resign my position as interim director of MoCC.,” Thomas wrote in an email, “… and with the 75th anniversary concluding with this monumental retrospective of Betty Feves’ work, I think that it is a good time for the Museum to begin  its search for its next leader.”

As Lisa Radon, spokesperson for Pacific Northwest College of Art, which is the parent organization for the museum, pointed out in a post by DK Row, “He stepped in at a pivotal moment for the institution and made a lot of good things happen.” (Radon is a frequent contributor to Oregon ArtsWatch.) She also called the resignation, a “mutual” decision.

As we find out more about what this might mean for the future of the museum and its relationship with PNCA, we’ll let you know.

We’d heard through the grapevine that the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) had denied Portland Playhouse’s request to perform plays in their home in the  historic church building on NE Prescott St. and 6th Ave., which forced them to move their first three shows this season to other theaters. The BDS apparently determined that a “theater” was not a community service, and fell instead under the rubric of “commercial, retail sales,” and so couldn’t exist on a residentially-zoned street, according to Portland Playhouse.

That’s not the end of it, though, because City Council will have a chance to overturn this decision by the BDS, something the King Neighborhood Association has asked Council to do. That appeal hits the Council at 3:30 p.m. March 1 at City Hall. Support for the appeal can be registered by emailing or writing city council members through Karla Moore-Love ( Include case number (LU 11-187799 CU) and your street address, and cc Portland’s Art and Culture Director, Cary Clarke (

Are non-profit arts groups, including theater, a community service or a commercial enterprise? We’ve argued many times about the importance of the arts as way of building community, developing a more responsive culture and acting as a catalyst for a host of creative enterprises, even beyond their crucial role in the lives of individuals.

The sharp-eared NPR critic Tom Manoff noticed that a large section of a new work by Osvaldo Golijov, “Siderus,” which the Eugene Symphony played last weekend, sounded a lot like another piece of music. Actually, certain passages sounded exactly alike. Manoff posted about it on his blog, and mini-firestorm erupted over the matter, though it turned out that Golijov had gotten the other composer’s permission to use his work. Still, it raises questions about what a “composer” actually does, especially since the other composer in this case,  Michael Ward-Bergeman, wasn’t credited. You can catch up on the debate by visiting Manoff’s blog and Washington Post classical music critic Anne Midgette’s post on the matter.

Well, of course, Portland needs a Last Friday art walk to go with all the others, and so St. Johns has obliged. This Friday several galleries and other creative business will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. for your art-walking pleasure.

Back when Portland Center Stage was staging its African-American version of “Oklahoma!”, I asked director Chris Coleman what it would have been like if the only character in the musical played by a black actor was Jud, the show’s villain, and he just said, “Tense,” as I recall. Well, that’s exactly what the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle has done, and tension, not to mention controversy, has ensued. The director, David Armstrong, claimed it was just a matter of color-blind casting, “and at most, that people would see it as ‘bold’ or ‘interesting,'” as Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur wrote. But so many Facebook comments have popped up that Armstrong has scheduled several audience talk-backs to explain the idea behind the casting.

We’ll stay in Washington State for one more: A State Senator has proposed that the state sell off $5 million of its art collection every two years and use the proceeds to help fund college tuition for low-income students. The word “cannibalism” came up on our Facebook site (which you should LIKE so you can play along at home more easily!), and that sounds about right. State governments should do many things, including increasing accessibility to higher education and collecting art for display in government buildings. The former should involve more money than the latter, but that doesn’t mean that buying art for public spaces should cease.



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