The Washed Ashore Project: Saving the Seas with Art

Bandon-based nonprofit works to change attitudes by transforming ocean-killing garbage into sculptures


Last month, as my wife and I entered Oregon on a cross-country journey, we wandered into what initially looked to be an unassuming art gallery in a little southern Oregon coast town. Huge sculptures filled the space. We looked at them closely — and suddenly realized that each was made from thousands of pieces of trash.

We had stumbled upon the Washed Ashore Project gallery in Old Town Bandon-by-the-Sea.

Flowering from the debris. Photo: The Washed Ashore Project

When Bandon artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi noticed the huge amount of plastic pollution on southern Oregon’s beaches, she wondered where all that garbage was coming from. So she did some research. Pozzi learned that plastic pollution has spread to every ocean and marine habitat in the world, and has entered every level of the ocean food chain, from whales to plankton. Turtles, fish, and other sea life ingest floating plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. More than half the world’s sea turtles have eaten plastic, and partly as a result, almost all of their species are threatened or endangered. Other sea animals become ensnared in discarded fishing line, six-pack can holders, and other debris — more than 300 billion pounds of it, clogging Earth’s oceans and killing its creatures.


What’s jazz got to do with it?

Darrell Grant: Art, environment and politics in the Elliott State Forest


On April 1, pianist, composer and Portland State University Professor Darrell Grant led a collaborative performance with fellow Oregon-based musicians to celebrate the Elliott State Forest and advocate for keeping it in public ownership. Their effort came at the invitation of Forest advocates from Coos County in advance of a vote by the Oregon Land Board, scheduled for May 9, that will determine whether or not to sell the Forest’s 82,500 acres for $202.8 million to help fund public schools.

Grant wanted to find out if art can influence that decision.

Entering the Elliott State Forest/Photo by Lynn Darroch

“I want to publicly acknowledge the land as a source of creative inspiration for so many of us lucky enough to live here,” Grant said, explaining what moved him to haul a piano up and down 15 miles of logging roads. His latest album, “The Territory,” makes explicit that connection in nine movements that capture, in sound, the terrain and shared history from which he believes local art draws its flavor.

He had other reasons for going into the Forest, too. “As a person of color,” he continued, “I want the Land Board to know that this is my forest too … as much my legacy to future generations of Oregonians as anyone’s. And, as much as Oregon’s underserved children deserve a quality education, they also deserve to retain their rights to their forests.”

Darrell Grant – ” The Territory” World Premiere July, 6, 2013, Mvt 9: “New Land” from DGM Media on Vimeo.

In pursuit of those goals, he said, “I am compelled to explore the possibility that there are ways to achieve change other than…protest, resistance and political threat.”

And the Elliott State Forest has generated plenty of those political threats of late. Required by law to manage the Forest to produce revenue for public schools, the state has consistently failed to meet harvest goals—due to environmental and species protections that limited logging, some argue, though larger economic forces may have had a hand, too. In 2015, the Land Board set terms for a sale, hoping to bring in money the state could invest to ensure the Elliott Forest benefits public schools. Such a sale would mean the state would no longer own the land, and, despite protections and good faith efforts by timber companies, the Forest could become a tree farm managed for maximum harvest. Many of the attendees Saturday, on the other hand, believe the forest should be treated as legacy: a habitat for salmon, seabirds and other creatures that thrive in undamaged, diverse ecosystems.

Could a musical performance—and whatever publicity it generates—impact the Land Board’s decision? Could it inspire ideas for mechanisms to fund K-12 education besides selling the state’s remaining forests? Could it create a new way of approaching issues such as these?


A death in the family: Rick Bartow

An Oregon giant dies at 69: "We’re made up as much of what we’ve lost as what we’ve gained"

The news came this Sunday morning, as news so often does, via Facebook. A mutual friend posted something sad and cryptic, about losing a good friend the previous night, but she named no name. I scrolled down a little more, and came on another post, from his longtime close friend and gallerist, Charles Froelick, along with a picture of Rick looking not lean and energetic and on the brink of sideways laughter, as I suspect I’ll always think of him, but gaunt and reflective, as if moving slowly to somewhere else, someplace private and unbreachable.

“I’m gathered with incredible people who have broken hearts and strong spirits,” Charles wrote. “Rick Bartow passed away last evening after bravely battling congestive heart failure. His family and close friends surrounded him with love as he exited Earth. His poetry and genius will live on. More info and service plans will be announced.”

Rick Bartow, 2015. Photo courtesy K.B. Dixon, from his book "Face to Face: 32 Oregon Artists"

Rick Bartow, 2015. Photo courtesy K.B. Dixon, from his book “Face to Face: 32 Oregon Artists”

So there it was. And I found myself responding not first as a journalist – here is news, and it needs to be told, and I must tell it – but viscerally. This wasn’t just a public loss, but a personal one as well. I had written about Rick, this extraordinary Oregon artist and man, several times, and I knew him, not well, but in certain ways deeply: He had told me things and shown me things that people don’t always tell and show when a stranger asks to step into their lives for a while, and that humility and generosity created some sort of bond.


Astoria Music Festival’s St. John Passion: Dramatic effect

Performance of J.S. Bach’s choral-orchestral masterpiece takes an opera-worthy approach.


If you haven’t been to Astoria in while, you’ve missed some things. No, not the Goonies, but the changes all over the city and environs. Boutique hotels and vintage kitsch, fabulous restaurants and a riverwalk. And then there is passionate music.

Star-studded with nationally and internationally known singers and instrumentalists, the Astoria Music Festival has grown from its founding in 2003, with just a single work (The Marriage of Figaro) featuring university students, to this year’s cornucopia of diverse offerings over a period of 17 days. The total cast includes Northwest singers such as Amy Hansen, Richard Zeller and Angela Meade, and players Sarah Kwak (concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra), organist Henry Lebedinsky, and stellar lutenist Hideki Yamaya.

Keith Clark led the Astoria Music Festival's performance of Bach's St. John Passion. Photo: Dwight Caswell.

Keith Clark led the Astoria Music Festival’s performance of Bach’s St. John Passion. Photo: Dwight Caswell.

Last Saturday night featured the first choral work of the Festival: J.S. Bach’s Johannes Passion (St. John Passion). Keith Clark, co-founder and artistic director of the Festival, staged the sacred offering for full dramatic effect and the overall effect was stirring.

This is one of Bach’s greatest “operas.” That is to say, the four Passions of Christ (only two of the four are left to us: St. John and St. Matthew) were written to use all the tools of an opera (aria, recitative, arioso, chorus) to portray the drama in the Passion story. They’re called Passions, because that genre is specifically from one of the synoptic gospels narrating the “Passion week,” leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. They are as dramatic as any opera.


Astoria Music Festival taps Linda Magee as consultant

The longtime leader of Chamber Music Northwest will help the festival prepare for a new executive director

Every time someone at ArtsWatch slipped and said that Linda Magee had “retired” from her job as executive director at Chamber Music Northwest, she was quick to correct us. No, she hadn’t retired, she would assert, she was just moving on to something else after 33 years at CMNW.

Just to put an exclamation point on that distinction, Magee will has been hired to consult with the Astoria Music Festival to help the festival prepare to hire a new executive director, as The Daily Astorian reported yesterday. The report included this quote from artistic director Keith Clark:

“We are fortunate that Linda Magee has offered to join our festival team,” said founding Artistic Director Keith Clark. “Our performing artists include many leading musicians in the country, and in Linda we now have a virtuoso arts administer to guide us to a new level of organization.”

“I think she will be really great for them, because she’s so good at growing small organizations and is so well connected,” said one music insider we talked to, and that sounds right. During Magee’s long tenure at CMNW, the organization grew dramatically into one of the most solid arts groups in Portland, and the group’s reach was national and international in scope, meaning, yes, her rolodex is undoubtedly loaded with interesting names.
The Astoria festival has been growing, too, both in size and stature, which makes Magee’s commitment to them understandable. It just completed its 10th season, and seems poised for more growth in the future. Its 2013 season included a mix of chamber and orchestral music and opera. The 2014 festival will be June 13-29.

We’ve reached out to Magee to talk a little bit more about the move, and we’ll keep you, um, posted when we learn more.


Magee did get back to us and pointed out that we’d completely misread what was going on. She will NOT be the new executive director herself: She’s going to help the festival prepare to hire that executive director. Our apologies to Magee, the festival, and to you, our readers!


One more quick classical music note: As Brett Campbell noted on our ArtsWatch Facebook Page, one worthy Oregon music institution’s loss is another gain. Oregon Repertory Singers executive director Jed Shay will moves over to the same position at Portland Youth Philharmonic. Shay replaces Kevin Lefohn, who resigned last summer.

Last Rite

The summer's final performance of Agnieszka Laska Dancers' "Rite of Spring" at the Astoria Music Festival Saturday.

Lauren Michelle Redmond as The Chosen One and the  AL Dancers/Chris Leck

Lauren Michelle Richmond as The Chosen One and the AL Dancers/Chris Leck


History is coming to Astoria on Saturday. Not through books covered in dust, or even keyboards covered in fingerprints, but with crazy pulse-pounding music and dance! It’ll be a riot!

There was a riot, a century and a month ago to the day, the most famous riot in the history of classical music, when Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, “The Rite of Spring” premiered in Paris in 1913. Admittedly there isn’t a lot of competition in that specialized category, but it was a doozy. No one died and nothing was burned down, but fists flew, clothes were ripped, and the screaming and shouting nearly drowned out the music. Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company delivered on a triple threat of outrageous dance, costumes and music, and the scandalous result lived up to his wildest dreams.

These days of course, we have seen much more shocking things, and Astorians are unlikely to riot when the curtain goes up at 7:30 pm June 29 at the Liberty Theater and the exuberant cacophony of a Russian spring thaw begins to spread over them. However, two things that they will experience in this production of “The Rite” will evoke its tumultuous history. While they won’t hear Stravinsky’s colorful orchestration, decried at the time as violent and bizarre, the infamous dissonances are if anything sharper when heard in the piano four-hand version, which will be performed by top Portland pianists (and “Rite” veterans) Jeffrey Payne and Susan Smith of the new music ensembles FearNoMusic and Third Angle, respectively.

And Portland choreographer Agnieszka Laska, who like Diaghilev has never been afraid of controversy, has leapt to a new stage in her artistic development, creating a show which inventively combines distinctive elements of her choreographic repertoire with moves inspired by classic ballet and the landmark 1987 Joffrey Ballet “Rite” reconstruction (Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography has been largely lost). And then, just when you think you’ve seen it all, she tops it off with an unflinching gaze at the work’s barbaric denouement.

I was one of the fortunate who got into the sold-out Portland State University performance of this show on June 7th. It started innocently enough, with a group of girlfriends doing girlfriend things, while in the orchestra, winter’s ice melted away underneath. There is no hint that one of them will have danced to her death before an hour has passed.


Keith Clark leads the orchestra at the Astoria Music Festival.

Keith Clark leads the orchestra at the Astoria Music Festival.

If the state seems to be tilting a bit to the left this weekend, that’s because of all the classical music fans heading coastward, where most of the action is. The Astoria Music Festival, directed by Keith Clark, kicks off Saturday afternoon at Astoria’s Liberty Theater with a chamber music matinee featuring a stellar lineup (Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour, Oregon Symphony concertmaster Sarah Kwak, charismatic Russian cellist Sergey Antonov, and ubiquitous Portland keyboard master Cary Lewis) for pair of splendid chamber works: Dvorak’s evocative “Bagatelles” and Mendelssohn’s first piano trio.

Saturday evening’s orchestra concert celebrates the bicentenary of that most influential of composers and incorrigible of anti-Semites, Richard Wagner, with music from his Ring operas (featuring top notch opera singers from around the country) and the ever lilting “Siegried Idyll.” The festival is offering a buy-one, get-one-free deal for this concert only; call 503.325.9896.

Sunday’s all-Russian matinee enlists the same forces to perform Glazunov’s Violin Concerto (featuring Chalifour), plus the suite drawn from Stravinsky’s glorious breakthrough ballet score, “The Firebird.” On Tuesday, Astoria’s historic Grace Episcopal Church hosts a candlelight Baroque music concert led by Musica Maestrale lutenist Hideki Yamaya and harpsichordist Gwendolyn Toth, of New York’s Artek Baroque Ensemble; they’ll play Italian and German Baroque music by Corelli, Buxtehude and more. Wednesday’s concert is an all-tango affair featuring Oregon Symphony/FearNoMusic string players Joel Belgique and Ines Voglar and other singers and musicians playing music by Piazzolla, Lou Harrison and other composers from several Latin American composers.

Also on the edge of the continent, at Lincoln City Community College, the Siletz Bay Music Festival continues with pianist Gerald Robbins playing a passel of those marvelous miniatures Domenico Scarlatti composed for Baroque keyboards, plus a Violin Sonata (with violinist Haroutune Bedelian) and a Schubert Duo Sonata (with fellow pianist Lorna Griffitt). Saturday’s chamber music concert features Louise Farrenc’s Piano Quintet #1 and Mendelssohn’s Piano Sextet.

Sunday afternoon’s casual chamber concert at Eden Hall features works by contemporary American composer William Bolcom, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Massenet, Claude Bolling (remember those popular jazz-classical albums he did in the 1970s?) and much more. Back at LCCC, Monday night’s free chamber music concert offers Ravel’s great violin and piano sonata along with Richard Strauss’s Sextet from his opera, “Capriccio,” and then one of the all-time pinnacles of chamber music, Schubert’s String Quintet. Wednesday night’s chamber concert features still more Schubert, plus music by Brahms, Gordon Jacob and more.


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