Christine D’Arcy’s time at the arts commission ends, Carlos doesn’t call, more!

ArtsWatch News & Notes: Change at the Oregon Arts Commission, a little more on private salaries at the symphony, and some happy news, too

Although I think the issue we were talking about yesterday, transparency at the Oregon Symphony, is important, it kept me from other big arts news.

I’m referring to the firing of the executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission, Christine D’Arcy, on Monday. Maybe you already saw the story in the Salem Statesman Journal. Here’s the top of Hannah Hoffman’s story:

The longtime head of the Oregon Arts Commission said she was fired abruptly this week when state officials told her they had a “different vision” for the agency.

“I didn’t resign,” Christine D’Arcy told the Statesman Journal. “I was basically told on Monday that I wasn’t going to be the executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Cultural Trust any longer.”

D’Arcy has presided over the arts commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust, which she helped create, for the past 19 years, and whatever the circumstances and reasons for the firing, she can be proud of her accomplishments. I haven’t followed the arts commission closely enough to know the backstory from anyone’s point of view, though maybe I can catch up (and if not me, then someone else at ArtsWatch!). And by backstory, I don’t necessarily mean the narrative specific to D’Arcy’s dismissal, I mean the context of it: how the arts commission sees its role, how it goes about accomplishing it, how it negotiates the collision of the arts with government.


Back to Carlos! In yesterday’s post, I said I’d left a message on Kalmar’s office phone after co-president Janet Plummer gave me the number and suggested I call him and ask him directly what his new three-year extension involved. I haven’t received a call back, I’m sorry to say, but it’s only been a day, so I’m still hopeful! I have to say that Plummer’s suggestion sounded a little like a set-up, but hey, I’m just skeptical by nature and training.

Why is the symphony so adamant about keeping Kalmar’s salary secret? It could simply be a principle, of course, a bedrock privacy issue. Or perhaps there are other reasons, practical reasons. What purpose does keeping that number a secret serve? Because even principles serve practical purposes, right?

As long as we’re asking “why”…why am I interested in this? Because the symphony is important, and I want it to succeed. I think success for a symphony means having a substantial effect on the community in general and the classical music community specifically. I think the best way to have an effect is to engage your community directly, to be open about both your financial information and your artistic direction, to give your community something it needs. And then receive support in turn. In other orchestras under stress the past few years—Detroit, Philadelphia, now Minnesota—the fight was staff and board against the musicians, by and large. The community was left out of the deliberations. That fracturing is terrible for everyone, and we don’t want it to happen in Portland. I’m also hoping that my fears are overblown, and that this truly is a tempest in a teapot.

Stay tuned!


Ellen Lesperance will be party of Disjecta's 2014 biennial.

Ellen Lesperance will be party of Disjecta’s 2014 biennial.

Good grief! Let’s move on to some happier news, yes?

For example, the Washington Post, now in the hands of Amazon’s super rich Jeff Bezos, gave Cappella Romana a happy review of its National Gallery of Art performance!

“The ensemble of seven men and five women was, at its best, singing traditional Byzantine chant. The sound was robust, especially from the men; a full-throated tone that has buzz and resonance, ornamented with the cantillation-like scoops and trills typical of this music.”


Disjecta announced the 15 artists and artist collaboratives selected by LA-based curator Amanda Hunt for its Portland2014: A Biennial of Contemporary Art next year. Here are the artist involved: (if not otherwise noted, all artists are Portland based): Zachary Davis, Modou Dieng & Devon A. VanHouten-Maldonado, Alex Mackin Dolan, Travis Fitzgerald, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Evan La Londe, Ellen Lesperance, D.E. May (Salem), Christopher Michlig & John Zerzan (Eugene), Personal Libraries Library, Publication Studio, Ralph Pugay, Kelly Rauer, Blair Saxon-Hill, Richard Thompson (Dayton). We’ll be talking about this later!

“Weight” – an installation from Kelly Rauer on Vimeo.


The official opening night for Artists Repertory Theatre’s “Foxfinder” is Saturday night. Director Damaso Rodriguez takes to Vimeo to give you a quick description of what’s in store!

Foxfinder by Dawn King at Artists Rep, Oct. 29-Dec. 1 from Artists Repertory Theatre on Vimeo.

5 Responses.

  1. bob priest says:

    hang in there, barry, you WILL find out what the maestro makes.

    while you’re at it, maybe you can also find out if the salary figure is all-inclusive or if there are other sums that supplement:

    1/ travel expenses
    2/ in town per diem
    3/ housing allowance
    4/ etc.

    these ARE important pieces of the payroll pie – especially given all the belt-tightening the front-line trench fighters are force to endure.

    you know, either it’s an as above, so below world @ OSO or it isn’t.

  2. bob priest says:

    as far as the Oregon State Arts Commission’s “different vision” for the agency is concerned, i sincerely hope that includes sprucing up how the arts funding panels are run.

    based on my participation on their november 2010 panel for individual artist fellowships, i can honestly affirm that there is MUCH room for improvement. i nearly walked out on the final deliberations due to the sadly unprofessional manner in which the panel was directed by the OAC administrators & technical crew – the applicants were vastly under-served by having their carefully prepared work samples rendered (schmeared is more like it) by poor audio & visual equipment that was run by amateurs, to boot. that coupled with one of the OAC’s commissioners loudly voicing & lobbying for his personal favorites will long remain in my mind as exactly THE wrong way to run such an important meeting.

    i can certainly go into more detail about this – i did so in a long letter to shannon planchon – but will just leave it with my fervent hope that MAJOR upgrades have been brought to bear on the panel review process @ OAC since the time of my abysmal experience with them.

  3. blogdog says:

    anyone with a membership/login – Guidestar’s got the data

    Detailed Financial and People Data included in the GuideStar Premium Report


    Also Known As:
    Oregon Symphony
    Physical Address:
    PORTLAND, OR 97205 2800
    Web URL:
    Ms. Janet Plummer

    GuideStar Exchange
    Committed to transparency
    Registered with IRS
    Legitimacy information is available
    Financial Data Annual Revenue and Expense data reported
    Forms 990 2012, 2011, and 2010
    Forms 990 filed with the IRS
    Mission Objectives
    Mission Statement is available
    Impact Summary
    Impact Summary from the nonprofit is available

  4. curtis heikkinen says:

    I have been a very enthusiatic supporter of the symphony for many years. Nobody admires the work of Carlos Kalmar more than I do. He has done a terrific job with this ensemble. I happen to think that he is worth every penny that the symphony pays him. I also acknowledge and respect the symphony’s legitimate interest in protecting the privacy of those who work for it. I can also understand any reluctance Carlos Kalmar may have in revealing his salary. I know I would not relish the world knowing what is in most instances an individual’s private businees. If you suspect, however, that a “but” is coming, you are correct.

    Having said all this, Kalmar is the highest paid individual working at a not for profit, which depends in large part on donations from individuals and businesses. It would seem to go with the territory, so to speak, that some matters generally considered private should be made public in the interests of transparency and full disclosure. It also appears that many other orchestras reveal the salary of their music directors.

    As someone who on occasion gives a modest sum to the symphony, I do so with a certain amount of trust that I my hard-earned dollars are being used as efficiently and effectively as possible. From what I can see and hear every weekend that I am in the concert hall, donors are getting a lot for their money. I also know that it is a wonderful group of people who work at the symphony. I would hate to see trust in the symphony undermined to any degree by a matter that seemingly can be rectified quite easily.

    • Barry Johnson says:

      I am with you all the way, Curtis. Kalmar has proven his ability to shape and conduct an orchestra. And I would also add that we know MANY other salaries at the symphony from the 990 form and from contract negotiations with the musicians union. Somehow not knowing how the music director’s salary fits into all of this doesn’t make sense to me.

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