52 pickup: reshuffling the 2014 deck

ArtsWatch looks back on the year that was: 52 arts stories for 52 weeks

What: we’re at the end of this thing already? It’s been a spine-tingling, head-scratching year, this 2014. During it we learned, by way of a $142 million Francis Bacon triptych that parked for a few weeks at the Portland Art Museum after its private purchase at auction, that Oregon is a tax haven for collectors of expensive art, a cozy Cayman Islands for ducking those pesky tariffs.

It’s also been the year that:

– Portland Opera decided to reinvent itself as a summer festival;

– Oregon Ballet Theatre star Alison Roper and Portland Art Museum chief curator Bruce Guenther retired;

– and a U.S. senator from Oklahoma, quite possibly as high as an elephant’s eye, railed against a government grant to Oregon Children’s Theatre for a musical about zombies.

Here at ArtsWatch World Headquarters we’ve been going over our dispatches from the past 12 months, looking for those pieces that give a sense of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how many intriguing little side trips we took along the way. In another shuffle of the deck we could have picked a totally different house of cards. But this is the deck we chose. Gentle readers, here you have ’em – 52 stories for 52 weeks. May 2014 rest happily in our memories, and 2015 break out of the gate with a robust sense of boldness and adventure.


Chase Hamilton in “Friends.” Photo: David Krebs

Chase Hamilton in “Friends” helps kick off the dance year. Photo: David Krebs



13: A roaring kickoff to the Second Dance Season. “[Tracey] Durbin and [Janet] McIntyre’s Ebb & Flow was the heavyweight of the evening, danced by a fine ensemble … and marrying dance and film fluidly, with each supporting the other: at one point the dancers sit down onstage, backs to the audience, and watch the film, too, absorbed in images of themselves underwater, sinking and swimming.” Bob Hicks reports that Eowyn Emerald’s show of works by eight choreographers got the year’s dance card off to a rousing start.

19: Portland Piano interview: Vladimir Feltsman. “I survived because I knew that finally I would be let out of there, and I had to be ready. I worked very hard for eight years; it was a blessing in disguise because I had plenty of time to learn new music, to read books, to develop. Those eight years were an important though difficult time, and I would not trade them for anything.” Jana Hanchett listens to the virtuoso Russian-émigré pianist talk about his long wait to leave the old U.S.S.R. and what it’s meant to his life and career.

26: To Mom, who isn’t here: Why Fertile Ground matters. “(T)he two most important things in my life happened at almost the same time: my mother died, leaving me with a cavernous empty space in my life; and Trisha Pancio Mead took me out to a downtown dive bar for whiskey sours with a group of theater people and said, ‘Guys, lets start a new play festival. And let’s make it open to everybody.’ This is why it matters that the Fertile Ground Festival is uncurated. Because the city was full of people like me who had stories to tell and the drive to create work, and we just needed someone to open a door.” As the city rushes toward a new Fertile Ground new-works festival in January (and you could look up A.L. Adams’ splendid coverage for ArtsWatch of 2014’s), playwright Claire Willett explains what’s important about it in the first place.


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