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Featured Grants: your donation dollars at work
The term “Native art” should never be a path to a stereotype, and Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft has been hard at work debunking the myth of homogeneity in Native American tribal craft with its showing of “This is Not a Silent Movie: Four Contemporary Alaska Native Artists.”
The exhibit, on loan from the Craft and Folk Art Museum and produced in collaboration with Julie Decker, Chief Curator of the Anchorage Museum will only visit California, Oregon and Montana, and is on exhibit at the museum in the Pearl District until April 19.
The sometimes heartrending, sometimes playful, always pointed and provocative works by Nicholas Galanin, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Da-ka-xeen Mehner, and Susie Silook offer intimate views on Athabascan, Inupiaq, N’ishga, Tlingit and Yupik cultures and crafts from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome, Sitka and St.Lawrence Island.
The $7,500 FY14 Cultural Trust grant supports auxiliary programming for the public. The most significant program, a showing of “On the Ice,” an acclaimed documentary of Arctic Native family life by Andrew MacLean, will take place March 30, 7pm, at the Hollywood Theatre, with facilitated discussion to follow.
The museum will also host the Illumination Spring Reading Series, a series of lectures by Native American authors, in March and April in conjunction with the exhibit.
According to Curator of Collections and Registrar, Nicole Nathan, "This Is Not A Silent Movie provides a unique opportunity for the Museum to contribute to the conversation around contemporary art and craft practice for Native artists.” She praised the Trust for seeing the show’s potential for deep exploration. “The exhibition is a rich jumping off point, and the support from the Trust provides us with the means to produce a set of programs, discussions, and sharing of knowledge through a uniquely Oregon lens."
The Kennedy Center is doing it. The Smithsonian is doing it. Even the Met is doing it. And now, Northwest Children’s Theater and School (NWCT) is doing it too.
Like these venerable east coast institutions, NWCT is pioneering sensory-friendly lighting, sound and content so that autistic, ADHD, and other sensory-sensitive children can enjoy local theater in Oregon.
Other-abled cultural programming is not new, but theater companies like Paper Mill Playhouse (New Jersey), Adventure Theatre (Washington DC), and Missoula Children’s Theatre in Montana had recently begun engineering sensory-friendly productions, and NWCT became interested.
A Cultural Trust grant of $5,000, along with private funding, has helped the Portland theatre company acquire lighting technology and equipment that would provide an easier viewing experience for these nuanced productions. The company is still raising money for upgrades and a comprehensive system for sensory-friendly productions. Located in Northwest Portland, NWCT has planned and produced one sensitive production this season. “Goodnight, Moon” opens February 1 and will stage two sensory-sensitive performances on February 22 and March 1. According to NWCT Artistic Director Sarah Jane Hardy, the project involved creating two different versions of the same production. The main differences include foreshortened run time, no intermission, and modifications to plot, lighting and sound. “We will keep the house lights up, leave buffer seats between each family (so that children are able to move around), and remove sensory surprises,” said Hardy. Such surprises include “screams and loud sounds, from the actors and from the board.”
As a children’s theatre, NWCT is nearly immune to short attention spans, restlessness, and interruptions. “We have been doing previews for years for teen moms with babies, foster children, visually impaired groups with audio aids, a line of wheelchairs that make noise, and otherwise antsy kids,” Hardy recounted. She says the actors are prepared for anything, including children who might hit overload and bolt. “I’m confident, whatever they throw at the cast, the cast will be able to take it in stride and enjoy it. Live theater has a live audience. We want that audience to live,” said Hardy.
Hardy’s research has shown her preparedness is key, and she is working with Multnomah County Library and Portland Public Schools Special Education teachers to create “social stories,” or picture books that explain the impending experience to the children, one step at a time. “The concepts revolve around preparedness. For example, ‘we’ll arrive at the theater and there will be a lot of people,’” said Hardy. In addition to providing free tickets to several groups, NWCT has been marketing the production to AWEtism We Embrace, ASD Caregivers’ Support Group, Autism Society of Oregon, Portland Asberger’s Network and other organizations that aid autistic children and adults. The theatre company estimates it will reach an additional 2,000 people through these shows.
Despite all their planning, Hardy remains unattached to outcomes. “I’m prepared to fail,” she said. “If we try this and it’s not right, we’ll figure out another way. This is an investigation.”
The goal of NWCT is to include children who have previously been excluded from attending the theater. Said Hardy, “I have had parents and grandparents well up at the thought of being able to experience this with their children.”
The upcoming Musician Development Residency with Grant Llewellyn and Antonio Pompa-Baldi has given Eugene Symphony Association great cause for celebration. The acclaimed musicians will spend a week in residency with professional and student musicians in the Southern Willamette Valley this spring, a project partly funded by a $10,000 Cultural Trust grant and, more recently, a prestigious $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Eugene Symphony is one of 895 NEA Art Works grants funded nationwide. Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the NEA’s highest criteria for excellence. Those criteria include public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts and enhancing the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received more than 1,525 applications for Art Works funding. Of the funded projects, NEA’s acting chair, Joan Shigekawa, said, “Whether it is a focus on education, engagement or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable experiences for the public to engage with the arts.”
During the April, 2014 residency, Llewellyn, who is currently music director with the North Carolina Symphony, will work with the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance orchestra and choral students, a partnership with the Eugene Springfield Youth Orchestras and student musicians at Florence’s Siuslaw High School. World renowned Italian pianist Pompa-Baldi will hold master piano classes for select high school students, a mini-recital at Eugene Piano Academy, an independent music school and private classes for students aged 18 months to adult. He will also lead a discussion for adult piano students after the recital. Llewellyn and Pompa-Baldi have also scheduled performances at the Hult Center, April 17 and 18.
Fertile Ground is Portland’s answer to a fringe festival. This 11-day arts festival, January 23-Feb 2 will include over 100 new works, all generated in the City of Roses,include theatre, dance, comedy, visual arts, film and other arts media.
Among them is a new play from Hand2Mouth (H2M) Theatre entitled PEP TALK, created by the Hand2Mouth ensemble in collaboration with award-winning H2M playwright Andrea Stolowitz. This collaboration is funded in part by a Cultural Development grant from the Cultural Trust.
According to Jen Mitas Managing Director of H2M, “PEP TALK is a new performance that draws on sports culture and coaching to explore what it means to inspire an audience.” Starring four women and channeling historic and fictional sports coaches and players, PEP TALK rallies the audience around monologues, music, and special guests, while questioning audience expectations of traditional female decorum and the ways that our current social media-driven culture isolates us. The new creation was the brainchild of ensemble members Erin Leddy, Liz Hayden, Julie Hammond, Maesie Speer, Faith Helma and artistic director Jonathan Walters.
After it premieres at Fertile Ground, PEP TALK will run for two weeks at the West Gymnasium of the 100-year old Peninsula Park Community Center in North Portland. The production will also make a spring tour that includes Salem, Eugene and rural Clackamas County, with performances at Willamette University, University of Oregon, and Estacada Together. The company will do a 20 minute excerpt of PEP TALK at On The Boards’ Northwest New Works festival in Seattle. H2M is also actively working with Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, to do a production there and hoping to take its tour east of the Cascades. During the tour, H2M also hopes to hold theatre workshops for students.
“In bringing PEP TALK to audiences beyond Portland, we hope to build dialogues, deepen connections and open pathways for future theatre collaborations statewide,” said Julie Hammond, H2M’s executive director.
The Cultural Trust grant of $6,000 enabled H2M to be more ambitious about outreach, working with young people before the show and following up with them after the show. Said Mitas, the expanded scope of work made possible in part by the grant, “represented some of the ways we had wanted to work in the past but couldn’t.” One example involved integrating audio and video components early in the show’s development. “It allowed us to get technology in the room a lot earlier,” said Mitas.
Mitas praised the Trust grant as, “a very strong endorsement that we are a valued part of the larger ecology of Oregon, that we are being recognized for persisting for 13 years as theatrical experimenters,” she said.
The discovery of a previously unpublished work by a renowned author is always cause for celebration.
But when that writer is national and Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford (1914-1993), on the eve of his 100th birthday, the joy multiplies exponentially.
In FY2014, Tavern Books, a new Portland nonprofit dedicated to the revival of rare, out-of-print poetry collections or translations, received a $5,000 grant from the Cultural Trust to publish, catalog and distribute Stafford’s 1954 creative dissertation for his PhD from University of Iowa.
Winterward, a collection of 35 William Stafford poems, 10 of which have never been published before, includes an also-previously-unpublished scholarly preface by Stafford. The book is available December 14.
“Some will call it his first book,” said Tavern Books Managing Editor, Natalie Garyet. The poems, she explained, were originally grouped as a collection. “It wasn’t random,” she said. “He’d compiled it but he hadn’t tried to publish it.”
Tavern Books became a nonprofit 501C3 in 2012 and received the first Trust grant it applied for, a rare occurrence among applicants. “The Trust grant was huge for us,” said Garyet. “It allowed us to double our print run.” The infusion of funds also allowed the small publishing house to release Winterward in time for the Stafford Centennial celebration in 2014. “Without the grant, we might not have been able to publish it this year.”
Stafford spent much of his adult life in Lake Oswego and is considered an Oregon cultural icon. Said Garyet, “The place he was in was so immediate to him. That comes across in his poetry. He has been a poetic spokesperson for Oregon and Oregon has been a diligent tender of his legacy.”
The launch of Winterward is part of a much bigger celebration of Stafford’s Centennial Birthday across the state, nationwide and internationally that begins in January 2014. The Oregon Heritage Commission recently declared Stafford’s Centennial a statewide celebration.
The release party for Winterward will include readings by Kim Stafford, Paulann Petersen, Paul Merchant, Carl Adamshick and other Oregon luminaries. It is happening Saturday, December 14, 7-9pm at First Unitarian Church (1011 SW 12th Ave), in Portland; it is free and open to the public.
Received a grant of $5,000 to deliver free cultural programming, including Art Rocks Teens, ArtZoom, Arts Have Class, and Art Studio, to 5,000 people at the Pendleton Center for the Arts, and in public facilities across Umatilla County.
Awarded $5,851, to support efforts to generate earned revenue from print sales through an improved website, enabling patrons to purchase work online and increasing opportunities for print sales at events, fairs and gatherings.
Received $5,000 to support asbestos abatement and a structural assessment of the Rivoli Theater, a historic building in Pendleton, which The Rivoli Theater Restoration Coalition intends to restore and offer to the public as a heritage and performing arts space.
Awarded $35,000 to upgrade the Happy Canyon grandstands for participant safety; to add new restrooms, seating and an elevator; to replace existing meeting facilities and concession areas and to develop a new entry pavilion that will allow for better vehicular and traffic flow.
Northwest Dance Project received a Cultural Trust grant for the creation and premiere at Lincoln Performance Hall of three new contemporary dance works by three award-winning choreographers mentored by Northwest Dance. These performances, featuring the choreography of Loni Landon and James Gregg, as well as a piece from Danielle Agami, are scheduled for October 24-26.