Notes from the Publisher - Pamela Hulse Andrews
by PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS Cascade A&E Publisher
Over the past two decades I have tried to position this magazine as a cultural wake up call to our community as to the importance and significance of the beauty of our region captured in diverse artwork from painting, pottery and sculptures to murals and wearable art, heard aloud from poets and writers in the local music scene from country, blues and hip hop to our theatrical successes at the Tower Theatre, 2nd Street, Bend Experimental Art Theatre and Cascades Theatrical Company.
In the early days of Cascade A&E few gave credence to the importance of the local art scene let alone to the economic value that the creative community provides to our region. We were not talking about research that demonstrates that creativity increases test scores, generates social responsibility and can turn a failing student into a success story. We just wanted people to know that our lifestyle is better served with a vibrant arts community.
During a recent taping of State of Wonder on Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the host Emily Carr asked Pat Clark of Atelier 6000 (A6) and me about what the recession did to Central Oregon’s arts scene. Pat and I looked at each other and smiled knowing full well the toll it took on nearly everyone in Central Oregon and how the arts suffered with decreasing budgets for arts organizations and the struggles that galleries and artists went though.
But we smiled because we know that time and hard work changes everything and that through diversity comes new awareness and creativity. Under Pat’s leadership and during the recession Atelier made a shift in its mission that forged a new relationship with arts education and cultivated (among other things) in the enormously successful M. C. Escher art exhibit with his genius woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints that inspired local students.
Artists are not to be deterred in their pursuit of their craft. It seems that for every gallery that closes two more open. Most of the arts organizations in Central Oregon have fully survived the recession and more are beginning and thriving including BendFilm, Sunriver Music Festival, Scalehouse, Art on the High Desert, Arts Central, Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild, Songwriters Association, Sisters Folk Festival, Quilt Show, Central Oregon Symphony, High Desert Chamber Music, Jefferson County Art Association, Arts & Culture Alliance and of course the museums (Bowman, High Desert, Des Chutes Historical and Warm Springs).
Art in Public Places has been an enormous contributor to Bend’s art resurgence utilizing public art (especially throughout our roundabouts) to enhance the cultural environment and encourage visitors to our area. And of course, thanks to Visit Bend, we now have a Cultural Tourism Fund that will promote arts and cultural programs to enhance Bend’s tourism economy.
On OPB Pat said that A6 is now a gathering place with artists, students and patrons touching base. She has seen a change and emphasis on aesthetics that she thought would never be possible. We both agreed that the recession resulted in some good things: a repositioning of people back into education and people losing traditional jobs becoming creative with their skills (from construction worker to metal artist).
And now? One final note that was said on OPB: Bend has arrived. We are not just a recreational paradise, we are an arts community from Last Saturday at the Old Ironworks to First Friday in downtown Bend, and it has had a rippling effect on our surrounding communities who are developing their own festivals, roundabouts and artwalks.
It’s a complex and multilayered culture, one we can be very proud to call home.
by PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS Cascade A&E Publisher
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
~ George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950 Irish playwright, a co-founder London School of Economics)
In a letter dated May 23 emailed to a select group of supporters of the Nature of Words (NOW), Board of Directors President Chuck Mohler and Executive Director Amy Mentuck stated that the organization would “close its doors and transition its literary arts programming to the Deschutes Public Library.” This announcement comes as a complete surprise to me and numerous other supporters of the festival.
Acknowledging that Central Oregon is a growing environment for cultural entities that add to the quality of life and economic vitality of Central Oregon, the closing of NOW is both alarming and disappointing. The letter announcing the closing did not give the reason for closing the organization although some have suggested that fundraising was challenging (it always is, but the economy has improved and other arts organizations including BendFilm, the Sunriver Music Festival, Caldera and the High Desert Museum are flourishing).
Certainly other arts organizations have struggled during challenging times. In 2008 the Cascade Festival of Music closed but not without a thorough vetting of the difficulties with numerous community volunteers, sponsors and advisory members. The festival was $190,000 in debt, the economy was tanking and perhaps through some mismanagement of the organization (both the director and the board president were criticized for not asking for help sooner), it was not able to recover. The community was saddened by its departure, but the decision to end the festival was not done under closed doors and without community input.
There certainly was a time when BendFilm Festival was seeing troubling times through numerous director and board changes. Yet, despite the turmoil, the community has been asked and has risen to the occasion to support independent film in Central Oregon for over 10 years.
Not so with the Nature of Words, which was founded in 2005 by author Ellie Waterston who was not included in the decision making process to give the literary arts program to the Deschutes Public Library, a public agency. No large group discussions were held as to the fundraising challenges nor where the organization would best fit into other entities such as the High Desert Museum, that was intimately involved in the festival at one point nor COCC or OSU-Cascades, longtime supporters.
Mentuck says that the decision to close was a difficult but necessary one to make. No doubt. Following Waterston’s departure in 2012, the firing of the next director, Robert McDowell in 2013 and then the hiring of Mentuck last year, it appeared the organization would be on solid footing. In fact, as an advisory board member, I asked the staff point blank if there were money challenges, and I was absolutely assured that: “We are financially stabilized and have sufficient funds to maintain our space and all of our educational outreach programs through the year.”
In defending the secretive decision, Mentuck says: “The board and staff discussed all possible options at length and reached out to many close allies. The library was ultimately selected because we believe they are a strong steward with the infrastructure and capacity to continue bringing literary arts programming to the community in a vital and growing way. Initial talks had to be in confidence. We believed the news of our decision had to be careful, thoughtful and strategic as well.”
Why was this all done behind closed doors? No communication about the problems was ever provided to the advisory board regarding the scope of the change... the advisory board should have had an opportunity to weigh in on the transformation. We have had numerous other occasions where the organization was in trouble, often community leaders came together to help the organization and it happened through a collective and collaborative effort on many factors. But not so this time: this was a complete surprise to me and numerous other supporters of the festival.
According to the board president at least NOW is closing without a deficit, but answers to the financial situation and what happens to the endowment fund have gone unanswered.
I respectfully disagree that this was handled in the most appropriate and ethical manner.
I’ve found that festivals are a relatively painless way to meet people and make a few points that need making, without having to hit them over the head with too many speeches.
Pete Seeger (1919 – January 27, 2014 at 94!) American folk singer and activist.
Imagine the Les Schwab Amphitheater, tripling the audience to about 25,000 and then taking the stage, the space and the audience and quadrupling it and you might have something close to the size of Coachella.... the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, an annual two-weekend, three-day music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, near Palm Springs.
The event attracts about 90,000 people from all over the world and features many genres of music including rock, indie, hip hop, heavy metal, blues and electronic dance music as well as a spectacular light show, art installations and untamed sculptures. Across the grounds, six different stages continuously host live music. (It’s nothing really, in 1969 Woodstock drew nearly 500,000. The world’s largest festival is the three-day Donauinselfest in Vienna, Austria with 3 million spectators.)
Everyone gears up for Coachella with their own version of festival fashion though most of it is skimpy, cropped and flashy. The well-clad hipsters rush from stage to stage like a sea of ants spreading across the hot desert to the music of their choice. You can’t possibly see or hear it all (with nearly 200 bands), the technical schedule is tedious, tight and never tentative.
The festival is the Ritz of Burning Man...lots of celebrities, sunshine, VIP perks, fabulous cuisine...and music, it’s suppose to be about the music. But in case you haven’t heard bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Title Fight, Flatbush Zombies or Duck Sauce you won’t be disappointed because the people watching is mesmerizing.
However, the main focus of the festival offers what even the musically challenged would love such as The Replacements (revitalized), Beck, Broken Bells, Dum Dum Girls, Pharrell Williams (with guest stars JayZ and Usher) and surprise: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Fishbone and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Venue. It does not matter where you are in the huge Polo grounds you can hear music, usually more than one band at a time.
There are no chairs or bleachers on the grounds, everyone sits on the grass; blankets are not allowed. In the VIP area you might be able to find a step to sit on and inside the VIP tent there are a few couches, coveted by worn out festival goers who walk miles and miles to get to the festival and then strut back and forth to the various venues.
The other portion of the festival is dedicated to interactive art, the Ferris Wheel and food and beverages (the food is healthy, delicious cuisine and the bars plentiful). Most of the art pieces are interactive, providing a visual treat to the attendees walking around the venue that is security tight.
My first trip to Coachella was enhanced by participating in yet another art adventure with some courageous girlfriends who not once complained, looked like rock stars, danced like 19 year olds and bravely went where our kids wished they could go!
by PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS Cascade A&E Publisher