Portland venues close, campus events canceled

Photo by Justin Howerton

On March 13, Kate Brown enacted a formal ban on public gatherings of 250 people or more for four weeks following the announcement. In response to the growing threat of coronavirus (COVID-19), venues, galleries, performance art groups and other organizations have ceased operations for the time being. 

The Portland Center Stage at the Armory has opted to either reschedule or cancel all previously scheduled events and performances through April 8. This includes performances of the acclaimed play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” The Wonder Ballroom, citing Kate Brown’s governmental order, has postponed all events until April 8. The venue’s website mentions that they are working to reschedule the shows and will update ticket holders with new information “as details are confirmed.” If an event is canceled outright, “all tickets paid for via credit card will be automatically refunded.” The Portland Art Museum has canceled events and programs until April 8.

Many other venues around Portland have followed suit. Additionally, on March 16 Oregon closed all dine-in restaurants and bars and restricted public gatherings to a total of 25 people; take-out and delivery at this time are still viable options. 

The Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis & Clark closed on March 15 after the conclusion of its exhibition titled “Making a Better Painting.” The exhibit aimed to raise questions about contemporary painting practices and painting production in a larger, more accessible public sphere. Specifically, it examined the ways in which artists contend with painting in the Anthropocene, in the wake of technological advancement and in our current political climate.

Gallery attendant Noe Reyes ’20 described the scope and content of this current exhibition while also commenting on the gallery’s collaborative effort with multiple institutions. 

“This exhibition in the Hoffman Gallery (seeks) to demonstrate art in different spheres,” Reyes said. “It (includes) art to convey political messages, art in relation to technology, art in relation to some social aspect. We have partnered with other galleries and higher-education institutions in the area.”

Participating institutions included the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland State University, and others. 

The closing was set to occur on the previously mentioned date and was not affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. That being said, concerns have been raised on how senior art majors will be able to exhibit their final projects. Usually, they display their work in the Hoffman Gallery as part of the spring senior art show, but the outbreak will likely compromise that tradition.

Reyes emphasized that the gallery will prioritize the visitors’ safety and that no clear decision as of yet has been made concerning how the senior studio art majors’ work will be exhibited.

“Safety for our visitors is an important aspect of the gallery itself,” Reyes said. “Typically, art senior majors do present their work in the gallery in April. That’s something that still needs to be addressed. Faculty and staff in the art department are thinking about the decision.”

In an email sent out to art majors and minors, Chair of the Art Department Matthew Johnston included an excerpt from a recent email that Jess Perlitz had composed regarding the thesis work of studio art majors. Given growing health and safety concerns, Perlitz noted in the email that “it is becoming very clear now that we can’t hire someone to help install and document the work after break.” Perlitz also encouraged seniors to “document everything you can now” but also emphasized that they should prioritize their safety above all else. At the time of publication, no definitive solution has been publicized, although one proposed alternative involves compiling images of the seniors’ work in a hardcopy book.

The annual spring event Dance Y has also been canceled in response to sanctions on public gatherings in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. Dance Y and Dance X serve as the two main dance events of the academic school year and often give new and experienced dancers and choreographers alike the opportunity to perform and choreograph. 

Jack Waite ’23 participated as a dancer in scheduled rehearsals for would-be Dance Y performances this year. Waite appreciated how the event allowed performers of all skill levels to contribute.

“Amateur dancers like me got to try out dance as a form of expression and exercise,” Waite said via email. “Budding choreographers got a batch of new and experienced dancers to experiment movements with.”

Gila Winefeld ’23, a choreographer and dancer in another choreographer’s piece, commented on the increased operations of this year’s late Dance Y.

“What made this year special was that there were about twice as many pieces as there have been in previous years, from my understanding,” Winefeld said via email. “We (the choreographers) were all really excited to see the turnout at auditions and to welcome people who had little to no dance experience into our community. I was particularly excited because this was my first time choreographing for a group of my peers like this. I had envisioned a large group piece and having a lot of people at auditions meant I could actually make that come to fruition. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see this project all the way through but I’m grateful for the time we did have.”

Winefeld encourages interested students to apply for Dance X in the fall. It is unlikely that this year’s Dance Y will be rescheduled.

“I’m sad that I didn’t get to see this project all the way through but I’m grateful for the time we did have,” Winefeld said. “I really enjoyed the process. I don’t know if it would be practical to reschedule Dance Y but I would just hope that those who didn’t get a chance to perform this time around will consider auditioning for Dance X this fall.” 

In the midst of the cancellation of so many artistic events both on and off-campus, it is clear that artistic expression is not our current priority. More immediate concerns such as food, housing and healthcare take precedence. But this attention shift towards basic survival necessities should not directly coincide with the abandoning of our creative interests. Art can comfort, liberate and transcend. Drawing a picture of a juicy sirloin or a crowded bar will not make one appear in front of you, but it can contribute to the hope that you will have these things again. I am not advocating for escapism. I am only advocating that we leave some room for that enduring creative spark that continually propels us towards the future. To hope is to create.

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