News and Notes: Singing the Covid Blues Again – Oregon ArtsWatch | Candle Made Easy

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Once on This Island” with Hannah Rose Honoré, Ciera Dawn and Dominique Lawson (foreground) with Camille Robinson. While performances of other shows at OSF have been canceled due to Covid, this one has continued to play so far. Photo: Jenny Graham

PRESIDENT BIDEN HAS IT. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Jan. 6 House Committee, has it. Most likely your neighbor down the street or your cousin, or you have it too. Covid-19 is making a major comeback in the form of its bevy of variants, some of which seem all too adept at skirting the roadblocks of vaccination, booster shots and past infections – and like it or not, it’s having an impact on that what you do and see.

Yes, we’re back to big gatherings, from ball games to the Eugene IAAF World Championships to summer celebrations as diverse as the Waterfront Blues Festival, Cathedral Park Jazz Festival and Hillsboro’s La Strada Deipasteli Chalk Art Festival. But the journey is anything but smooth, as numerous cancellations and postponements make clear. And as infection rates rise again, even as death rates fall and the severity of the disease is far less for most people than it was during the peak of the pandemic, we can expect more upheaval in the calendar.

In Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – which normally runs on a tightly orchestrated schedule of 11 plays in rotating repertoire over a season lasting about eight months – is reduced to a seven-play season on stage (Confederates doesn’t open until late August) and multiple digital offerings, and even the shortened season has been paused.

“This week, OSF’s safety team alerted us to an unprecedented number of COVID cases among our cast and crew attributed to the BA.5 Omicron variant,” wrote Artistic Director Nataki Garrett and Executive Director David Schmitz week in a letter. “Our priority, as always, is the safety of our artists, crews and viewers. We immediately took action to ensure their health and safety through planning, rescheduling, testing and re-testing for our artists and staff.”

About 15 percent of the performing and understudy companies had tested positive, they said, necessitating the cancellation of all performances for the week The storm, song of revenge, Unseenand dr G’s bingo extravaganza, in addition to the festival’s Green Show in the square in front of the theaters, all campus tours and educational events, and ALS interpretations of performances. Only Once on this island and How I learned what I learned remained on stage as planned. And the season is getting thinner: How I Learned is expected to end on July 30; Unseen on the 31st

There were other cancellations or postponements, too, including Linda Austin’s Portland dance performances 3 miles possible (The second mile) and the duet of Muffie Delgado Connelly and Tahni Holt impulse mountain; and the celebration of the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Awards of the visual arts world. Expect more of it, often at short notice.

A few organizations have been able to juggle their offerings and keep the shows going, including Chamber Music Northwest — which, as James Bash wrote for ArtsWatch in Geiger to the rescue! Chamber Music Northwest is kicking Covid to the curb – could replace top performers when others had to drop out due to positive Covid tests. Will the festival be able to successfully continue the substitution game? Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, as The Oregonian/Oregon Live reports, Oregon hospitals are filling up with patients all too quickly, putting renewed strain on the healthcare system, and the state is urging (but not requiring) people to dress up in public indoors — and even on summer outings to reconsider.


THERE ARE LIES, FUCKING LIES, AND STATISTICS, as Mark Twain liked to point out, but the adage isn’t entirely fair to the “stats” leg of the stool. Often the statistics are “right” but the interpretation is wrong. Before jumping to conclusions, it is important to understand what data is being collected and what it is actually measuring. (As an aside, those “polls” that ask you to vote for someone or something so they can win something else aren’t polls, they’re popularity contests.)

All of this came to mind the other day when the Oregon Arts Commission released a new study from the National Endowment for the Arts that measured the number and proportion of artists in the fifty states and the District of Columbia. The data covers the years 2015-2019, so it measures a pre-pandemic reality, but still provides a fascinating snapshot.

Oregon did reasonably well on the results, with 37,905 artists in the state workforce and a “location quotient” of 1.24, or 24 percent higher than the state’s total workforce. A few states you would expect to do even better: California, for example, with a ratio of 1.53; New York at 1:66 p.m. Our neighbor Washington was slightly lower at 1.09 but still well above average. The District of Columbia outperformed all states with a ratio of 2.08, ousted by a staggering 5.60 in the writers and authors category — all those journalists, I speculate, and all those politicians and employees who make their way into the — Beltway -book contracts. And although Nevada’s overall score was a good but more modest 1.08, its casino and tourism culture beat it with a 5.81 in the Entertainers and Artists category. (Oregon’s rate in the same category was 0.82.)

The study divides artists into 11 broad categories, most with multiple subcategories: architectsincluding landscape architects; visual arts and related ones, including visual artists, craftsmen, animators; designersfrom graphics to fashion to flowers and more; actor; producers and directors; dancers and choreographers; Musician; entertainers and performersincluding jugglers, comedians, circus and ice skaters; announcer; writers and authors; and photographers.

How, I wondered, did the NEA determine what makes a working artist? For an architect, for example, the answer seems pretty simple: do you work as an architect? But for so many visual artists, actors, dancers, writers, musicians, and others, the definition seems murkier. Many live a freelance life, moving from project to project. Many have part-time jobs in order to have a regular income in an uncertain art market. Many have “other” full-time jobs and make their art outside of these hours. For example, does the musicians category include full-time employees who are members of a symphony or ballet or opera orchestra, but not people who play club gigs on Friday and Saturday nights?


Astoria Open Studio Tours 2022 Oregon Coast

In an email exchange, Carolyn Coons of the National Endowment’s Office of Public Affairs provided some details. The 11 artist categories “are determined by Bureau of Labor Statistics occupation codes,” she explained, and the survey captures people who worked in one of the categories “as their ‘principal occupation’ — that is, measured by the greatest number of hours, that they have worked in a given week. Both full-time and part-time employees can be counted.”

She also pointed me to another NEA report from April 2019 that looked a little more at the part-time/full-time question. It was reported that more than 5 million U.S. workers were employed in the arts and culture industry regardless of their job, and almost half of them were artists. For about 330,000 of them, their artistic jobs were side jobs rather than main jobs. In the latter category were 34.8 percent of musicians, 30.3 percent of actors, 16.4 percent of photographers, 12.7 percent of writers and authors, and 9 percent of dancers – a large number of the artists involved in their work You are used to seeing. In the years 2012-2016 surveyed, about 34 percent of artists were self-employed, compared to about 9 percent of the total workforce — and the majority of these artists say they like it that way. Of course, the pandemic may have radically skewed those percentages for artists and other workers alike.

Getting back to those numbers from the new report, Oregon dancers and choreographers scored a robust area quotient of 1.77, or 77 percent higher than the national average. Writers and Authors scored 1.69; artistic directors, visual artists and animators 1.61; Architects 1.34; Designer national average of 1.24; photographers a shade below at 1.23. Musicians stayed behind (0.93); entertainers (0.82); and actors (0.81).

It’s not a complete picture — for one thing, it doesn’t measure how high or low wages are for artists — but it’s an interesting and sometimes insightful one. And despite the great Mr. Clemens, that’s no lie.


Zach Galatis and friends from the Oregon Symphony open Season 2 of Concerts at the Barn.

HEY KIDS, LET’S MAKE A SHOW – in a barn! If it’s good enough for Mickey Rooney, it’s good enough for Oregon music lovers. And to be clear, these aren’t kids fooling around: they’re a gathering of the state’s finest professional musicians.

The Concerts at the Barn, conceived following the “retirement” of longtime Oregon Symphony principal percussionist Niel DePonte, begins its second season on Wednesday, July 27, with a concert by Oregon Symphony flutist and piccolo player Zach Galatis. He will be joined by pianist Maria Garcia and singer Audrey Sackett (who will sing some Broadway tunes with Galatis) at the Butler Barn at Hoffman Farms, 22242 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Beaverton, where the four concert season will run until 30 June 31

Look for artists like cellist Nancy Ives, pianist Susan DeWitt Smith, violinist Inés Voglar Belgique, pianist Ben Kim, singer Susannah Mars, DePonte, the Arcturus Wind Quintet and others.


FREE IS A VERY GOOD PRICE – and if you’re a teacher or educator, Portland Museums have an offer for you. Seven of the city’s museums — the Portland Chinatown Museum, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, the Pittock Mansion, the Oregon Historical Society, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Japanese American Museum of Oregon, and the Portland Art Museum — have joined forces , to offer free entry to educators during the weeks of July 25-31 and August 8-14. They will also host free tours for educators. The KEX Radio website provides a good summary with the details including contacts at each museum and information on times and dates for the special tours.

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