As we close 2023, we reflect on the state of the arts in Oregon. This was a year in which many theater companies in Portland went back to a reduced season of plays or delayed their season openings. Dance, opera, and concerts were in full swing too. There were also shifts of artistic directors, particularly BIPOC Ads who had short stints in Portland, largely due to a shaky economic future for companies. It was also a year that one of the most steadfast grants organizations, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, supporting countless artists through more than three decades was left with a majority of its funding base withdrawn by the City of Portland.

For Stage and Studio, this year also brought a new host Jenna Yokoyama who I invited to share podcast episodes with. She has brought wonderfully produced and vibrant interviews from the Japanese American Museum of Oregon and Renegade Opera. This was also the year Dmae Lo Roberts debuted her docuseries on youth mental health, The –Ism Youth Files, on ArtsWatch.

And in 2023, we lost artists who are no longer with us and must be remembered such as the poet Walt Curtis, director Michael Griggs, Artist Henk Pander, Tom Webb director of Newport Visual Arts Center, the legendary drag artist Darcelle (Walter Cole) and many more.

And through it all, the big question for most arts organizations and artists was, “are we done with the pandemic?”

Join Senior Editor Bob Hicks and Roberts for this review of 2023 and the arts that happened.

On RACC’s loss of City Funding: “RACC has always supported those large groups, but RAC has also made a concerted effort to, to help groups that are not in the city proper and to help a lot of neighborhood groups and a, and a much more diverse group of artists.  They’ve thought small and big, and it’s very possible that the city will do the same thing. But the fear I hear from a lot of artists is that diversity is going to be less well taken care of.”

Companies experimenting with sliding scale tickets: “I think is really important in a lot of ways because it encourages younger people who don’t have a lot of money to come and see the theater and you’re building perhaps a lasting audience that way.”

The sheer amount of art in Oregon: Given that there’s so little funding for it, it’s just amazing how prolific people are and how imaginative and how much they produce. Wherever you have people, you have art.”

The art of writing obituaries: “I started off as a very young journalist being assigned to do obituaries a couple of times and it scared me. I don’t want to impose on people’s sorrow and I found out doing some of them that for the most part, people want those stories tell the families want the stories told. It’s a way to take your loss. And make it into something that’s good for everybody.”

Join ArtsWatch for more year-end recaps, reviews and a full memoriam.