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September 11th, 2013 12:01 am WW Staff | Cover Story

Portland Fall Arts Guide 2013: 24-Hour Arty People

A day in the life of Portland’s working artists.


5 AM

IMAGE: Martin Cizmar
Radio has no rules before 6 am. Federal Communications Commission policies on indecent and profane broadcasting don’t apply—the DJ whirling around the tatty booth at KBOO could pump the airwaves full of “fucks,” “shits” and “cocksuckers.”

Paul Roland’s path is different, but also controversial. In his weekly shift at the community radio station, Roland, a spry, soft-spoken and gray-flecked 55-year-old, broadly interprets “folk and traditional music” on KBOO’s Rise When the Rooster Crows to include European mountain songs.

At 5:37 am, he plays Husmusig Jeremias vo Barn’s “Eviva i soci” from a collection of Alpine folk music. Reviews ring in from folks who tuned in expecting to hear the Carter Family and John Prine. Roland, who has barely spoken as he furiously shuffles between notes scrawled in blue ink and a stack of scuffed jewel cases, picks up the phone.

“It’s, uh, mountain music from Europe. Are you enjoying it?” he asks. “No, huh, well, I’ll be playing some American mountain music a little later.”

Before the next song, Roland finally uses his microphone. He’s shy—here to spin records, not to hear himself talk. “I’ve had some mixed reviews, I’ve gotta say,” he tells the dark and groggy city. “A lot of you are used to traditional American music.”

He puts on an upbeat fiddle tune, Sonerien Du’s “An Dro,” and braces himself for the next call. It’s a good one.

“Thank you! I’m glad to hear that,” he tells the caller. “Right on!” MARTIN CIZMAR.

6 AM

IMAGE: Rebecca Jacobson
“I like to get up and work at this hour and not have to talk,” says Sharita Towne, a 28-year-old Master of Fine Arts student at Portland State University.

Instead, Towne sits in her Northeast Portland bedroom, scanning photographs of her roommate as a young teen for one of her disparate projects—printmaking, stereo photography, videography. For one project, Towne traveled to camps for West Saharan refugees in Algeria, pairing stereoscopic images—which she turned into animated GIFs—with sounds captured by a greeting-card recording device. The resulting video is determinedly low-tech, the images arresting: tanks, arid landscapes, family portraits.

In another 45-second video clip, Towne projects onto her bare torso and breasts an old black-and-white educational film about slavery. “I work a lot around where I physically carry my particular historical burden, which is being black in this country, having native blood in this country,” Towne says. She taps my shoulder and gives a jokey look. “Hey, where do you carry your historical burden?” REBECCA JACOBSON.

7 AM

The just-risen sun shines through the skylights of a Southeast Portland studio. Eight people sit cross-legged on the floor, meditating and preparing for this ecstatic dance class.

“Use your imagination,” a voice instructs. One woman, her gray hair tied into a bun, rolls on her back. A man closes his eyes and bobs up and down, one arm twitching not quite in sync with the music. There’s no other instruction and no talking from the participants, who groove haphazardly as the music transitions from slow Indian ragas to fast-paced bongo beats.

“I’m creating a place for people to come and explore their own creativity,” says Winky Wheeler, who leads the early morning class. A sign by the door reads: “You will need: Curiosity, kindness, stamina, and a willingness to look stupid.” HALEY MARTIN.

8 AM

Before Jutta Bach was a professional cake designer, she was an architect. “It would just drive me crazy if this cake weren’t centered on this plate,” says the German-born Bach, stepping away from the gleaming metal countertop in her small Pearl District kitchen. She presses the back of a spoon against a frosting-covered tier and quickly draws it away, leaving a textured edge that resembles crumpled paper. “I think like an architect, still,” Bach says. “I do consider these cakes like buildings, little structures, so I think in elevations, cross sections and planes.” SARA SNEATH.

9 AM

IMAGE: Ronit Fahl
Michelle Lesniak Franklin bolts into her Southeast Portland studio, wrangling her two Chihuahuas, Velcro and Ivan. The most recent Project Runway winner is here prepping for FashioNXT, the Portland fashion event running Oct. 9-12, where she’ll show women’s wear clothing in a style she dubs “rocker bitch meets princess.” There are also swatches and sketches on her desk for a dress she’s designing for a client to wear to the Primetime Emmy Awards later this month. She won’t divulge who that client is, but judging from the swatches, she’ll be rocking canary-yellow silk.

The previous evening, Franklin was besieged by fans at a Crystal Ballroom show. The Portland native appreciates the attention, but says, “there are times when I just need to go buy a box of tampons” without posing for iPhone photos.

Franklin still runs her business, Au Clothing, as a one-woman operation. As of late August, she still hadn’t received her $100,000 prize from Project Runway. The biggest misconception people have about her? “That I’m rich.” RICHARD SPEER.

10 AM

Remember the first homework assignment of a new school year? The six dancers stretching at Oregon Ballet Theatre are having a moment like that.

“They’ve been off for the bulk of the summer,” says rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, her hair pulled on top of her head in a sloppy bun, “so we’re just going to not push too hard today.” 

OBT’s upcoming season will have a contemporary spin, thanks to new artistic director Kevin Irving. The schedule includes Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, a sensual depiction of medieval Spain, and Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero, a piece heavy with industrial imagery. The company will not do a full classical ballet like last season’s Swan Lake.

“I’m way more sore after doing a contemporary piece because I’m pushing my body in a completely different way,” says Eva Burton, 22, who wears purple down boots to keep her feet warm, even though the studio is sweltering. “Like instead of just doing a well-placed développé a la seconde, I might be leaning off my leg and trying to get it cranked high.” AARON SPENCER.

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