Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Orlo was originally the brainchild of painter Philip Krohn, who wanted, as a goal, to move beyond traditional discourse about environmental issues, which can be polarized or, worse, dismissed as a special interest. "We don't want to be dogmatic and tell people what they should think," says Tom Webb, who has been the organization's driving force since just after its first year, "but rather show different ideas and perspectives through the arts."
An early Orlo event called "Oregon Common Ground" really created the blueprint for the group's approach. Twenty teams of artists and writers traveled around the state to interview a cross-section of people--dock workers, single mothers, AIDS patients, even a drag queen--about the environment, culminating in an exhibit of photography and interview text at Orlo's Northwest Portland gallery.
Since then, Orlo's scope has broadened. Marking the 200th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, an event called "The Promised Landfill" found irony in the Trail's present-day terminus at a garbage dump. "Word on the Street" saw hundreds of people reading aloud from texts like Thoreau's Walden or Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang in public spaces throughout the area. And the popular Bike In combined cycling with outdoor film screenings.
Easily Orlo's most important venture has been its quarterly magazine, The Bear Deluxe. Winner of numerous writing and design awards, the Bear has not only been a source for dependable environmental journalism and fiction, but has also given many local writers and graphic designers their start, such as Oregon Book Award winner Gina Ochsner. (I must mention that I, too, have written for this publication.)
Webb says Orlo will continue expanding its reach in the months and years ahead, with numerous events slated for later this year: a photography exhibit about the Klamath Basin, an art installation about the Umatilla chemical-arms depot called "The Kill Zone," and a special art issue of The Bear Deluxe. (Also, see page 68 for information on its Video Slam, happening this month.) "We're still here," says Webb. "We want to keep breathing some fresh air into this dialogue about environmental issues."
Orlo, 2516 NW 29th Ave.,
Tenth-anniversary party: music 2-10 pm Saturday, July 19, featuring Black Angel, Rosewater, March Forth, Kable Roc & La Cuenta, Shoehorn, Todd Samueson, Spider Moccasin and the BiPolar Bears, Recycleman and the Dumpster Divers, Guerrilla Micro Circus, trapeze artists, water sculptures, dunking tank, urban oasis, beach fun, etc. Video Slam at 10 pm.