It's a weird time to be alive.
It's a strange time for the arts, too. President Trump has threatened to slash almost a billion dollars of federal funding to the arts, and our state arts commission is preparing for a 14 percent budget cut. In Portland, where real estate prices and the cost of living continue to balloon, it sometimes feels like our vibrant arts scene is in serious danger of imploding.
But if you thought the pressure was going to lead to Swan Lake, pastoral watercolors and an endless supply of Shakespeare, think again. Rather than giving up or going the safe route, Portland artists are doubling down with bizarre, adventurous works.
In Portland, the fall chill brings the most interesting art of the year. So, as we do every year, we've dedicated our first issue of autumn to the arts. We've picked the 42 most compelling shows of the season, from a poetry festival in a trailer park, to a pop-up opera to a dance show inspired by Scandinavian myths that will challenge how we overvalue masculinity.
We're profiling artists and shows the city is going to be talking about this fall. Like the ballet company formed in the wake of scandal that has spent the past year scrounging for space in Gresham while still producing new and stunningly innovative choreography. Or Laika, the animation studio based in Hillsboro that is getting the gallery treatment from the Portland Art Museum. We also caught up with Portland State jazz professor and pianist Darrell Grant, who's performed alongside such legends as Betty Carter and Tony Williams and is mentoring a generation of Portland jazz musicians. At the same time, Portland's all-woman comedy festival is embarking on a bold new experiment, and NW Film Center is treating us to an Italian slasher movie as influential as it is notorious, whose original print was lost for more than three decades until last year.
Arts funding instability is a nationwide problem. What makes Portland unique is the number of people here who love art enough to fight for it. We live in a city where artists want to challenge their audiences and where audiences are willing to engage.
In the past year, we've seen many established art galleries close and theater companies lose their venues midseason. But we've also witnessed the resilience of Portland artists like the people behind Mister Theater, which built a multiuse arts space from scratch on East Burnside Street, and curator Iris Williamson, who reopened a vacant Pearl District gallery only a few months after it had been shut down.
If there's a soft theme to the art Portland is seeing this fall, it's abstraction. Artists who've been pushed to the brink have responded with work that's less literal and linear than the slice-of-life dramas of last year. Ambiguity, though, isn't the same thing as meaninglessness.
You're being challenged, Portland. Rise to the occasion.