The 29 Can’t-Miss Portland Art Events This Spring

Your super calendar for the season.

Camille A. Brown's "Black Girl: Linguistic Play" (Christopher Duggan)

B = Books, by Scout Brobst

MU = Music, by Jordan Montero

MO = Movies, by Mia Vicino

V = Visual Arts, by Shannon Gormley

T= Theater, by Bennett Campbell Ferguson

D = Dance, by Shannon Gormley


Mitchell Jackson

Mitchell Jackson
In an interview last year, Mitchell Jackson said he didn’t mind if folks came to his book Survival Math to understand the “black experience”—you can’t hold on to that reductive mindset after reading the book. Survival Math is a long-form sketch of Jackson’s childhood in Northeast Portland, told in a series of poetic, boiling essays that reflect on what it takes to survive when you exist on the queasy underside of the American epic. Broadway Books, 1714 NE Broadway, 7 pm. Sold out. B


Bardo and Delicate Fish
By late winter, most Portlanders feel a little dead inside. So it’s fitting that Portland performer Lyra Butler-Denman will premiere Bardo, a dance work about recovering from grief, loss and death. The visceral, narrative piece will be followed by another premiere, Jess Evans’ Delicate Fish, a work that pays tribute to the ocean. Shaking the Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant St., 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, through March 7. $20. D


Tessa Brinkman
Composer Tessa Brinkman is too courageous to consider boundaries. The New Zealand-born flutist has played and held master classes around the globe, and she’s collaborated with some of the planet’s finest artists. The fact she’s based in Portland is a gift. This production is a showcase of her latest work, Box/Grown Men Sing. Given her proclivity for pairing cutting-edge sound design with striking visual art, this should be a sensational performance. Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave., 7:30 pm. $10-$20 sliding scale. MU

Been Ready
After selling out the first run of Been Ready earlier this month, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater brings back its Black History Month show for a one-off performance. Been Ready is based on five personal stories of navigating race and gender, told through the company’s energetic, vivid choreography. Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St., 6 pm. $8 suggested donation. D


Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange
Even if you don’t recognize the name Tommy Orange, if you’ve walked into a book store in the last two years, you probably recognize the cover of his book There There. The novel is a deft exploration of Native American identity that earned him an American Book Award, a PEN/Hemingway Award and a spot in the ranks of Pulitzer Prize finalists. Literary Arts will host Orange for a discussion on indigenous life in urban and rural America. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 7:30 pm. $15-$65. 


Portland International Film Festival
PIFF is the biggest film festival in Portland. Though many of the films are Oregon made, countless others hail from countries all around the world, emphasizing the need for creative expression on a global scale. This year marks the inaugural Cinema Unbound Awards, which will be honoring directors Todd Haynes (Carol) and John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) for their boundary-pushing work. NW Film Center, 1219 SW Park Ave. See for complete schedule and list of venues. Through March 15. $14 for individual screenings, passes start at $350. MO

Arcturus Quintet: Northern Lights
The Northern Lights grow most intense in March. So the Arcturus Quintet, one of Portland’s most passionate chamber groups, curated a three-suite performance that captures the dripping, frolicking spirit of early spring, including Carl Nielsen’s Op. 43. Set to perform in one of the best venues to hear chamber music in the Pacific Northwest, the five-piece group is just waiting to bloom. The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., 7 pm. $20. MO


Black Art Ecology of Portland
Veteran Portland artist and Pacific Northwest College of Art professor Sharita Towne is leading a new project: A Black Art Ecology of Portland. The community art initiative is kicking off with a show featuring some of the most distinct voices in Portland art: photographer Intisar Abioto, clothing designer Donovan Smith, graphic artist Melanie Stevens and Towne herself. There will also be an outdoor work presented by the Mobile Projection Unit, who have been projecting experimental art on bridges and buildings around the city this winter. PICA, 15 NE Hancock St., Opening reception 4 pm. Through March 14.  V

Jeff Parker & the New Breed

Jeff Parker & The New Breed
It’s almost a letdown that Jeff Parker can only play one instrument at a time. On the Tortoise guitarist’s excellent 2020 solo album, Suite for Max Brown, he plays everything beside the canyon-like rhythms and the vocals on the opening track, which are sung by Parker’s daughter, Ruby. Even though you won’t hear his reserved touch on the synths or playful mbira at this showing, the band he’s bringing along is talented enough to bring to life the album’s exciting form of jazz fused with fuck-all-else. Jack London Revue, 529 SW 4th Ave., 9 pm. $25. 21+. MU

9 Parts of Desire
In 1993, Iraqi-American actress and playwright Heather Raffo saw a painting at a Baghdad art center that depicted a naked woman clinging to a tree. That image inspired her to write 9 Parts of Desire, a one-woman play that explores the lives of nine Iraqi women and is based on interviews conducted by Raffo. Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave., 7:30 pm. Tuesday-Sunday through April 19.  T


The Future is Now: Film Noir Hybrids for the Nervous Generation
Hosted by renowned film educator and former Stanford professor Elliot Lavine, this series of four classics showcases the dynamic breadth of the noir genre. Screening each Sunday in March, the selected films range from The Manchurian Candidate to the existential sci-fi crossover Seconds. Lavine’s previous lectures at Cinema 21 have been multi-class commitments that cost upwards of $100, so a $9 ticket for his wealth of knowledge seems like a Harry Lime-level grift. Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 7 pm. Sundays through March 29. $9 per screening. MO


Jessica Mehta
Open Signal’s New Media Fellowship shows are always worthy of attention—as buzzy as VR and digital art exhibits have become, they’re still hard to find around Portland. But this exhibit is particularly intriguing since it was created by Oregon native Jessica Mehta, best known for her award-winning novels and poetry. Details for her Open Signal show haven’t been announced yet, but in the past, Mehta has combined her poetry with virtual reality and performance to tackle such topics as eating disorders and indigenous identity. Open Signal, 2766 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Through May 11. V


Craig Thompson and Aimee de Jongh
Cosmic Monkey Comics will host two graphic novelists with nearly a dozen awards between them for a discussion on their new releases. Craig Thompson, a Portland local and three-time Eisner Award winner, brings his intricate, heavily inked style to Ginseng Roots, a retelling of his childhood as a laborer in the ginseng fields of Wisconsin. Aimee de Jongh comes to Portland from the Netherlands. Taxi, de Jongh’s follow up to her acclaimed 2018 Blossoms in Autumn, is a detailed look at those who drive and take cabs. Cosmic Monkey Comics, 5335 NE Sandy Blvd., Noon. Free. B

Cappella Romana
Portland’s world class vocal ensemble, Cappella Romana, does nothing better than it does Eastern Orthodox. The group taking on Peter Tchaikavsky’s brooding Divine Liturgy seems like a coronation. Naturally, they’re pulling out all the stops. Glenn Miller’s bellowing basso profundo will be complimented by the prestigious Pacific Youth Choir. More than anything Cappella Romana has produced, the Divine Liturgy will be a Byzantine dream. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave., 7:30 pm. $32-$52. MU


Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney
In Nikky Finney’s National Book Award-winning collection of poetry, Head Off & Split, childhood trips to the fish market are revisited with the weight and self-possession of adulthood. Born to two activists at the crest of the civil rights movement, her work binds art and history, skipping from the landscape of the new American South to the career path of Condoleezza Rice in sharp, cutting verse. Lewis & Clark College Smith Hall, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Rd., 6 pm. Free.  B


Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit
In 2003, Rebecca Solnit attended a party in Aspen, where the host took it upon himself to walk her through a book he had recently read a review of—a book Solnit had written. That story turned into an essay, which turned into a book, which turned into the term beloved by exasperated women and gender studies classes everywhere: “mansplaining.” Her new memoir Recollections of My Nonexistence is an intimate portrait of an artist’s life in 1980s San Francisco. Solnit will be joined by Portland’s unofficial memoir laureate, Cheryl Strayed. Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St., 7:30 pm. $36.  B


Camille A. Brown’ & Dancers have already performed two of the works in the choreographer’s trilogy here in Portland: Mr. Tol E Rance, a multi-media show that looks at black comedians throughout history, and Black Girl: A Linguistics Play, a joyful ode to black womanhood. Now, dance importer White Bird is bringing Brown back for the final installment of the series. Set to a percussive score, Ink mines dance traditions from across the Africa diaspora for a piece that’s fast-pace, agile and fluid. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 8 pm. Through April 4. $25-$34. D


Beautiful Decay
Though Oregon Ballet Theatre’s big, glitzy productions of classics are always the shows that sell out, the company shines brightest when performing modern ballet. This spring, it revives Beautiful Decay, resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s theatrical, athletic and touching piece about aging. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 7:30 pm. Through Sunday, April 12. $29-$103.  D      


The Antipodes
“No dwarves or elves or trolls.” That’s the first rule set forth in this play by Annie Baker, which chronicles a brainstorming session for a mysterious project. Baker—who also wrote the delectably surreal John—loves blasting through narrative conventions and into funny, fascinating new dimensions, making her work a natural fit for the boundary-breaking Shaking the Tree. Shaking the Tree, 823 SE Grant St., 7:30 pm. Thursday-Sunday through May 16. $25-$30. T


MFA in Craft Thesis
When the Oregon College of Art and Craft closed last year, PNCA offered to provide a temporary home for the students still working on their MFA in Craft, plus the program’s faculty. The five MFA candidates will present the culminating works of their degrees at Upfor Gallery, the last ever thesis exhibit from the region’s last craft college. Upfor Gallery, 929 NW Flanders St., Through May 2.  V


The Rite of Spring
In the hands of another company, a modern dance show based on Virginia Woolf’s Ms. Dalloway could come off as esoteric. But like just about everything else NW Dance Project creates, Woolf Paper is lucid and emotive, whether or not you’re familiar with the source material. The company’s reprisal of Woolf Papers will be paired with a world premiere of their take on Rite of Spring. Igor Stravinsky’s classic score is full of beauty, angst and heightened emotion, which makes it a perfect fit for NWDP. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 7:30 pm. Through April 25. $29-$59. D


Song of Extinction
At the center of this play is the bond between a biology teacher who survived the Cambodian genocide and a student whose mother is dying of stomach cancer. It was written by E.M. Lewis, the Oregon playwright who wrote the Antarctic epic Magellanica. Like that masterpiece, Song of Extinction is about the intersection of science and grief. Twilight Theater Company, 7515 N Brandon Ave., 8 pm. Through May 17. $18-$24. T

To Us
In this world-premiere play by Carrie Barrett, a utopia whose citizens are watched over by the Giant Yellow Sphere is threatened by the arrival of the Blue Cube. If that bizarre premise doesn’t already intrigue you, it’s worth noting that the play is directed by Elizabeth Jackson, who scorched the stage last year with her intense production of the Alaska-set drama Brilliant Traces. Defunkt Theatre, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 7:30 pm. Through May 30. Pay as you can.  T


Found Footage Festival
Scavenged from videotapes found in thrift stores, garage sales and dumpsters across the country, Joe Pickett of The Onion and Nick Prueher of The Colbert Report have combed through hours of found footage to present the weirdest and wackiest slices of life. It’s concrete proof that the fine art of the VHS format is not obsolete. Dante’s, 350 W Burnside St., 9 pm. $16. 21+. MO

Looking for Tiger Lily
Drag clown, playwright and film programmer Anthony Hudson explores what it means to be queer and half-Native American in this revised version of a cabaret show. Partly inspired by Hudson’s fascination with Peter Pan, Looking for Tiger Lily promises to be an entertaining and enlightening glimpse into the soul of one of Portland’s most prolific performers. Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave., 7:30 pm. Tuesday-Sunday through May 31. T

MAY 23

An African American Requiem
There’s little in the classical music world that centers around the experience of African Americans. Composer Damien Geter is helping to change that. Teaming up with Portland’s Resonance Ensemble and the Oregon Symphony, some of the finest African American talent from around the world are helping put together this show, including world-class composer Kazem Abdullah. Considering Oregon’s potent racial history, this may be one of the most important shows of the year. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 6 pm. $20-$100.  MU

MAY 30

Devin Harclerode and Laura Medina
Fuller Rosen has become one of the best places to see emerging local artists. This spring, the Division Street gallery is hosting a joint exhibit with PNCA alum Laura Medina, who delves into cultural displacement using everything from illustration to VR, and Devin Harclerode, whose installations and videos portray nature in ways that are both bizarre and beautiful. Harclerode’s titles alone are visceral: “Heave,” “Hack Path Meditation” and “Sweaty Mother Slow Groove.” Fuller Rosen Gallery, 2505 SE 11th Ave., Through July 10. V


The Goonies 35th Anniversary Celebration
The seaside town of Astoria hosts a Goonies celebration every year, but 2020 marks the Oregon-made hit’s 35th anniversary. This year’s festivities haven’t been announced yet, but the 30th celebration included filming locations tours, Goonies screenings, presentations by the film crew and a special appearance by none other than the actor who played Chunk, King of the Truffle Shuffle. Here’s hoping for a Sloth cameo this year. Various venues in Astoria, see for full schedule and tickets. Through June 7. MU


Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism 
It’s easy to understand why Frida Kahlo is still a cultural icon in 2020. In her surreal, brightly colored portraits, the Mexican painter defined beauty on their own terms, and insisted on the validity of autobiographical art. Since the show will also include works by Diego Rivera, the legendary socialist muralist and Kahlo’s romantic partner, it’ll likely be a rare exhibit that benefits from both fanfare and of-the-moment relevance. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave., See museum website for hours and admission. Through Sept. 27.  V

Willamette Week's Spring Arts Guide 2020

In Portland Center Stage's Crafts and Wig Shop, the City's Largest Theater Company Repairs Broken Heels and Shreds Period Costumes

In Eyrst's Studio, Local Rappers Pull All-Nighters, and There's Artwork by the Nirvana Baby

Hollywood Theatre's Archive is Home to a Kung Fu Film Collection Coveted by the Likes of Quentin Tarantino and RZA

Whenever Gum Ends Up on a Work of Art at the Museum, Samantha Springer Is the One to Very, Very Carefully Remove It

Soul Legend Ural Thomas Has a Practice Room That's Full of Vintage Instruments and Art Donated After Divine Intervention

The 29 Can't-Miss Portland Art Events This Spring

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