How does a work of art begin? With the stroke of a pen or a paintbrush? With a spotlight shining on a stage? With a cry of “Action!” on a film or TV set? Or a signature scrawled on a check?
That question of origin was one we considered as we prepared our list of 25 People Shaping the Arts in Portland. Influence is an elusive concept. Patronization can be quantified, but inspiration is harder to measure.
Yet here we are with a list, assembled after fierce debate among WW’s Arts & Culture writers and a survey of both artists and patrons of the arts. In it, you will find musicians, writers, philanthropists, executive leaders and some multihyphenates who defy categorization. (A few we wanted to include declined to be interviewed.)
This is not a list of the city’s best artists, or its best known. Instead, it’s a list of the people whose personal gravity draws satellites in to their orbit. In other words, these are Portland’s tastemakers—either because of the work they create or the talent they bolster.
The list is divided into two sections: Old Guard and New Guard. In the former category, we consider those whose influence has long shaped the city. In the latter, we identify people who have emerged as formidable voices in the past decade: stars of the present and future.
As Portland continues to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic, recognizing these Oregonians is more important than ever. It is because of the people on this list that the city’s arts scene is resurgent, rather than on life support. —Bennett Campbell Ferguson, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
The Old Guard
The New Guard