Ten days after he watched his offices burn to the ground, Peter Bilotta sounds ebullient.
"We've been so moved and so inspired and so thrilled by the community response," says Bilotta, top executive at Chamber Music Northwest. "In a lot of ways, the tragedy hasn't been tragic at all."
The organization's offices on Southwest Macadam Boulevard burned down on the last Sunday in January. It happened during the second concert in CMNW's annual Winter Festival, one of the classical music organization's biggest ticket events.
Bilotta got a call informing him that the group's headquarters had gone up in flames. He drove to the Macadam Business Center, where firefighters were already on the scene. "I stayed until 11:30 and decided it was probably OK to go home when the third-floor offices collapsed into our second-floor offices," he says. "My office exploded. So that was probably the time when I decided, 'Yeah, I think we're done here.'"
The fire destroyed decades' worth of sheet music and vinyl and CD recordings. But less than 24 hours after the offices had been gutted, the last concert in the series went on as planned. "We're thrilled that we did," Bilotta says, "because it was an awesome concert."
The organization recently moved into temporary office space provided by BodyVox Dance. Now, it's looking for a permanent new home. "In the two-and-a-half years since we moved into Macadam Center, office lease rates have gone up between 15 and 25 percent," he says. "Nonprofits are being forced to the fringe of the metro area."
But for the most part, Bilotta sounds undaunted: "All we lost is stuff. The music, the art that we create continues on. That's really demonstrative of how wonderful Portland is as a community, and how generous Portland's art community is as well."