Portland Fall Arts Guide 2012: Artbreaker

A ballerina, a best-seller and a violinist take high culture slumming.

Fall is the snootiest season. In summer, Portlanders drink cheap red wine in the park while watching Top Gun on an inflatable screen or take their kids to see Spock pinch Klingons under the St. Johns Bridge.

But as the air chills and yellow creeps up the leaves, the sense of shared wonder that vibrates through the warm months goes into hibernation. Portland's "serious" art aficionados retreat to more refined environs.

There's only a thin and jagged line separating fine and popular art, though, and context is important. The Washington Post demonstrated this in 2007. In Gene Weingarten's Pulitzer Prize-winning feature story "Pearls Before Breakfast," he took world-class violinist Joshua Bell busking at a subway station. Bureaucratic drones buzzed right past Bell—some tossing pennies—as he played a $3.5 million Stradivarius. Only one woman recognized she was watching one of the world's best classical musicians.

Would Portlanders do better? We wanted to find out. So we took an Oregon Symphony violinist offstage to play for loose coins on the street. We also took Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers to a sweaty, vodka-fueled Old Town nightclub. We watched an artist who sells his work for thousands at one of the city's top galleries hawk his wares in the madness of Last Thursday. We sent a bestselling author to a writer's workshop to discuss Harry Potter erotic fanfiction before getting a critique of her soon-to-be-published book.

How did the artists fare outside their gilded bubbles? Did highfalutin Portland know talent when it saw it offstage? And what is Ginny Weasley's favorite position?

WWeek 2015

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.