Image: PHAME

Here’s something to brighten your weekend (heck, the rest of summer): the Oregon Community Foundation announced the inaugural recipients of its Creative Heights Initiative, a unique program coming out of the $150 million Fred W. Fields Fund. Ever since 2012, when the Fields Foundation made one of the largest donations ever to a community foundation to fund arts and education (but with no further specifications), local artists and administrators have been waiting to see how it would be distributed.

The Creative Heights Initiative has the express purpose of giving Oregon arts and culture organizations the opportunity to take risks with new projects through the distribution of $4 million over the next five years. While the $1.1 million announced for this year is not monumental by Oregon standards, what sets it apart is that it’s distributed to only 14 organizations, making for significant awards that range from $22,300–$125,000.

The projects range from Artists Rep commissioning eight plays over the next two years to Cappella Romana teaching its singers to read Byzantine sheet music to PHAME commissioning and staging a new musical composed by singer-songwriter Laura Gibson and written by Debbie Lamedman.

"The awards made by OCF in this new initiative are exceptional, for several reasons: their size and scope, their commitment to lifting up and showcasing Oregon artists, and their impact potential," PHAME's executive director, Stephen Marc Beaudoin, told PoMo. "Grants of this size don't come down every day in Oregon, and I know all of us at PHAME and across the Oregon arts community are grateful for OCF's commitment to innovation, creativity, and culture."

Here’s the full list of recipients. We'll get to watch the fruits of their funds roll out over the next few years.

  • Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland – $125,000 to establish a New Play Development Program that will create opportunities for local and national playwrights, ensure that underrepresented voices are heard on stage, and establish the theatre and Portland as engines of new play development.
  • Caldera, Portland – $75,000 to develop a series of site- and community-specific projects that bring groups together to create and present a series of events that examine issues of equity, cultural heritage, food systems, generational knowledge, and the environment of Portland. Collaborators will use a variety of media including photography, storytelling, video and conceptual arts.
  • Cappella Romana, Portland – $90,000 to make substantial investments in its artists (particularly women) by teaching them to read the original Byzantine music notation, creating new access to, and higher level performance of, the repertoire.
  • Eugene Concert Choir, Eugene – $125,000 grant to commission a 30-minute choral-orchestral work by nationally recognized Oregon composer Joan Szymko. The work will focus on the experiences of those who have memory loss and their families and caregivers – giving voice to the challenges, frustrations, despair, determination and hopes that people with Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, or traumatic brain injury face.
  • Hand2Mouth Theatre, Portland – $45,000 for a new theatre work inspired by Gus Van Sant’s iconic film, My Own Private Idaho. The project will combine this source material with research into early ‘90s Portland culture and modern-day interviews with artists involved in the original film.
  • High Desert Museum, Bend – $125,000 for the museum to develop interdisciplinary programming that revisits the prolific programs of the Great Depression through literature, music, theater, film and visual arts. The High Desert Museum has commissioned three artists to create work that responds to the state of Oregon today.
  • Independent Publishing Resource Center, Portland – $45,000 to launch a tri-yearly, multidisciplinary concert series, beginning with two events in fall 2014. This innovative new series will pair nationally recognized musicians with writers, visual artists, and collaborative, hands-on art-making activities.
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland – $125,000 for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to present the U.S. premiere of Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, by Taiwanese playwright Stan Lai, who will also direct the production.
  • PHAME, Portland – $35,000 to develop and premiere a newly commissioned full-length musical theatre work, tentatively titled The Journey, written by Oregon artists Laura Gibson (composer) and Debbie Lamedman (playwright). The Journey cast will be comprised of performers with and without developmental disabilities.
  • Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland – $75,000 to support an experimental take on a traditional creation residency program structure, the Creative Exchange Lab. The program will convene six Oregon artists and six of their national/international peers to seed new collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects, and promote creative exchange and cross-cultural dialogue.
  • Portland Piano International, Portland – $90,000 to support the Rising Star Series, a new performance and outreach program. Three promising young pianists will perform at least four recitals in the Portland Metro area and other Oregon communities. Portland Piano will also commission Oregon-based composers to create new risk-taking works for solo piano.
  • Rainbow Dance Theatre, Monmouth – $125,000 to support a project to expand the theater’s creative range in dance choreography through utilizing the most recent technological advances in the field of real-time motion tracking and through personalizing the theatrical experience by integrating audience generated text and images/photos into the performance.
  • Third Angle New Music, Portland – $22,300 to support Frozen Music; light and music in Aalto’s library, a musical installation at the Mt. Angel Abbey Library, in Mt. Angel, Oregon, designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The project will feature several components, including musical performances by Third Angle New Music that correlate to the library’s collection and the Finnish composers of Aalto’s era, and also educational events that will take place in partnership with the Architecture Foundation of Oregon
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