autumn for the arts in portland?

Today came the surprise announcement of the resignation of Oregon Ballet Theater (OBT) artistic director Christopher Stowell, effective December 31. Part of a wave of new administrators/artistic directors at the major Portland arts institutions (among them Carlos Kalmar at the Oregon Symphony, Christopher Mattaliano of the Portland Opera, and Chris Coleman of Portland Center Stage) that heralded a burgeoning arts scene in Portland centered around a renewed pursuit of a level of artistic excellence that belied the relatively small size of the city.

Said Stowell in his announcement:

“OBT’s Board of Trustees has determined that the organization must adopt a new business model and, after much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I am not the best candidate to lead OBT into that future.”

My guess as to what the new model will entail? One need only look to what’s happening in the Twin Cities these days. Smaller company size (less dancers). Reduced orchestra services, or even the elimination of the orchestra from all productions (Stowell championed the use of live music over the financial objections of the bean counters, and established a fund to try to enable more performances with live music). In the end the artistic payroll is the highest portion of the budget, and that is where the cuts will be made. That’s my take on it.

Clearly, Portland is not immune from the attitudes of entrenched boards operating within a bunker mentality. Who will be next to leave?

Read the complete official press release:

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