Eve Silverman - Celebrating local culture
On Nov. 2, 2013, a colorful variety of artists, performers and storytellers gave free presentations at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. The purpose of this Dia de Los Muertos festival: to dispel the public’s reservations about this misunderstood holiday by educating residents about Mexican traditions. More than 400 adults and nearly 300 children and youth enjoyed the performances. Attendees learned that celebrations of Dia de Los Muertos (“Day of the Dead” in English) are similar to our more-familiar Memorial Day observances.
The Cultural Center, on East Sheridan Street in Newberg, was observing what it called Latin American Heritage Month with activities and an art exhibit. The performances were partially paid for with a small grant from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition.
Fortunately for us, the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition (YCCC) is one of 45 county and tribal coalitions statewide receiving funding through the Oregon Cultural Trust. Our local coalition also solicits annual donations from county residents during a campaign ending in December. When residents make donations to both the Oregon Cultural Trust and a local YCCC partner, they receive a tax credit on their state tax returns, a generous benefit for the generous donors.
With grants from YCCC, various groups with projects to share receive the support they need to celebrate the arts, history and the humanities.
YCCC supports both new and continuing projects in an annual grant process. Over the past 10 years, YCCC has awarded grants that total more than $103,000 to 39 different organizations, individuals, schools and libraries. According to guidelines, these grants may pay up to 50 percent of project costs and are capped at $2,500. In 2013, 12 grants were awarded, each helping to offer high-quality experiences and events within our county.
Grantees represent a wide range of cultural interests. Art, public art installations, exhibits, family festivals, historical activities, films, music, literature and writing, and theater productions have been funded. Fascinating opportunities are readily available to everyone in Yamhill County, including youth, adults and senior citizens. Thanks to community groups and the coalition, culture is thriving here. Variety has been key to success and enjoyment.
YCCC supported the Start Making a Reader Today program by providing 400 books for students in pre-kindergarten to third grade. Through its many volunteers, SMART fosters a love of reading and exploration of the world through books. Student surveys indicate that 92 percent of SMART students in Yamhill County demonstrated increased vocabulary and greater confidence, self-esteem and enthusiasm for reading.
Taking love of reading one step further — to writing, YCCC awarded a grant to the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County for its fourth annual Terroir Writing Festival in April. The festival brought 13 nationally acclaimed Oregon writers to McMinnville for lectures and workshops on developing characters, self-publishing, crafting handmade books and writing poetry, biographies, fiction and romance novels.
With a mission “to produce and perform quality classical theater, free of charge … to residents of and visitors to Oregon’s Willamette Valley,” the Willamette Shakespeare company treated audiences to “Romeo and Juliet” among the oaks and rolling hills at a Dayton vineyard.
Indoors, Valley Repertory Theatre produced “In the Family of Things: Stories of Newberg,” which presented compelling life stories of local Iraq War veterans. One attendee commented: “The level of intimacy revealed was captivating!”
Attendees of the International Pinot Noir Celebration viewed “Latinos in the Wine Industry,” an exhibit at Linfield College. Students, professors, area Latinos, grape growers and winemakers collaborated to create the exhibit, demonstrating an interesting synergy among education, employment and our growing wine industry. The project will become part of the college’s digital library, accessible to all.
Film and music were also represented this past year. In March, audiences enjoyed the second annual environmental film festival presented by the Yamhill Watershed Stewardship Fund. Each of the four free films was followed by a panel discussion. One documentary was an award-winning film about creating art in the world’s largest garbage dump.
On eight Tuesdays in summer, the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce presented its annual free Tunes on Tuesday in Newberg’s Rotary Centennial Park. Audiences listened to various genres including big band, funk, rock ’n’ roll and flapper-era entertainment.
The Yamhill Enrichment Society used a YCCC grant to reproduce 20 historic photos of Dayton for a Historic Home Tour exhibit last August.
YCCC contributed to the development of an art studio for creative expression by older and frail adults living at Friendsview Retirement Community in Newberg. George Fox University students provided art instruction and event planning, adding intergenerational interaction to the project.
Two grantees will complete projects in 2014. The McMinnville Downtown Association applied to YCCC for partial funding of a public art project for its new transit center, expected to be completed in late spring. Linfield College will continue its documentation of the Pacific City dory fleet and its unique surf-launching history, including connections with Yamhill County residents.
In 2014, 13 more diverse projects will be available for everyone to enjoy. I hope you are eager to experience at least some of these cultural activities, which will include new projects, additional grantees and various geographical areas. For more information, visit www.yamhillcountyculture.org.
Guest writer Eve Silverman serves on the board of the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition and actively volunteers with other local cultural organizations and businesses. Before moving to Amity seven years ago, she had a varied career in education, economic development and redevelopment.