Spring Up

6 New Projects Shaking Up Portland's Arts Scene

From a brick-and-mortar outpost for Baby Ketten Karaoke to the Hollywood Theatre's refurbished pipe organ, here's what to know right now.

By Rebecca Jacobson and Fiona McCann February 26, 2019 Published in the March 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Baby Ketten Karaoke is going brick-and-mortar.

Book Mark

Before Books Around the Corner opened in downtown Gresham last November, the city (population 112,000) didn’t have a general interest bookstore. Started by onetime librarian Stephanie Csaszar, the shop stocks new and gently used books and, just a few months in, is packing the calendar with community events, including several book clubs, origami classes, and local art showcases. 

Play Hard

Chapel Theatre Collective, currently in its first season, operates with an eye toward social justice. Last October’s opener centered on a fraught mother-daughter relationship (Mom was in prison for 26 years for killing Dad), followed by a show exploring gun ownership and the limits of liberal values. Next up: May’s Curve of Departure, about a fractured family stuck in a New Mexico hotel room. The company performs at Milwaukie’s Chapel Theatre, a recently renovated church that’s also home to dance company Trip the Dark. 

Pipe Dream

When the Hollywood Theatre opened in 1926, it showed silent movies with live pipe organ accompaniment. That Wurlitzer is still there, but for decades the sound has been digital, rather than coming from the hundreds of pipes themselves, which range in size from a single inch to 16 feet tall. No longer: the nonprofit Columbia River Theatre Organ Society has refurbished the chamber, and visitors can now hear (and feel) the resonant rumbling of the actual pipes at the Pipe Organ Pictures series, which features monthly screenings of silent films.

King Ketten 

No “Total Eclipse,” no “Don’t Stop Believin’”—Portland’s celebrated Baby Ketten Karaoke has long established itself as the thinking person’s singalong sesh, thanks to high-quality backing tracks and an eclectic list that deliberately eschews tired karaoke faves. Now the roving karaoke pop-up has a permanent space at 2433 SE Powell Blvd, where the Baby Ketten Klub will open its doors in March. (The space is the long-ago home of Klingon Karaoke at Bodacious Classics, fittingly enough.) Think “a warm comfortable dive-y type aesthetic,” says Baby Ketten’s John Brophy, with the best songbook in town.

Storied City

Radio host Jason Lamb and Oregon Health Authority equity and inclusion director Leann Johnson introduced their all-black storytelling show, The Blackonteurs, just over two years ago as part of the Northwest Black Comedy Festival. Since then, their showcase of true tales from a slew of performers has become a regular occurrence, taking place bimonthly at Southeast’s Deep End Theater, with past storytellers including comics wizard David F.  Walker, comedian and rapper Shrista Tyree, and author Jemiah Jefferson.

Art Attack

What to do when you have a palette of artists and a dearth of spaces in which to show them? One option is to make your own gallery, the step chosen by 14 artists from around Oregon (and two from Walla Walla) who opened Carnation Contemporary last fall in one of Disjecta’s leasable spaces, with a group show called First Date. Their 18-month plan? For each artist to have a monthlong show of their own design, with the four remaining months dedicated to bringing in new artists and “expanding our reach,” as Jeremy LeGrand, one of the gallery’s seven cofounders, puts it. Watch this cooperative space.

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