The end of the year is a traditional time for looking back, both to see where we’ve been and to sort out what happened when we were there. Here’s my own personal list of what I liked best – and least – in the local arts world in 2014. It’s heavily skewed toward the second half of the year, as I didn’t begin writing Eugene Art Talk until August.

Stephen Beus performing with the Oregon Mozart Players. Beus, a young pianist from Othello, Wash., came to town in the fall to play a concert with OMP at Beall Hall but also offered a recital, held at the Eugene Piano Academy downtown. Both were exquisite – Beus, who made his musical mark early by winning competitions, is definitely a musician to keep an eye (and an ear) on.

Visiting the Arlington Club in Portland. Most of you have probably never heard of the Arlington Club. I hadn’t either, until my son got invited to speak there and I tagged along. What made this an artistic experience was the fact that throughout the early 20th century four-story brick building – the Arlington is an old-fashioned gentleman’s club, which, like many, has only quite recently opened membership to ladies as well – you find real, original Northwest art. Paintings by artists like James Lavadour and Rick Bartow. There was even an original Carl Morris over the bed in our suite. (I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect the art comes from the collections of Jordan and Arlene Schnitzer, who are said to be members.) Being a rich gentleman wouldn’t be such a bad gig.

President Johnson (Jack Willis) dictates a letter to the parents of a soldier lost in the fighting in Vietnam. Photo by Jenny Graham.

President Johnson (Jack Willis) in OSF’s ‘The Great Society.’  Photo by Jenny Graham.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “The Great Society.” This would be Act II of “All the Way,” which went on from its opening in Ashland two years ago to win the Tony Award for Best Play in a Broadway production also directed by OSF’s artistic director Bill Rauch. Since taking over in Ashland, Rauch has pushed OSF into the big time in a big way. Regional theater in the U.S., he once said to a question I posed, has become our national theater in the United States. He’s right.

Ben Lerner’s 10:04. OK, Lerner isn’t local, but you can buy his stunningly beautiful novel here in Eugene, so I guess it counts. I read 10:04 for the first time this summer as I was headed to New York City for a visit. I turned right around and read it again – it’s that good, and requires that much attention that a second read is deeply satisfying. Unlike most writing I enjoy, it’s not big on plot. It’s just really, really good writing, absolutely contemporary, and sucks you into its narrator’s world and mind with no apparent effort. On a Lerner jag, I also read his (2011) Leaving the Atocha Station – also twice. I may cram in one more reading of each before the winter is out. Order it here: 10:04: A Novel.

Irene Hardwicke Olivieri‘s paintings at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Olivieri, who lives and works outside Bend, is a fantastic, imaginative painter of the natural and personal worlds. She also graced Eugene with one of the Lane Arts Council’s new First Friday Art Talks this past fall, mesmerizing an audience at Oveissi & Co.

John Evans

John Evans

And, now, the worst: Why did John Evans suddenly leave the Oregon Bach Festival? I was a newspaperman too long to believe in conspiracies when simple incompetence will suffice as an explanation for bad behavior, but Evans’ sudden and veiled departure as managing director of the prestigious festival was just plain weird. Even the UO would have to work hard to screw up the process this badly, unless there was something else going on. But I still have no clear idea what that something else really was.

Happy New Year!

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