Oregon’s response to the international coronavirus crisis intensified dramatically on Friday when the Portland Art Museum and Oregon Historical Society, mainstays of the Portland’5 Centers for the Performing Arts in the downtown cultural district, announced that they would temporarily close their doors. Perhaps more drastically, the Multnomah County Library has closed all of its locations until further notice.
UPDATE: The two largest museums in the Willamette Valley south of Portland have also announced their closures. In Eugene, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon will be closed until at least April 10. And in Salem, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University will remain open Saturday and Sunday, then close starting Monday, March 16. , at least until April 12. While both museums are connected to universities, they are also the de facto art museums of their regions, and their closures affect large populations.
UPDATE 2: Late Saturday afternoon, the Maryhill Museum of Art on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge announced that it will remain closed until further notice. On Friday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a statewide ban for the next six weeks on gatherings of more than 250 people.
The Portland Art Museum and its Northwest Film Center will be closed until April 1, the museum announced late Friday afternoon. The final four days of the film center’s Portland International Film Festival had already been canceled. The history center announced earlier today that it would close from Saturday until March 29. Extensions of the closures are of course possible depending on the spread or containment of the COVID-19 virus. The performing arts centers had previously announced that all events at the Keller Auditorium, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Newmark Theater would be closed for the next four weeks.
The shutdown of the library system, in addition to inconveniencing readers, is a blow to the county’s poor and homeless people, who often use its internet connections or take refuge inside buildings. “We have reached a critical point where we believe we need to act quickly to help curb the spread of the virus,” Libraries Director Vailey Oehlke said in a statement. The system digital library resources will remain in operation.
The closures follow many other cancellations or postponements already announced. Many theater companies, for example, including Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre, Broadway Rose, Oregon Children’s Theatre, CoHo, Hand2Mouth, Third Rail and Theater Vertigo, have canceled productions. In Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has canceled all performances until at least April 8. Dance series White Bird has postponed its scheduled April 2-4 performances of Camille A. Brown & Dancers to the 2020-21 season. BodyVox dance and Chamber Music Northwest have postponed their collaboration NINETEEN TWENTY until April 30-May 3.
Numerous concerts and musical productions – including a series of performances by the Oregon Symphony and the Portland Opera production of Vivaldi Bajazet – have been cancelled. You can read about other cancellations in the ArtsWatch stories Continue the show? Wait. Really. and MusicWatch Weekly: Stay home! They’re far from complete: New cancellations are coming in clusters as arts groups assess the health crisis. A highly anticipated concert, Tchaikovsky’s Saturday Night Cappella Romana Choral Performance Divine Liturgy, will not be presented to a live audience, but will be broadcast live so that the public can listen from home.
The rush to close follows Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s order on Wednesday night banning all public gatherings of more than 250 people in the state for at least four weeks. Thursday Brown extended closures to include all K-12 public schools in Oregon from Monday, March 16 until at least the end of the month. Throughout the duration, fourteen schools scattered around the city will provide free meals to children who need them, The Oregonian / Oregon Live reports.
If you plan to attend any public event, cultural or otherwise, check the sponsoring organization’s website or phone first to make sure it is taking place. Take all the necessary health precautions. And ask yourself if you really need to go out after all.