A mosaic of nine images, from upper left: beavers eating wood, a street style mural, salmon drying, an illustrated sea urchin, an illustrated dinosaur, indigenous dancers, an accordionist, a wildfire and children in an intuitional setting.
MacGregor Campbell / OPB

2021: OPB’s must-watch original videos

By OPB Staff and MacGregor Campbell (OPB)
Dec. 31, 2021 1 p.m.

This year OPB’s video units created dozens of unique, original videos that show life in the Pacific Northwest in rich detail. If you only have time for a few, these are the ones to watch.

Oregon Field Guide

What’s the connection between beavers and wildfire? It’s a question you may never have asked, but in a state where land burned by wildfire topped 800,000 acres in 2021, this story stands out for what it reveals about the surprisingly useful role played by Oregon’s state animal in preventing the spread of wildfire. (Aaron Scott)


-Ed Jahn, executive producer, Oregon Field Guide

Also check out:

Underwater Chainsaws! The surprising way scientists are unlocking seismic history beneath lakes in the Northwest. (Jes Burns)

Remote cameras capture wildfire returning after wildfire. (Cassandra Profita)

Before and after aerial video reveals the scale and magnitude of Oregon’s historic 2020 Labor Day fires. (Todd Sonflieth)

The avalanche dogs that could mean the difference between life and death at Mount Bachelor. (Ian McCluskey)

Black farmers of Mudbone Grown change the narrative for agriculture in Oregon. (Jule Gilfillan)

Oregon Experience

One of the best parts of our work is when we hear how our stories touch individual lives. In 2021, that happened with the Oregon Experience documentary “In the Shadow of Fairview.” The program tells the long and complex history of Fairview Training Center, an institution for those with developmental disabilities. It first appeared on OPB in 2020, but this year, several state, county, and nonprofit agencies reached out to OPB requesting permission to use the documentary in their training materials. At their request, OPB also created a Spanish subtitled version.

Within months, tens of thousands of people discovered the documentary online or at their places of work. Many had no idea of this history or why Oregon no longer has institutions for the developmentally disabled. As a documentary producer, it is especially gratifying to know that “In the Shadow of Fairview” offers care workers insight into the vital work they do in supporting those with disabilities to live full and independent lives.

-Kami Horton, producer, Oregon Experience

Also Check out these documentaries from previous years that found new popularity on YouTube in 2021:

Broken Treaties For thousands of years, more than 60 Native American tribes lived in Oregon’s diverse environmental regions. At least 18 languages were spoken across hundreds of villages. This civilizational fabric became unraveled in just a few short decades upon contact with white settlers in the 19th century. In this “”Oregon Experience”” documentary, Native Oregonians reflect on what has been lost since and what’s next for their tribes. (Eric Cain)

Murder on the S Pacific 100 years ago, one of the last of the Wild West train holdups happened in the mountains of Southern Oregon. (Kami Horton)

Vanport During the early 1940s, Vanport, Oregon was the second largest city in the state. But on a Sunday afternoon in May 1948, it disappeared completely—destroyed by a catastrophic flood. (Nadine Jelsing)

Science and Environment

The most important stories about wildfires rarely reveal themselves in the heat of the moment. In fact, the stories we hear in the early hours and days about causes of wildfire are often wrong. This was evident in this OPB Science & Environment investigation, when reporters Ilie Mitaru and Cassandra Profita revealed that initial reports about why the town of Gates was consumed by fire a year earlier may have been wrong. Instead of a town caught in a swirl of wildfires, powerlines that remained energized despite a historic windstorm may have played a significant role in why so many structures burned to the ground.


-Ed Jahn, executive editor, OPB Science and Environment

Oregon Art Beat

As 2021 draws to a close, all of us on Art Beat reflect with gratitude on the artists we’ve met and the stories we’ve been able to tell throughout the year. We were particularly inspired to feature so many one-of-a-kind artists creating exceptional work during the most difficult of times. We are grateful to these artists whose work helps tell the story of Oregon, enriching all of us.

Jesus Torralba has been painting since he was a child, when friends introduced him to the art of graffiti. Today his colorful commissioned murals can be seen throughout Portland, each capped with his “Heysus” signature. Torralba’s designs draw on his indigenous roots in Oaxaca, and on his love of cartoons, creating a distinctive style.

-Jessica Martin, executive producer, Oregon Art Beat

Also check out:

Jet Black Pearl Accordionist, character artiste and now filmmaker, Portland’s Jet Black Pearl evokes smiles even in the worst of times.

Esque Studio is a small glass blowing studio based out of St. Johns, Portland. Started by Andi Kovel and Justin Parker, the studio uses glassblowing techniques to create works of art that are modern, functional, and aimed at the design industry.

Mark Hallett Dallas, Oregon paleo artist Mark Hallett’s 40-year career drawing, painting, and sculpting extinct dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals has taken him from Hollywood to India.

Lisa Jarrett An associate professor of art at Portland State University, Lisa Jarrett makes socially engaged work within the African Diaspora. In her studio-based practice, she creates objects often related to and about the Black fem experience in relation to beauty and hair care.


OPB launched a new video series dedicated to food in 2021. The Pacific Northwest is a foodie paradise, home to hundreds of food crops, world-class restaurants and chefs, and thousands of farmers, foragers and fishers who keep us all fed. What connects them are the real food ingredients that grow here. Our aim was to use food as a lens through which we can better understand our regional culture, ecology, aesthetics and economics.

Out of the first six episodes the one that came closest to hitting our original goal was our video on salmon. OPB has done countless stories on salmon, so the challenge was to find a new way of viewing this fish. We chose to center the meaning of salmon to some of the many different indigineous cultures of the Columbia watershed. From fishers and food preparers, to scientists and fisheries managers, to cultural custodians, we highlighted salmon as a living relative, a symbol, a measure of our health and a foundational food for many of the living beings that call the Northwest home.

-MacGregor Campbell and Arya Surowidjojo, co-creators

Watch the entire first season of Superabundant in this handy playlist.

And click play, below, to listen to the creators of Superabundant discuss the series with OPB’s Crystal Ligori:


Tags: Opb, Video, Science & Environment, Arts And Culture