Public sculptures, model trains and Christmas gospel: Oregon arts and culture events in December

By Donald Orr (OPB) and Tiffany Camhi (OPB)
Dec. 2, 2022 2 p.m.
The Portland sign on Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall lights up an empty street Saturday, April 18, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown banned large gatherings in March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Portland sign on Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall lights up an empty street Saturday, April 18, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Gospel Christmas with the Oregon Symphony is happening Saturday Dec. 10 and Sunday Dec. 11.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

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The holidays are in full swing, and for many of us that means celebrating with friends and family. As we gather with loved ones this month, there are plenty of things to do and see that highlight the season. OPB producer Donald Orr sat down with All Things Considered co-host Tiffany Camhi to chat about a few events to check out this December. Listen in, or read a lightly edited transcript of their conversation, below.

Tiffany Camhi: So what’s on your arts and culture radar this month?

Donald Orr: First up, I want to give a spotlight to our friends at Oregon Art Beat. They spent some time with local sculptor James Lee Hansen. At 97 years old, Hansen has created over 600 sculptures in his lifetime, sculpting in the Pacific Northwest since 1950.

Camhi: Wow.

Orr: After his time serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the Northwest and attended the museum art school at the Portland Art Museum.

Here’s Hansen:

James Lee Hansen: “I’ve wondered about why I chose to be a sculptor, and I got to thinking about it. I’m probably more primitive than painters, because all I have to do is reach down, and get the earth-dust of stars, and start making something. I don’t have to have canvas, or vellum, or paper, or paint and frames — I just have to have the earth. A little bit like God, I suppose.”

Orr: Hansen’s sculptures have been shown at the Whitney Museum in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — to name a few.

But luckily you don’t have to go very far to see his work in person — his Northwest installations can be seen at the University of Oregon, the Maryhill Museum, Clark College and throughout Oregon and Washington. You can watch James Lee Hansen’s full story and find a map of his public sculptures in the Portland/Vancouver area at OPB.org/oregonartbeat. That’ll be online Saturday, Dec. 3.

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Camhi: Cool, I’ll have to check that out. So what else are you looking forward to this December?

Orr: The Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.

Camhi: Nice.

Orr: The Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club is the biggest model railroad of its kind in the Northwest, and one of the oldest clubs in the country. Established in 1947, the club is celebrating 75 years with a series of special model railroad shows. Let’s listen:

“I’ve always loved trains when I was a little boy, when I was young, much younger. I would cry when we would get to a railroad crossing, and there was no train coming. That’s what my parents used to tell me, anyway. And I’ve just always loved trains, I had a couple model railroad setups at home, but this is far and above anything I could have imagined before. And I just enjoy working with them, operating the trains. And meeting all the people that are not only members of the club, but also people that come to see the layout during our showtimes in November and December.”

Orr: It’s a great time for folks of all ages, and there are two more days of shows, this weekend: Dec. 3 and 4. You can find tickets and showtimes at CGMRC.com.

Camhi: Cool, that sounds like a good one to check out with the family. So how about some holiday performances? I know that there’s going to be a lot going on this December. Is there anything on your shortlist?

Orr: The Northwest Community Gospel Chorus joins the Oregon Symphony for its 23rd annual performance of Gospel Christmas. Here’s a little bit from one of their past performances.

Orr: You can experience Gospel Christmas with the Oregon Symphony on Saturday Dec. 10 and Sunday Dec. 11 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

Camhi: Donald, thanks so much for filling us in.

Orr: Thanks for having me.

Camhi: That was OPB’s Donald Orr. You can find all of our arts programming and coverage online at OPB.org/culture.

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