Realist paintings, folk music and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Oregon arts and culture events in January

By Donald Orr (OPB) and Crystal Ligori (OPB)
Jan. 7, 2023 2 p.m.

As we settle into the new year, there are plenty of events this month that can enlighten your start to 2023. OPB producer Donald Orr sat down with All Things Considered co-host Crystal Ligori to chat about a few events to check out this January. Listen in, or read a lightly edited transcript of their conversation below.


Crystal Ligori: So what is on your arts and culture radar this month?

Donald Orr: First up, our friends at Oregon Art Beat have a new episode out this week, featuring realist painter Gabe Fernandez. He finds stories in familiar objects, seeing both photorealism and abstract elements in everyday scenes — from chairs and home furniture, to laundromats.

Some of Fernandez’s work aims to evoke a sense of positivity and nostalgia by taking inspiration from the past. Recently, he’s been fascinated with vintage toys and collectibles. Here’s Fernandez:

Gabe Fernandez: “It looks so much like these figurines that used to be in the toy box at my grandma’s. And she’d keep a basket full of little toys for any visiting kids to play with. But there was something comforting about these little guys that were in the toy box. And I would still play with them, and you just bide your time while you know, you were spending time at grandma’s. And it didn’t even hit me the first few times I saw the figures. This is about grandma’s house. It’s like comfort food. There’s something once again familiar about those sort of environments.”

Orr: Gabe Fernandez’s work can be seen at the Russo Lee Gallery in Portland, and you can often find him searching for inspiration at Billy Galaxy’s Vintage Toys on Burnside. You can learn more about his process on the newest episode of Oregon Art Beat — at

Ligori: Cool!

Orr: And we should also keep our eyes peeled out for another OPB video series that you’re working on, right?

Ligori: Yes, indeed! OPB’s Superabundant is actually kicking off its second season in just a few weeks. If you don’t know about it, it’s OPB’s video series that highlights ingredients grown right here in the Pacific Northwest, and all the stories that connect us to the foods we love. I won’t give too much away, but we will be kicking off the second season on Jan. 20 and highlighting Dungeness crab!

Orr: Yum, I’m already getting hungry for that. Looking forward to it!


Ligori: What else can we be on the watch for in January?

Orr: This tip comes from our friend and OPB arts and culture reporter Prakuti Bhatt.

The Portland Folk Festival kicks off next weekend, from Jan. 13-15. The event features more than 20 bands and artists, including Ron Artis II, a singer-songwriter based out of Hawaii. Let’s listen to a little bit of his performance at Pickathon 2017:

Ron will be playing at the Portland Folk Festival, which kicks off next Friday, Jan. 13.

Ligori: All right, marking my calendar now. And Donald, I know that there are going to be a slew of events that are happening to commemorate the life and service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Can you tell us about those?

Orr: Yeah, that’s right. There are commemorative events and days of service all throughout our region this month. But I wanted to highlight some events in Corvallis.

Oregon State University has a series of lectures and events folks can attend, not just on MLK Day but throughout the rest of the month. On the morning of MLK Day — Monday the 16th — OSU will have a Peace Breakfast followed by a Commemoration Peace March throughout the OSU campus.

And Oregon State is capping off its month of programming with a keynote address from Jelani Cobb. Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker, writing on race, history, justice, and politics. He also recently co-edited “The Matter of Black Lives,” a collection of The New Yorker’s writing on Black history and culture in America, featuring the work of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison.

His lecture takes place on Feb. 1, and is free and open to the public. You can register and find more information for lectures, events and days of service this month in honor of Dr. King at

In this 1960 file photo, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a podium in Atlanta.

In this 1960 file photo, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Atlanta.

Associated Press / File

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

Orr: Thanks, Crystal!

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