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A Year Of Wonder: 'State Of Wonder' 2017 Arts Highlights


OPB's art show looks back on the year's best music, books, news stories and spectacular astronomical events.

What a year it has been.

From crisscrossing the state chasing a total eclipse to the mountain of books at Wordstock, we have zoomed in and out of worlds, real and imaginary. As 2018 approaches, we wanted to take a minute to look back on the year that was, and wish it well.

Total Eclipse Of The Art

The brightest moment of 2017 came, poetically, during a magnificent moment of darkness: the total eclipse of the sun.

We spent the whole first half of the year traveling to small towns and monster festivals to report on how they were preparing for a projected one million visitors. But the real joy came during our weeklong road trip, traveling in the path of totality from the coast to central Oregon, before settling into Suttle Lodge for the music fest Funk’s Obscuration Celebration.

We stayed up all night putting together this show documenting our adventure, before crashing for a catnap on the dock:

The Last Artful, Dodgr and Neill Von Tally at OPB

The Last Artful, Dodgr and Neill Von Tally at OPB

Jarratt Taylor/opbmusic

The Year In Music

Almost on a weekly basis, one incendiary band after another burnt down the OPB studio. It’s hard to pick favorites from the dozens of opbmusic sessions we collaborated on, but we’re going to do our best:

Nick Hennessy/OPB

The Year In Books

We were back at Wordstock this year for three live shows:

  • For our live show, we sat down with the creators behind the runaway sci-fi podcast “Welcome to Nightvale” and then the hilarious and powerful poets Morgan Parker and Tommy Pico.
  • Then we hosted the culture writer and recent Portland transplant Chuck Klosterman and the stunning novelists Katie Kitamura and Hannah Tinti.
  • Finally, watch for our final hour-long episode with novelist and screenwriter Tom Perotta (“Election,” “The Leftovers,” “Mrs. Fletcher”) to come over the New Year’s Eve weekend.

As for individual interviews, we’re still thinking about the poet Samiya Bashir’s meditations on race, science and Black Bodies in “Field Theories”; young adult fantasy maven Laini Taylor’s incredible new world of floating castles and orphaned librarians, “Strange The Dreamer”; Daniel Wilson’s robot romp through history, “Clockwork Dynasty”; and Kent Nerburn’s classic about his travels with a Native American elder, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog.”

It was also an amazing year in comics, from the triumphant Wonder Woman movie (it reduced “State of Wonder” host April Baer to a squealing fangirl) to our conversations with some of the hottest local comic creators in advance of the Rose City Comic Con.

The artists Kristin Lucas and William Pappenheimer try out the augmented reality flamingo heads, as seen through a HoloLens headset, that Lucas created during the Oregon Story Board research residency.

The artists Kristin Lucas and William Pappenheimer try out the augmented reality flamingo heads, as seen through a HoloLens headset, that Lucas created during the Oregon Story Board research residency.

Courtesy Oregon Story Board

Adventures In Virtual Reality

This year, we really began to notice the ways that virtual and augmented reality stand to transform the creative professions, from allowing architects to create virtual buildings you can explore to enabling artists to imagine entirely new worlds that overlap with this real one — or ask, “What is real anyway?” You can bet we’ll be working on this series into 2018.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Movie Madness is going to get a sequel as a nonprofit run by the Hollywood Theatre. 

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Movie Madness is going to get a sequel as a nonprofit run by the Hollywood Theatre. 

Aaron Scott/OPB

The Hollywood Theatre Saves Movie Madness

The Hollywood Theatre kicked off 2017 with the opening of the innovative mini-cinema at the Portland International Airport, which is enough to qualify for a great year. But then in October, it announced an audacious Kickstarter campaign to save one of the city’s last — and one of the country’s greatest — video stores, Movie Madness. The Hollywood needed to raise $250,000 in a matter of weeks. Instead, it raised $315,000 from 4,639 backers, making way towards a stretch goal to build a new viewing room in the store for film groups and small screenings, when it takes over Jan. 1, 2018. Long live the VHS!

In other film news, we had an amazing trip to La Grande to record a live show at the scrappy but ambitious Eastern Oregon Film Festival that had April almost getting devoured by a zombie puppet. All’s well that ends — with a dessert course of brains.

For the zombie puppet Zed, threatening to eat someone — say host April Baer — is just another way of saying hello. He stars in "Frank & Zed" by filmmaker Jesse Blandard (right).

For the zombie puppet Zed, threatening to eat someone — say host April Baer — is just another way of saying hello. He stars in “Frank & Zed” by filmmaker Jesse Blandard (right).

Aaron Scott/OPB

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