at Gallery 500: No discernable clique among clumps of Portland
Seattle artist visits Portland's monthly ritual
a Seattle artist accustomed to going to our own First Thursday gallery
walk (a concept I believe we ripped off from Portland), I wasn't
sure what I was in for when I headed south for February's event.
Portland is legendary for its all-out support of the
arts. I didn't know if that meant parades in the Pearl District
or riots at the openings over who served the best wine.
I was only anticipating something unique.
Every out-of-towner entertains a standard-issue compare-and-contrast
mechanism when entering foreign territory. So I couldn't help myself
and, at first nod, Portland's First Thursday experience lines up
nicely with Seattle's.
Just like us, you have the horrible non-existent parking, crowds
spilling out from brightly lit gallery spaces and clumps of inevitable
gallery goers traveling en masse from one space to the next. Equally
apparent was the sighting of a slightly higher hipster quotient
than you'd probably notice on the streets at dinner hour.
A closer glance, though, and time well spent at one opening in
particular (Gallery 500), led to some interesting observations that
might quickly define what makes the Portland experience special.
glance: enthusiasm for the art experience.
It was immediately obvious there was no discernable clique in attendance
at this show. I witnessed a broad range of age, attitude and savvy
milling around and interacting. Artists who had obviously been at
it for years were debating with each other and also with the younger
Conversations floated in and out of earshot and the one thing everyone
appeared to have in common was enthusiasm for the art experience.
I spoke with some interesting folks, including one woman who had
some right-on ideas about the big difference between Seattle and
Seattle, she explained, is all about power and probably always
has been. Her theory is that an area bespeckled with islands and
places for people to moor yachts is going to draw those types (it's
true). Portland, meanwhile, is a river city that has always pulled
in the less conventional types.
I had an exchange with another person who, mid-conversation, whipped
out his blue-collar-workers-should-be-collecting-art manifesto.
He stated that there's a lot of cheap art in Portland and people
should be buying and appreciating it.
notion of explaining: Mona Superhero at Gallery 500's side room.
I was struck by how even folks that don't make art entertain the
notion of explaining it.
The work on the walls at Gallery 500, with the Chroma group show
in the main space and Mona Superhero in the side room all seemed
to reflect this sentiment as well.
The best work in the Chroma show was by established painter Michael
Knutson. His jewel-like painting hung side by side with other works
that expressed the boisterousness of youth.
But one thing seemed inevitable that night: all this inherent passion
over art is addicting.
My final thought on all of this First Thursday deliberation? If
anyplace is pregnant with possibilities, it's Portland because
people want it to happen.