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Monday 06.05.06

« Fund Your Projects | Main | Affair In the Air »

Seeing the Oregonian for what it is

Look we give them a tough time occasionally but the Oregonian does provide a startling amount of visual arts coverage like today's review of TJ Norris' Grey|Area show. Yes, it is more descriptive than an intellectual mediation on the specific details of sublimely liminal, less than colorful work, but it does get the main points about the curator and the one artist's work which just doesn't quite cut it. Most newspapers for a city of 2.1 million metro don't come close to this and if you want depth... there is a reason PORT exists. There is a place for generalist publications and a place for insider concerns.

Also, DK published his second best bit of writing to date with his expose on the Portland Art Center last week (his best was the retirement piece on PAM's beloved Donald Jenkins). He's tough on PAC but patient, pointing out their inconsistencies while slyly making important points about the inconsistencies of other art organizations as well. I do have concerns about whether programming by committee is a good idea though?

Portland has to be tough on its arts organizations because nearly all are still either nascent or only just recently finding their strides. The city is under served but that is exciting (for the time bieng).

The O even has Brian Libby of Portland Architecture freelancing.

So why all the visual arts coverage? Because Portland's changes in identity and sophistication are some of the most rapid I've seen in any US city and the visual arts are the single best gauge of that shift.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 05, 2006 at 0:00 | Comments (3)


As one of the board members of Portland Art Center I thank dk for his insightful article.

I'm not sure I agree that "Portland needs to be tough on its arts organizations" as you say. I guess for once I would like to see Portland be supportive or it's arts organizations, see the need for their success and find real ways to help them meet their goals. I don't think most people understand that without financial support (even just by joining as a member) it is a challenge every day to even keep the place up and running.

The reason I got involved in Portland Art Center was that I saw the fire being built at the Modern Zoo and was afraid that without some real involvement by members of the business community and government of this city, the fire would die out and we would be sent back into our typical Oregon mediocrity.

It's ok to be hard on our programming, which I believe has seen some amazing installations such as Memory by John Mace, and Liminals' Resurrectory, but there must be ways to really find out what Gavin is trying to do and be supportive in making it happen.

It can only be good for all of us!

Posted by: dm [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2006 11:45 AM

Thanks dm, you are always welcome here.

I agree with you to a point, yes there should be greater support but I also firmly believe that support must be earned. The need alone doesnt justify support. Also, since so many arts organizations are vying for a small pool of dollars I feel it it makes it doubly important that the organizations clearly demonstrate (not just promote) how they are adding to the cultural community.

Just presenting space isn't enough and in the visual arts quality always trumps attendance and beer sales. Consistent quality is key to getting support from major donors too. Making the distinction between an important cultural institution and a night club masquerading as a cultural institution is an important question that needs to be asked in Portland these days. We already have good clubs in Portland and some like Holocene even have art but we need a good institution for emerging talent to present itself. The trick is to know the difference between OK programming and programming that frequently really works (like John Mace).

I'm not being negative here just critical... I do think PAC has done an admirable job of actually providing visual art programming instead of just promoting themselves as a visual arts organization that only sporadically programs. PAC has been a nearly continuous presence and that is important, especially if you are fundraising.

Still consistent quality and followthrough are incredibly important. Yes John Mace's opening show had everyone excited about PAC... but the momentum waned with successive shows.

I believe Barry Johnson's show is a step in the right direction though. Still it isn't as interesting as Mace's show over a year ago... though far from perfect it was daring and that's why it looms so large in the organizations history.

Of course money is attracted to talent and the best talent takes risks. For example, TJ Norris's show at guestroom was a slam dunk for that gallery... all it takes is one really good show and suddenly they have momentum.

Then there is the buzz, you don't want people making comments like this on the Mercury blog (scroll down). Then again you can't please everyone and its quite a trick to make the dissenters part of what strengthens the supporters. I sense PAC has a stronger sense of its strengths and limitations now and that is key.

Keep up the good work, I suspect most everyone is watching PAC very closely.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2006 08:04 PM

I can't disagree with anything you are saying. We are excited to be in a (semi) finished space where we can actually get on with some of our ideas and programming. We are glad we don't have to raise the big money to build out the other space. We appreciate you paying attention and hope we can prove ourselves to the community and show that we do have value and are filling the needs of the community.

Posted by: dm [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2006 10:08 AM

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