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Sunday 01.20.08

« Working History at Cooley | Main | Sarah Johnson at Chambers »

What the Portland Art Center Closing Means to Me

Portland Art Center

Director Gavin Shettler in 2005 at the Portland Art Center's then new home in Chinatown

For the two readers that have not heard, Gavin Shettler sent out an email yesterday announcing that the Portland Art Center is closing. D.K. Row wrote an article about it here.

As an artist who showed at the Portland Art Center as they were transitioning from their old space on Belmont to their new space in the Pearl, I was happy that an institution like PAC existed in Portland. I appreciate all of the hard work that Gavin and Kelly Rauer put into keeping the front doors open. It created an opportunity to allow the art community to come and experience shows that were not possible in private galleries or at the museum. I am grateful for the hard work that the staff, volunteers and the board members put into PAC because its existence served a vital need within the art community.

I am not going to dissect why PAC ended the way it did. PORT has already foregrounded those issues in detail for years leading up to this event. I am sad that PAC is closing its doors, but I do feel a sense of relief that all of the speculation and fighting has come to an end. I felt the fighting was not just at PAC, but in the community as whole. With all of the fighting over, there might be a chance to move forward. I would like to address where the art community might go from here.

We are smart, dedicated and young (okay, maybe some of us are not so young), but where do we go now? PAC attempted to serve a vital role in our community by providing a venue for programming that did not fit in a gallery or in the museum. As a community, we still have those needs, perhaps now more than ever.

I believe there is room for everyone in the Portland art community, just as there is room for everyone on the Internet. One easy way to make sure that everyone has room is to create space, in every sense of the word, one way or another. I hope that even though we lost PAC, maybe five or ten different organizations will form to fill its space. Maybe we could have big ones and small ones, perhaps some that show local artists, and others that show international artists. We need to have a nonprofit community that reflects the vibrancy and diversity of our art community.

Like everything else in life, if we do not create these organizations and opportunities for exhibitions, nobody is going to do it for us. I was impressed by the way some people defended PAC on various websites. They seem to be tough as nails, but I was surprised that their loyalties seemed to be only with PAC, rather than with the community as a whole. PAC was only one part of the community; it was not all of what we are. We will still be artists in Portland even after PAC closes. Let's find a way to do something about it together.

For me, one of the things I have always found amazing about Portland is that if we do not like the way things are going, then we do it ourselves. I think that is the source of our collective strength, and it is our brilliance. We make our own opportunities. Nobody is ever excluded except for those people who exclude themselves.

Let's pool our skills and resources so that we can all find a way to move forward, as we are all in this together. If you want to have a stake in the future of Portland's art community, then get involved. A good start might be to post a comment to this post.

Posted by Arcy Douglass on January 20, 2008 at 14:31 | Comments (4)


Well said, Arcy. I must say, it's unbelievably refreshing to read such a positive and uplifting post on this blog. One thing I've noticed about Portland is the difference between the visual art community and the music scene. I never hear musicians talking about how a music venue should just close down because it repeatedly books disappointing bands. It doesn't make sense that we as artists should want fewer places and opportunities to show our work. And this won't mean that we have to praise every group show or community effort and call it amazing when it's not, but there's no sense in ridiculing what makes the Portland art scene so incredible. There's enough room in this city for all kinds.

Posted by: ace [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 08:24 AM

There has never been an art community that wasn't built on the ashes of failed enterprises - which means, of course, that they were not failures at all. There have been many gallery closures in this community in recent years, and yet we continue to thrive. Something good will come out of this, some new effort will succeed for a longer run because of lessons learned, and many of us will continue to be inspired by the things we saw and heard at PAC. That said, learn how to read a balance sheet people.

Posted by: Amsterdammer [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 10:07 AM

Indeed Amdam... it's tough to read an overall case for doom when Portland boasts more alt-spaces than ever before. Every few weeks it seems like a new project space opens. I just found out about two new ones today... look for them in PORT's 1st Thursday and Friday guides. Things typically go in 5 year cycles too. There's a whole new crowd in town than there was in 2003.

Ace... please note that the visual arts are very different than music (which is more fan driven and possibly more populist)... the venue is just a venue in music, it's the bands that matter (note bands are often highly competitive).

Also, please note that critiscism is very different from ridicule or merely an opinion. It is a very important exercise that creates or tables a rationale for further discussion (in doing so it helps institutions calibrate their programming, either by addressing, ignoring or nullifying said criticism). Criticism is never the first or last word, it is a kind of temperature gauge. Whether it is way off or spot on it doesnt really matter, it usually just sits in proxy as a type of judgement regarding a show. By providing, context, history and a rationale it is a kind of benchmark. That is valuable information, and a bit like reading the tea leaves, only it is grounded in comparative analysis and experience. PORT is dedicated to criticism but there is no reason to beat a dead horse here. It's a sad turn of events.

I hope that Gavin personally emerges from this turmoil in the financially stablized way he deserves. He's a new father and someone who really worked hard.

So yes, Portland will sort it out, too many people are working too hard and it's important that people not be impatient and or expect too much from any single entity... This is a city of 17,000+ artists, there is an inherent multiplicity to that.

Personally, Id like to see a serious installation art collective set up shop and a univerity art museum. Maybe Sam Adams really take initiative and grow RACC to a point where they can administer a large community space that TBA, PNCA, PSU etc can use for event shows. The colleseum has spaces? What about other city owned property?

Expecting one person or institution to do it all isn't possible in a scene this large.

There is room for everyone but money isn't the prime issue, artists always outstrip financial support and money follows focused talent. Simply pick a focus and make it happen.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 02:21 PM

As a past board member of PAC from the days of the modern zoo, I salute Gavin and Kelly for an amazing run.

Thank you for all you did for Portland and the arts community. You gave it your best shot.

It is apparent that Portland is not quite ready to support it's own contemporary art center. During my time on the board our biggest challenge was engaging the larger community, including those with the dollars who could have made a difference.

The DYI community is always willing to participate and have a beer, but money does not flow from that vein. The difference between the music scene and the art world is that people are willing to pay to hear music, it has a built in money stream.

Portland still has a vibrant art scene and maybe someone with a different formula could make a run at it.

Without discussing the workings of PAC, I think we all have to appreciate what Gavin, Kelly and all of those were part of PAC created, presented and held together for the last 5 years.

In the meantime I hope Gavin takes a break, enjoys his family and finds a job that doesn't require 90 hours a week. ....and.... here is a hug for Kelly.

David W. Mosher

Posted by: dm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2008 08:31 PM

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