Portland art scene in National Geographic Traveler
Ok, the good news is its not yet another NY/LA times travel story on Portland
but the November/December
issue of National Geographic Traveler
does a similar tour. Not really a big deal and none of
this is new to anyone who lives here, but it was nice that they discussed the
Pearl District, PNCA and the Everett Station Lofts. Congrats to ON gallery and
Seubert who got to do the photos
. Art is turning into a major industry in
this city. Most interesting it discusses Portland as a "model city"
... something we need to take much more seriously here. Always interesting to see how the world views Portland and compare it to how Portlanders see themselves.
Posted by Jeff Jahn
on October 23, 2009 at 11:11
| Comments (5)
My apologizes in advance for the seemingly Marxist mumbo jumbo I am about to write, but I felt I should comment on the above. Not that what Jeff wrote, with all due respect, is an unusual point of view, or that I haven't seen it written or spoken in any number of ways, long and short, over the years. It's fairly par for the course. I'm not sure why I'm moved to write now, but here goes...
In regard to the comment that "art is turning into a major industry in this city," wouldn't that require at least a modicum of the re-distribution of capital in the arts? I think more accurately said, art has turned into a gateway for industry in Portland, not the industry in question. Design, advertising, architecture, marketing, these are the "arts" that thrive in Portland. And even so, only for a few. When it comes to art that is none of the above mentioned, Portland is well below the curve in relation to other cities of its size. It was, is, and mostlikely will remain so into the distant future. I am very lucky (VERY LUCKY) to make my living as an artist. But I make almost none of it in Portland. I have to go out of town to do that.
What we are seeing now are Vera Katz's plans for "creatives," (ie; creative people who quantify their creativity through the production of goods and capital for others) moving to town. This migration has been going on for years, of course. There is barely an industry, if you will, for artists of a more "arty" variety, people who, for lack of a better description, make paintings, photographs, sound art, sculptures, etc, etc... Would Qualifiable Goods be a somewhat reasonable description? Lord knows, but what we do know is that those artists don't make bank, or even rent, in Portland
The aftermath of Vera Katz reading that stupid Richard Florida book, and all that Sam Adams picked up through association, has turned this town into Jello. In the past none of us made any money, but at least we didn't pat ourselves on the back at ever chance we got after ponying up to the ATM that is Nike, et al, and call it a creative avenue for artistic practice. It's not necessarily the wrong thing to do, but plain and simple it's the easy way out.
Posted by: Sam Gould at October 23, 2009 05:43 PM
Sam, thanks for all the words to my off hand remark.
When I wrote it I was thinking of tourism and art education along with the whole design industry.
In particular I think the rise of all of Portland's art schools (PNCA, OCAC and PSU most visibly so far) has lead to a lot of interesting artists being paid a living wage as professors and some of them like Modou have reinvested some of that back into the cmmunity again.
Should the city really get behind all of these alt spaces and challenging artists in a meaningful way fundingwise, absolutely. In fact I have a much broader breakdown and critique that Ill get published tomorrow. It's a detailed critique not a pat on the back.
Portland needs to live up to the "model city" moniker and the CAN initiative is just part of it. What about a hotel or coffee tax to make certain we support the culture we celebrate? Honestly, a couple cents for every cup would make a big difference.
Posted by: Double J at October 23, 2009 07:09 PM
I think a tax like that would be a great idea, but since most Oregonians won't even chip in for a sales tax to help schools and roads I find it hard to imagine that a tax for art would work. Though I would without a doubt pay an extra couple of cents for coffee if it went to arts funding. Come to think of it, with all the coffee we drink here we could fund the arts, schools, and fix the highway system.
In regard to the art schools here, I have to tell you, it's not good. There are a few people who get a decent living, but all in all, the wages a very low. I remember speaking to a long time PNCA prof. not long ago. She point blank asked how much I got paid per class at CCA and she was shocked at how much more it was; double. I realize that cost of living in SF is much higher, but still. I think we need to be more transparent in regard to the lip service we put into how great an "art city" this is, and what ways we could actually change it for the better.
Posted by: Sam Gould at October 23, 2009 07:53 PM
I should say though, I most often refrain from talking about this publicly. I've been involved in so many discussions (organized and (dis)organized) regarding this topic, and I just don't have the energy any more. So, that said, my apologizes if it seemed like I was calling you out Jeff. That wasn't my intention. Signing off. Over and out.
Posted by: Sam Gould at October 23, 2009 08:07 PM
Honestly I dont think you are calling me out at all... I agree we can do better. All of these are things that I had in mind when I brought up the way Portland is described as a "model ceity"... yet we have a lot of work to do in supporting the arts that we are touted for.
True not all profs are paid all that well... some are. its a case by case thing but in general yes they too are underpaid. Still if you look at the # of students in these program's its clear being a prof is supporting a lot of artists in town.
Honestly the CAN intitiative will be a paradigm shift, but only if it gets into the hands of working artists and not just fill in educational gaps (which is needed but a somewhat seperate issue).
My attitude about Portland has always that it is a good rebel base... now its a good rebel base with a lot of art schools that have seized on the city's popularity with the young.
Honestly though Im not that cynical about it... I rather like the fact that the artists are more cutting edge than the insititutions. It will take Portland years to catch up with the work a whole lot of us have done here while developing reputations that go far beyond Portland but that's their job.... Im just as interested in seeing the city get its act together on the patronage front as you are... and I suspect it just might. It will take leadership on a political level and Im curious if the CAN levee for 20 million dollars per year will work. I also wonder if the money will help some of the smart fresh artists who could use a little support.
Sometimes all it takes is a little support at a persistent level and evenually it becomes a civic habit, which can be escalated. All that said Im suspicious of politicians trying to help artists.... almost as suspicious as I am of artists who want to help politicians!
Posted by: Double J at October 23, 2009 11:24 PM
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