Though Portland's media reportage for culture can be insulated and frequently decades out of touch, the Portland art scene itself gets around quite nicely as ever more important art hubs always tend to behave.
Perhaps, let's discuss the way we frame the discussion... instead of wondering "whether"... simply pay attention to what is already going on. Here's a prime example... Paul Middendorf's Gallery Homeland has already done projects in Istanbul, Berlin
and Houston. Yet a lack of support (& credit, aka attaboys) perhaps drove him to move to Houston where he's working on another branch of the organization while keeping the Portland office open too.
Now Paul is back for the week and leading a discussion at Froelick Gallery tonight called From Portland to Houston, Madrid, Berlin and Back
. Here's the PR:
"Please join us for an impromptu discussion about the current FROELICK exhibitions and comparisons of contemporary art scenes in Portland, Texas & Europe.
Take part in an ongoing dialogue between artists Terrell James, Laura Ross-Paul & Victor Maldonado
with Paul Middendorf, co director of Gallery Homeland & curator of Southern Pacific. Please RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org"
To foreground a difference I find very important, Houston has a very coherent plan which sets the expectation that every project, especially one which receives significant public and private dollars promotes Houston as an "Arts Hub." In Portland the expectations are lower, especially from public money, which generally doesn't make a point of using simple but loaded words like "Excellence." Instead, the word "Community" is used as a catch all... we should be asking for more details like, "what kind of community?" Is it one that supports excellence or the internationally newsworthy edgyness of Portland's Alternative Spaces
? It's a question of Portland understanding its own relevance on the international stage not just its local fetish for process process process. I contend we need to look at the outcomes as well as the process.
I'll have detailed thoughts and options in my followup to my Op Ed earlier this year in the Tribune
sometime in the near future. Till then let's just say Portland's public policy has been one of benign neglect and it will be a key point of contention for Mayoral candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales as well as the City Commissioner race between Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan.
Here are some key questions to table. Are private funders insisting on excellence in Portland and how do they learn what is excellent? Are there mechanisms like major awards and media coverage that highlight and reward those who are doing internationally worthy work as artists and curators? Overall the quality of work and thinking is here in Portland but it isn't always heralded, yet it gets outside validation from frankly sharper and more discerning eyes and minds elsewhere beacuse they understand the value of what is happening in Portland better than many of our institutions/gatekeepers do.
Yes, Portland does many things very well but the city is on the cusp of a new phase. It could mean greater prosperity or continued somewhat chaotic neglect that gains success by being validated elsewhere, though it is created/developed here. Come ready to discuss.
Froelick Gallery | 714 NW Davis Street
Discussion: Wednesday, May 23rd | 5:30 - 7:30pm