You may or may not know that Portland Open Studios is run on volunteer grit. Our small budget goes primarily for advertising and creating our tour guide, while the significant project and event planning is done gratis by our board members and volunteer community leaders.
That’s why I’m so excited to announce an expansion of the community leaders program this year! Community leaders are artists that have gone through one or more years of Portland Open Studios. They agree to lead and guide their communities of artists (this year, there are eight communities). They’ve been key in advising new artists on what to expect and planning group advertising and social opportunities within their communities.
Previously, community leaders were selected and informed in April after jurying into the event, and served until October. This year, we selected eight experienced, proven artists and community leaders in January to work with their communities year round. This is a permanent position, so communities, and the leaders, will have continuity from year to year. Artists, you may have heard from your community leaders as early as January, when they helped to recruit new artists. And the general public – look out! You’ll be meeting more of our artists throughout the year, and learning more about what we do at Portland Open Studios all year.
I am delighted to introduce this all-star team to you:
The name Kimberly Gales is an important one in Portland Open Studios history. As one of the first board members of our 21-year-old organization, she helped establish the yearly open studios tour.
Her untimely death of a stroke in 2005 – at age 56 – rocked her friends and family – and the PDXOS Board. In her honor, every year since the board has awarded a scholarship to an emerging young adult artist.
But Kim was also, first and foremost, a Gales girl. And that is a rich artistic, energetic, and wonderful family dynasty that continues to impact our organization today.
Her daughters, Aimee and Katie, are quite obviously still guided by her words and attitude. They live by her advice that “It’s the quality, not the quantity” and “Live life to the fullest”. Their contagious energy and optimism are energizing.
Kimberly Gales was a watercolorist, just starting to push the bounds of the medium. HER mother – who is still alive – is Myla Keller, a well-known, prolific Portland painter. They even did open studios together once!
Aimee and Katie are not painters but are amazing art appreciators. That starts with their mother and grandmother’s work, which adorn the walls of both girl’s homes. Aimee and Katie were young adults when their mother died, and the PDXOS Board started and funded the scholarship to remember her at the behest of then-board member Bonnie Meltzer.
But it’s now also a Gales girl mission: this year, when they found out the scholarship was still running, the Gales girls took it over – raising enough money to fund two candidates, with plans to open a Facebook page to remember their mother and collect donations. They also plan to host an annual fundraising party (the first one is planned for February, stay tuned for more details).
“We’d like to make enough money to offer a bigger stipend,” says Katie. “We’d like to give emerging artists real support, because we know how hard it is.”
Today, as we kick off the 21st year of Portland Open Studios by opening our call to artists, I am privileged to find myself in the company of the open studios board. The board members are all volunteers, and put in thousands of hours of work, starting now, to make this event a success in October. These people are seriously dedicated!
Returning are Maude May (Vice President), Shelly Edwards (Treasurer), Jolinda Miller (Secretary), Janie Lowe (Education), Duck Holland (Community Liaison), and David Friedman (Webmaster). Please refer to our Instagram and Facebook pages to find out more about these people.
Joining us this year is Kirista Trask as our Marketing Director. This is a new board position, and Kirista is creating an exciting and comprehensive new marketing strategy for us! Expect to see more consistent messaging, tight branding and much more visibility this year. Learn more about Krisita in her own words here. Even board members who are stepping down this year aren’t really leaving the Open Studios world. Samyak Yamauchi, who served two years as volunteer liaison and recruitment coordinator, is continuing to help out with our social media posting on facebook. Pat Kane, who has served a record seven years on the board, most recently as the communications director, is continuing on as our newsletter editor. Kit Carlton, who spent one year as our events coordinator, is volunteering to teach art at an elementary school for a Latino Network-Open Studios collaboration.
The thing all these people have in common is a commitment to building a bridge between artist and patron. And we are looking forward to making 2019 our most successful, most fun year yet!
Starting in January, Portland Open Studios started a new partnership with the Latino Network, sending eight volunteer artists into public after-school programs to teach art to underserved students.
Jessica Lagunas, the arts and culture program coodinator for Latino Network’s “Studio Latino” program, is moved to count her blessings when speaking of this special program and the relationship between the students and Portland Open Studios artists. “It’s not just that these artists are giving their time,” she says, “it’s that they are doing this with an understanding of the kids who are being served. Many are immigrants, and some have experienced trauma. The artists have put so much work into this collaboration.”
The “Studio Latino” program works with SUN Community schools to support healthy child and youth development by exposing youth to new art forms while increasing positive skills and behaviors.
“We are so excited to be working with them,” says PDXOS President Leah Kohlenberg. “We believe at Portland Open Studios that art should be accessible and available to all. This program is a natural extension of what we already do.”
Portland Open Studios thanks the participating artists and the Studio Latino program for faciltating this important collaboration. Below are the artists and participating schools:
Joanie Krug and Janie Lowe (also our education board member), are at Scott Elementary; Linda Sawaya and Robert Fortney are at Cesar Chavez Elementary; Heather Fields and Kit Carlton are at Bridger Elementary; and David Friedman, Redd Clark and Lai Mei are at Rigler Elementary. Additionally, current open studio artist William Hernandez returns for his second year to Woodland Elementary.
Artists Kit Carlton and Heather Fields began their classes at Bridger School this week, and reported that their first day went “smashingly.” “The kiddos really responded to the collage activity Heather put together—so much so in our enthusiasm we forgot to take pictures,” said Carlton. “Many of the kiddos today had remarked that they had wanted to sign up for a cooking course but were really glad the class was full, otherwise they wouldn’t have known that the mixed media arts were so much fun. One Bridger student remarked, ‘I wish this class was every day. It’s my first new favorite class.’ This is what art is about—exploration, breaking down social/emotional barriers to reach the heart of our humanity to build community. Really rewarding.”
Jessica Lagunas has the hope that more people will see what they are doing and be inspired to get involved. For more about Studio Latino, check out their page Studio Latino “At Latino Network, we view arts and culture as essential elements of youth education. And we believe every child—regardless of race, ethnicity or class—deserves an arts-rich education.”
This year, we decided to increase our jury from three to four judges. They will be judging the artwork together and in person. We feel that we will have a better idea about what the jurors are looking for and what impresses them in this way. As usual, the jury is comprised of working artists, an art educator and a gallerist. Here they are:
Stephanie Chefas Projects is a labor of love from its owner, Stephanie Chefas, who has been independently curating art exhibits for nearly a decade in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other locations. Now calling Portland home, Chefas retains an eye for cutting-edge and often challenging work that demands attention. Highlighting a diverse blend of contemporary artists from around the world, the gallery features monthly exhibitions with an emphasis on cultivating new talent and encouraging risk and evolution among established visionaries. StephanieChefas website
Fine artist, illustrator and author Lisa Congdon is best known for her colorful drawings and hand lettering. She works for clients around the world including Commes des Garçons, Ernie Ball, Crate and Barrel, Facebook, MoMA, REI, Sonos, Harvard University, Chronicle Books, and Random House Publishing, among many others. She is the author of seven books, including the starving-artist-myth-smashing Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist. She was named one of 40 Women Over 40 to Watch in 2015 and she is featured in the 2017 book, 200 Women Who Will Change the Way you See the World. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Lisa Congdon website
Harlem native Adriene Cruz received her BFA from the School of Visual Art in New York, and has been creating art in Portland for over 30 years. Best known for her brilliantly colored and adorned art quilts, she has exhibited internationally and also designed, among other public works, the colorful Killingsworth Station on Interstate. Adriene Cruz website
Una Kim was born and raised in South Korea and immigrated to Los Angeles, California at the age of sixteen. She attended undergraduate school at the University of Southern California and graduate school at the Parsons School of Design, New York. She has shown her work nationally and internationally, with solo exhibitions in Gwangju and Daegu in South Korea, and Ningbo, China. She has completed two large murals in the Portland area, and participated in international women’s exhibitions numerous times, the latest being at the National Museum, Beijing, China and Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Una Kim FB
Until you experience it, it’s hard to describe Portland Open Studios in a way that does it justice. For my first time attending PDXOS, I was simply looking forward to meeting some artists and looking at some art – I had no idea it would be so personal, and that’s largely due to the openness that each artist takes in letting the public into their home studios.
Wayfinding using both the app and the paper map worked very well for me. I would just pick a studio as a starting point and let it flow from there. Sometimes I would meet other visitors and ask them where they had been or where they were going next. Sometimes I’d be driving through a neighborhood and a yellow sign would catch my eye and I’d take a diversion from my plan and just see where I ended up. You really can’t go wrong, however you decide to navigate and which studio you select.
I never realized before how much I enjoy learning about process. Many artists have time-lapse videos playing so that you can get a quick view, and some also did live demos, which were great. At the end of each day, my brain was full from learning and from getting that deeper understanding about what each artist puts into their work. Seeing their tools,
easels, wood cutters, paints; feeling a floor so layered with wax that you could literally scrape shavings from it; watching kids gathered around a potter’s wheel saying “I want to do that one day!” – these memories are deeply imbedded in me now, as well as a renewed sense of how important art is in our city, our country, our world. It’s like seeing dreams made tactile, and those dreams tap into our own emotions and inspiration.
Considering that a lot of artists I know are shy people, I was truly grateful to be allowed to come into their private space. Each person that I met was so welcoming! It almost felt like you’d made a new friend each time. There is a sense of community within the “communities”, and it was neat to see the connection and support among the artists.
When people say “that is SO Portland” I would apply this to Portland Open Studios with gusto – we are literally surrounded by artists in all quadrants of our city and outlying communities, and this is what makes the culture of this city so special and unique. The house down the street from you with the interesting shed out back may house a talent that you know nothing about – PDXOS gives you the opportunity to lift the curtain and see the creativity first hand. F
or both locals and out of town visitors, we are so lucky to have this curated treasure trove of makers among us and available to us! I am adding this to my yearly traditions and can’t wait to share it with others, to return to see some of the artists I met this year and to discover new ones.
On Tuesday morning, at 5:30 am, I watched as KOIN 6 news correspondent Kohr Harlan’s face lit up – literally and figuratively!
He was holding a welding tool, which was spitting out hot metal, flame and sparks, attempting to seal a piece of metal onto a wreath shape of metal pieces. Beside him was Travis Pond, one of our participating artists, walking him through the process. Harlan’s face mask was awash in blue and yellow light.
“Yup,” said Harlan, as he lifted his mask and grinned widely. “It doesn’t get better than this. I got to WELD something.”
Which reminds me why it is we do what we do at Portland Open Studios. We are not your typical art experience. Where else can a visitor immerse themselves in up to 99 different ways that artists make art, in their studios, with their tools, with work in all its various states around them? It is exhilarating. All of our artists will be demonstrating their process. Many will have something for you to try out, too.
I know people who like to romanticize the job of an artist. Let me tell you, if you are making art for a living, there are definite ups and downs, just like any other job. But the biggest up is the thrill of making something with your hands and using your right – or visual side – of the brain. Those of us who participate in Portland Open Studios know that this meditative, out-of-time feeling is what gets us through even the most difficult of days.
We also know that this feeling is not unique or special to us – anyone can get it by learning to hand-make something. Whether it’s fine art, working on a car engine, knitting, cake decorating or carpentry, taking things apart and putting them back together again is an experience that builds your brain and your soul. The artists who participate in open studios aren’t just hawking their wares. We want you to share that experience, that feeling, with you. Our connection to art is very human and very universal.
This year, Portland Open Studios celebrates 20 years, and our hope, our dream, is that you walk into open studios with curiosity, and walk out having your mind blown – that process was so cool, that painting so beautiful, that studio so amazing. We want you to walk away feeling like you must have more art in your life, and that art has something to give YOU, personally.
We want you to walk away feeling like it doesn’t get any better than this.
Leah and the Portland Open Studios Board (Maude, Shelly, Jolinda, David, Pat, Janie, Sam, Kit and Duck)
It may have been 5 am in Travis Pond’s backyard sculpture studio on Tuesday, but the place was already humming with people and activity. Travis is Artist #3 in Community 1.
Kohr Harlan, a correspondent for the KOIN TV (Channel 6) early morning news program, was wearing protective goggles and wielding a fire and hot metal spitting spout. He was welding, live on TV, with Travis!
“Yup,” said Harlan, pulling up his mask with a grin. “This is the best it gets. The story just writes itself. Man, that was fun!”
This is the second year running that Harlan has covered Portland Open Studios for Channel 6 news – always, by doing art with the artist live on TV. Last year, he visited Maude May, our board vice president, to learn about encaustic techniques. And while he walked in curious but a little skeptical – “I’m more of a sports guy” he proclaimed – he walked out hooked.
We aren’t surprised here at Portland Open Studios – we know this is why our event is so important. It gets participants up close and personal with the artmaking process, not just the art. And we know that learning to make something can change your life. Remember that this weekend, as you visit artist studios!
Portlanders are known for out-of-the box thinking, maverick action and putting crazy ideas into motion – in general, keeping it weird. Portland Open Studio artists are no exception to the rule – you will no doubt be amazed by the 99 artists who will show you their processes over the second and third weekends of October (Oct. 13-14 and 20-21). But even amongst this powerhouse creative group, some have risen above and beyond to create innovative, interesting, and – dare we say it – weird ways of making art.
So where can you find the top most unusual artistic processes during open studios?
Angela White-Wenger (Studio 74, North Portland Community 5), harvests orb weaver spider webs on porcelain forms in her backyard, and fires the designs into the final product. “I imagine them lasting for billions of years,” she says. “The webs are records of many things. In their design, scale, shape, captured contents (bugs, seeds, leaves, dust and debris), in their broken and repaired areas – they reflect and record the bodies, locations, surrounding conditions and daily activities of their creators.” Linda Ethier (Studio 30, Southeast, Community 3), creates delicate, intricately constructed glass sculptures with an ancient glass technique known as pate de verre, a process using finely ground particles of glass packed into molds and fired until they melt into forms. She then piles these delicate glass objects layer upon layer, firing each layer, and using molds to maintain the shape of each individual piece. “I use images of the natural world of things gathered and cherished since childhood: feathers, leaves, bones, egg shells, twigs and the odd mysterious trinket, saved as treasures to be revisited, to be seen and pondered during quiet moments.”
David Friedman (Studio 53, Northeast, Community 4), is a paper cutter who uses color optics to add depth and texture to his work. That involves cutting more than one layer, and putting colored pastel papers behind black pastel paper, creating a duplex paper to cut from, then mounting it up so its colorful shadows reflect on a white matteboard to which it is attached. “That makes color an integral part of each piece,” says Friedman, who developed the technique on his own. How unusual is it? In July, he did a demo for the Guild of American Paper Cutters, which met in Portland. “None of them had seen anything like it,” he said.
When we tried to hand sculptor/welders Rio Butler (Studio #92, Southwest Portland, Community 8) and Robert Travis Pond (Studio #3, Oregon City/West Linn, Community 1) an art store coupon, both turned it down. “I never use art supplies,” says Pond, shrugging. His beautifully gestural, crafted sculptures of animals and other objects are based on materials he pulls from scrap heaps. “I look for objects with significance and meaning,” he says. Butler, whose whimsical structures create an entirely new, mechanical world, agrees. “I scavenge things from every job I’ve ever done,” he says, “and then I let the pieces talk to me to tell me what to make.”
Photographer Jon Gottshall (Studio #69, North Portland, Community 5) and multimedia artist Kit Carlton (Studio #93, SW Portland, Community 8), both fuse old-school and new school artistic processes. Gottshall starts by printing a photograph onto clear, non-absorbent acetate, which allows the ink to remain fluid as it prints – and the longer he waits, the more it changes. He scans several changes, then overlays the scans into the original photograph, before printing a final copy. The result? Photographs that look like paintings. Carlton creates marks using pen, paint, and other art supplies on various surfaces, then photographs and layers those images using a computer – a process she terms “digilog – a combo of analog and digital art.”
And finally, Elise Wagner (Studio #73, North Portland, Community 5), combines encaustic painting (mixing wax with paint) with collograph printmaking. She now teaches this process nationally.