By Liz Smith
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.