A major and unique slice of Portland’s art culture is about to disappear: Quintana Galleries, which for 42 years has dealt in fine Native American and First Nations art, will shut its doors for good on August 15. Founded by Rose and Cecil Quintana in a 500-square-foot Old Town space, the gallery grew to be a major player nationally, counting museums and significant collectors among its clients and helping nurture the careers of many leading native artists.
The gallery’s artists have covered North America, from Mexico to the Arctic: many Kwakwaka’wakw artists, including carver Calvin Hunt and the prolific Henderson clan; the late, great Haida carver and sculptor Bill Reid; Tsimshian artists David and David Robert Boxley; Oregon’s Yakama/Warm Springs legend Lillian Pitt; Chinook carver Greg Robinson; and many others, from Tlingit to Blackfoot to Cree to Skokomish and more.
Several years ago the gallery relocated to a bigger space on Northwest Ninth Avenue, technically a part of the Pearl District but with a more settled feel than much of the go-go, pop-up neighborhood. Just up from the North Park Blocks on a block sandwiched by the old-time Fullers Cafe on one end and the Pearl Bakery on the other, it’s a quiet stretch that feels like the best of old Portland and new Portland combined. For many people, Quintana has been, quite literally, its heart.
Cecily Quintana, Rose and Cecil’s daughter, who has been heading the gallery for years, explained the family’s decision in a press statement: “The decision to close the gallery came only after months of careful thought and many family discussions. The reason the Quintana Family chose to close the gallery is simple: after 42 years of running a small business, the Quintanas are looking forward to retiring and enjoying the fruits of their labor. They have chosen to close the gallery rather than sell it, as they were unable to find a buyer who shared the same values and commitment to Native American art that the gallery was founded on.”
The family’s inability to find a successor constitutes a major loss for the city, the region, and the nation, which has few galleries concentrating on the works of native artists, and fewer whose embrace is so wide. Several first-rate contemporary Native American artists are represented in Portland by Froelick, Augen, and other galleries (Quintana’s artists tend to work in more traditional styles, though not exclusively), but the impending closure leaves a giant hole. We wish good luck to the Quintanas, and can’t help hoping that someone steps in to build on what they’ve established.