In Brief: Visual Chronicle wants you

Portland's collection of visual history is looking to expand; grants for emerging artists; Chinatown Museum reschedules exhibitions

Time’s running short for Portland artists to throw their hats in the ring to add their work this year to The Visual Chronicle of Portland: Deadline for submission is 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 27. A second, broader opportunity open to artists in Oregon and Southwest Washington, Support Beam, offers a little more breathing room: Its application deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 3. Information on both is available here from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Willow Zheng, “Classical Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon III,” Chinese watercolor and ink, 2002; collection of the Visual Chronicle of Portland.

Support Beam, with an overall budget of $70,000, is intended to support works of art created by emerging artists over a period of three to six months. Individual grants will be between $3,000 and $5,000. The Visual Chronicle funding is for direct purchase of pieces to add to the City of Portland’s collection of works on paper that chronicle the life and identity of the city. Total budget for this year’s additions is $15,000, and no individual piece can be priced higher than $1,000. Eligible artists may apply for either or both awards.

The Visual Chronicle of Portland is an ever-growing art collection of works on paper that collectively provide a documentation in art of the city’s character. Its seeds were planted in 1984 when Portland artist Henk Pander, who was born, raised, and trained in the Netherlands, brought the idea to the old Metropolitan Arts Commission, the precursor to RACC, based on a similar public collection in Amsterdam. Pander realized that his adopted city was changing rapidly, and believed that artists should be recording those changes.

“When I moved here from Amsterdam in 1965,” he wrote in the introduction to the book The Visual Chronicle of Portland, Volume One: Acquisitions 1985-1989, “I found a city in considerable upheaval. A giant trench had been dug through the heart of town to build the I-405 freeway. It was a vast mud ditch that reached into the distant north, and monstrous yellow earth-moving machines, larger than any I had ever seen, were shoving around huge piles of dirt. At the edges of this crevasse were small, wooden Victorian houses, remnants of a once-lively working-class neighborhood. When I tried to rent one of the houses, I was told that it, too, was to be torn down. …

“Many people on the streets were dressed as if they had just walked out of a seventeenth-century painting – men with long wavy curls flowing down the backs of their velvet vests, and women nude under sequined, see-through twenties dresses, with wreathes of flowers in their hair like Rembrandt’s Flora. During that era, there were mass demonstrations against the war in Vietnam.”

Pander concluded: “A chronicle is a timepiece: something we measure ourselves against, to tell us where we have been, and maybe where we are going. In this way, the Visual Chronicle is optimistic, hopeful of the future. We anticipate that others, looking back along the sequence of drawings and paintings, prints and photographs, will have a sense of who we once were.”

Since then the collection has grown and grown, expanding as the city and its arts scene have expanded. No more books have been published since Volume One, but the collection is available to view online here.

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Early 20th century depiction of Portland’s Chinatown by artist Bue Kee. Watercolor, circa 1930. An exhibition of work by the Portland Chinatown artist, born in 1893, has been postponed until 2021 and may be mounted virtually this fall. Image courtesy of Dan Kee Family

THE PORTLAND CHINATOWN MUSEUM – shut down, like almost all American museums, for the duration – has rescheduled several impending exhibitions and is in the process of putting some of them online.

Among the shows in the process of rescheduling: works by Portland muralist Alex Chiu; Seattle Chinatown photographer and journalist Dean Wong’s West Coast Chinatowns at Risk; a retrospective on the work of early Portland Chinatown artist Bue Kee; an “enhanced staged reading” of Lauren Yee’s play The Great Leap.

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