Jessica Jackson Hutchins

Converge 45: Popping up with the times

Responding to a year of crisis, Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center hosts a show of Oregon contemporary posters for public spaces

One of the strengths of gallery programming at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg is that the deep, long-term planning that arts director Carissa Burkett packs into the calendar for as much as a year in advance is coupled with an ability to pivot when circumstances change, when new opportunities and challenges present themselves.

Like, for example, 2020 — the year, one might add, of the center’s 10th anniversary. 

The #Act for Art posters in their natural public-spaces habitat. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, Converge 45 said via Twitter, Portland has the fifth-largest concentration of artists in the nation, after Manhattan, San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. Photo: Converge 45.

The center has already had a couple of COVID-inspired pop-ups this year, and for a few more days, visitors will find the latest of these unscheduled surprises: #ACTforART is originated as a PDX-centric project organized by Converge 45: a series of commissioned posters for public spaces that share the artists’ vision during this new, weird normal. Yes, theaters are shut down and concert halls are closed, but windows and fences and walls provide space for art, so the group has been spreading the love in lieu of its traditional programs, which typically involve exhibitions and gatherings where the six-foot rule wouldn’t work. The work is also being shared on social media platforms.

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Disjecta’s third go at a biennial, Portland2014

Not all that new is not all that bad.

The Portland2014 biennial is in full swing. Headquartered at Disjecta, and dispersed throughout the city in other galleries and on the streets, this third iteration distances itself from previous ones with the intervention of a curator from outside the region. Amanda Hunt is based in Los Angeles and selected 15 artists from 300-plus applicants.

The artists who emerged are not entirely a PDX who’s-who (nor are all from Portland proper) but they come close: Most of the names are very familiar in the visual art community. Although some may level the criticism of “same-ol’ same-ol’” or even suggest a degree of cliquish nepotism, outside eyes made the selection this year. In fact Hunt’s selections may force critics of the biennial to consider the possibility that these artists might fit into another, larger context, one neither regional nor the product of a personality cult. Instead, we are afforded a look at how these artists have chosen to represent the progression of their art making for this special occasion.

This does not mean I didn’t hope for a few surprises.

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