Putting together arts listings for April 2020 was… challenging. First, it was a challenge to sit down and focus as the awful, endless headlines kept breaking. Then it was a challenge to figure out what to list as events were cancelled and galleries shuttered in observance of social distancing guidelines. How can you see art when you can’t leave the house? When the galleries and museums are closed? Do people who are juggling remote work with childcare, or applying for unemployment, or risking their health as essential workers have the energy or desire to engage with art?
Personally, I think we all still need art in our lives, maybe even more than usual. It’s okay if what you need right now is to binge on goofy television shows or stay in the bath until the water gets cold, then fill ‘er up again. But when you’ve had enough of that, Portland’s artists, galleries, and museums are ready for you. Our local arts community has shown incredible motivation and creativity in finding ways to make art happen despite the scary, surreal situation we are all in. Take a minute to check out what they’re up to — it might give you a little extra inspiration to face the challenges of the days ahead.
Disjecta’s exhibition of work by the thirteen Hallie Ford Fellows, titled What Needs to be Said, has been up since February, and was scheduled to run until April 5. If you were like me and put off visiting the gallery figuring there’d be plenty of time to see the show in March, you’ll be relieved to know that a fantastic video walkthrough of the exhibition is now online, and is accompanied by extensive information and documentation of each artist in the show. The video is just under ten minutes long, and includes close up shots revealing the details and textures of the show’s many paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Disjecta has put in a lot of effort to translate What Needs to be Said for digital viewing, and the results are surprisingly engaging and even beautiful.
Danielle Roney’s Frequencies of Opacity was only two weeks into its two month run when the outbreak of Covid-19 closed Upfor Gallery. Upfor will be closing permanently in June, so it was especially bittersweet to think viewers might not be able to visit during their last few months. Luckily, the gallery has been quick to adapt to the online exhibition format. Extensive installation photos and video are available on their website and Artsy storefront, and some of their publications are now available as free PDF downloads. Twice-weekly artist talks and studio tours will be released on their Instagram @upforgallery. They are also reducing their commission, giving 75% of art sales to the artists. This kind of commitment to artists and audiences is part of what has made Upfor one of Portland’s standout galleries since they opened in 2013. They will be sorely missed.
Portland Art Museum (on Youtube)
You can’t visit the Portland Art Museum in person right now, but you can get a private tour of its exhibits from expert curators. PAM’s Youtube channel has an impressive back catalog of artist talks and curator conversations, and now the museum is adding virtual exhibition walk throughs, complete with voice overs by the curators behind the shows. The first video, featuring the Volcano! exhibit, is only five minutes long, but the tight editing and sharp narration pack a lot of art and information into a bite-sized package. The museum plans to keep adding content while its doors remain closed to the public, and will post on Instagram using the #museumfromhome tag. This hashtag is also being used by many other arts institutions across the country, so check it out and you might discover some great small and regional museums to visit and support in the future!
Paragon Arts Gallery
Portland Community College’s Paragon Arts Gallery has been offering consistently exciting programming over the past few years in their space on N. Killingsworth Street, across from the Cascade Campus. They share space with PCC’s print arts lab, where students work with a range of equipment from old-school printing presses to high-tech 3D printers. Their approach to operating during these difficult times is appropriately enriching — they are offering creative prompts twice weekly, via email and social media (sign up for their mailing list on the website linked above). The most recent prompt, dubbed “Object Stories,” asked participants to engage with someone in their community (remotely, of course) to share the significance of particular objects in their lives. Paragon Arts will post responses to its prompts to its social media accounts. Look for the hashtags #pccparagonarts and #paragonartsvirtually on Instagram or check out the gallery’s account @pccparagonarts to see the result, and to participate in the project.
Church of Film TV
Most people around the world are probably fulfilling their entertainment needs with streaming content from the big online platforms but Netflix and Hulu aren’t your only options. For something really different, try an obscure film from The Church of Film’s eccentric library. The organization, which normally offers screenings once or twice a week at local venues like Clinton Street Theater, is now uploading selections such as 1964’s Soviet fantasy The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors and the 1987 Chinese feminist film Woman Demon Human to its Vimeo account. Ditch the mindless reality shows and tune in to these cinematic works of art that definitely can’t be found on your average streaming service.
Our world seems to be changing so quickly lately that events from a week ago feel like ancient history. It’s tough to even imagine what next week might feel like. In the midst of such chaos, it might seem impossible to keep up with what’s happening in the local arts community from day to day. Luckily, there are people out there who are dedicated to keeping the public informed. Oregon Artswatch brings you up-to-the-minute art news and monthly listings, and now you can add a new feature to your arts lineup. Portland journalist Suzette Smith has been the arts editor at the Portland Mercury for two years, but she and most of the free weekly newspaper’s staff were recently furloughed due to lost advertising revenue. Now, Smith is offering a weekly digital arts newsletter called Art Snack, which gathers events, services, clubs, and more — all appropriately socially distant, of course. The first installment featured free online comics and a virtual War and Peace book club. Smith is accepting submissions for listings as well, so if you have an event coming up tell her about it. Tell us about it too!
Supporting the Arts During the Pandemic
All of the organizations and associated arts workers listed above are hurting as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Galleries are losing out on potential sales while their doors are closed and museums that cannot welcome visitors make no money in admission fees. Even scrappy organizations that run on donations and volunteer contributions are at risk, as their supporters are laid off and their events are cancelled. It is very possible that some arts entities may not survive the extended economic shutdown. If you are in a position to donate even a small amount to the arts organization of your choice right now, please do so.
If you want to give money to support individual artists, consider the Portland Area Artist Emergency Relief Fund. The initiative, started by Portland’s Creative Laureate, Subashini Ganesan, and Oregon’s Poet Laureate, Kim Stafford, aims to provide financial assistance to artists facing lost income due to the virus.
And remember, even if you aren’t in a position to donate, you can still support the arts. Art cannot exist without an audience, so give a bit of your time and attention to your community of creative people. We all truly appreciate it!