Portland, Oregon, is known for many things – its many bridges, the International Rose Test Garden, literary greats like Ursula K. Le Guin and Chuck Pahlaniuk, craft beer, indie music, comics publishers, craft beer…
It’s easy to become blissfully lost in “Beervana.” Before we do, we had better share our Portland arts roundup, which showcases nearby attractions and descriptions of amazing local artists.
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Comics Writer
Kelly Sue DeConnick writes comics and co-owns the production company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds. In 2012, she reinvented Ms. Marvel as Captain Marvel, who proved more popular than anyone expected. As a result, DeConnick was hired to consult for the 2019 film Captain Marvel. Then, she took up the “mythic and huge and sexy and ancient and visceral” tale of DC’s Aquaman. Her Image series Bitch Planet might sound like it’s about CreativeFuture’s home world, but it’s about a gentler place – a futuristic penal colony. You can buy DeConnick’s works online or at the Portland shops recommended on her website.
Scott Foster, Sculptor
In addition to sculptures, Scott Foster makes stage props and stop-motion puppets. His sculptures range from classical portraits, such as this bust, to modernist abstractions, such as these steel chains with pendants, to pop art, such as this hamburger. His puppets have appeared in films from LAIKA, a Portland studio that appeals to our twisted aesthetic. In Coraline, a girl considers whether to swap her eyes for buttons. In Boxtrolls, a boy helps the monsters who raised him. Foster’s sculpture The Watcher is currently on display for the Gallery Without Walls project in Lake Oswego, eight miles south of Portland.
Haley Johnsen, Singer and Guitarist
After competing in American Idol during 2012, Haley Johnsen recorded the albums London Sessions (2019) and Goner (2022). As she told Willamette Week, “I started this whole journey backwards.” Although Johnsen still sings covers, she has defined her artistic identity with original songs like “Lift Me Up” and, more recently, “Renegade,” where she sings, “I once played by the rules, / Watched my steps and my p’s and q’s.” We never really followed the rules, so we whole-heartedly support Johnsen’s journey toward no-fucks-given superstardom. She has performed at the amazing Portland venue Alberta Abbey, so catch her there if you can!
The Portland Art Museum’s collection began in 1892 with plaster casts of ancient sculptures but then expanded to include 1,800 Japanese prints, 3,400 Native American artworks, 10,000+ photographs, and other artistic treasures. Among the most notable is Kehinde Wiley’s bust of Likunt Daniel Ailin. The museum hosted Guillermo del Toro: Crafting Pinocchio, a traveling exhibit on the Academy Award®-winning film, from June-September 2023. It will host Black Artists of Oregon, an exhibit curated by Portland artist Intisar Abioto, from September 2023-March 2024. More exhibits will open soon, including one on avant-garde shoes. Start planning your visit today!
Portland Street Art Alliance, Nonprofit Organization
Founded in 2012, Portland Street Art Alliance (PSAA) has a mission “to advance street art culture by empowering artists to activate the spaces where we live, work, learn, and play.” In 2018, PSAA began transforming the Central Eastside Industrial District into a Mural District. It also facilitates commissions, such as Jeremy Nichols’ Nature’s Kaleidoscope, which graces the Pearl District. Depicting northwestern wildlife, Nichols’ mural was unveiled in August 2023 to mark 50 years since the Endangered Species Act. If you visit Portland soon, you can be one of the first to see this work by a Japanese-born, Portland-based artist.
Third Rail Repertory Theatre has delighted audiences since 2005-2006, the years that the theater considers “Season 0”. Now, in Season 18, the theater company still “brings to life exceptional stories that provoke dialogue, encourage empathy, and inspire curiosity,” as its mission states. In Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints, aging Dubliners converse at the pub, ranging across topics from the crass to the sublime. In Martyna Majoks Sanctuary City, two teenage friends cope with being undocumented immigrants after 9/11. In Middletown Mall – by local playwright Lava Alapai – misfortune befalls 20-year-olds at the mall, circa 1990. To see one of these plays, visit the CoHo Theater during 2023-2024.
Tin Shed Garden Cafe, Dog-Friendly Brunch Spot
This charming restaurant was created by Christie Griffin and Janette Kaden in 2002. Appropriately to its location in the Alberta Arts District, Tin Shed highlights an artist every month and serves innovative brunch dishes, often with rosemary-mushroom gravy. Describing the menu, a longtime local food blogger wrote, “Kinda weird. Also damn good.” Although Guy Fieri likes the “ooey-gooey (and vegetarian) heartless artichoke grilled cheese,” we think we’d prefer Everything Naughty. Loveably, the food menu ends with a section for dogs, a clientele that Tin Shed cultivates. You can admire the dogs of Tin Shed here!
Lidia Yuknavitch, Novelist
In addition to writing remarkable bestsellers, Lidia Yuknavitch has created a workshop called Corporeal Writing to share “her body-centered art-making philosophy.” In 2016, she won top prize for fiction at the Oregon Book Awards for The Small Backs of Children, a novel about artists searching for a girl from an award-winning war photo. In Yuknavitch’s most recent book, Thrust (2022), a woman travels through time to save her late 21st-century society. Yuknavitch’s memoir, The Chronology of Water (2010), is being adapted for film by Kristen Stewart. We hope to watch it at Portland’s historic Hollywood Theatre or Academy Theater.
That’s our roundup!
Until next time, find some creativity wherever you can. Stay safe, and be well. #StandCreative