Alberta Arts

Picture this: brand new, tall and sleek luxury condos, anchored by high-end restaurants and boutiques on the ground floor. Parked along the street are new BMWs, shiny SUVs, and, of course, a handful of hybrids (it is Portland, mind you). The people walking by, almost all white and between the ages of 25-45, go in an out of the art galleries that also line the street. It is the first Thursday of the month, and the newly developed neighborhood, dubbed The Pearl, is hosting its monthly art walk. Participants sip their wine (provided by the gallery owners), while going from one gallery to the other. They mingle amongst each other while exuding a pretentious, bourgeois air. On occasion, they'll look at a painting on the wall and comment on its abstract qualities.

Now picture this: the anit-Pearl, with bikes outnumbering cars and locally brewed beers the beverage of choice. Most of the art to be viewed sits outside on the sidewalk, where vendors have set up displays showcasing their creativity. Instead of thousand dollar paintings, you'll find hand made dolls and graffiti inspired art work. There are sculptures made out of wire hangers and spare pieces of junk. There is music for sale, homemade snacks, and even clothes. It is a stark contrast to the homogeneous Pearl District art walk, where all the art is neatly packaged indoors. To further distance itself from the First Thursday of the Pearl, Alberta Street hosts its art walk on the last Thursday of every month. Instead of sleek, high rise condos and freshly steam-cleaned sidewalks, Alberta street, in the heart of Northeast Portland, is filled with mid-century, low rise bungalows. Stooped on the porches, people barbecue, bands play music for the passersby, and diverse crowds gather to drink and laugh. Peppered in between the bungalows are a collection of bars and art studios. On the street, costumed revelers block traffic as they parade down the 15-block stretch that is the Alberta Art Walk. Bikers flaunt their custom designed fixer bikes (some as tall as seven feet, some made of recycled parts). The local community is a diverse crowd of African American families, young artists, and well-to-do families that moved there for its eclectic feel. There is even a clown house on Alberta Street (no joke...it's a commune of dozens of clowns who host parties and play music from their front yard).

Having never been to the Alberta Art walk, I decided to check it out the last Thursday of July. With other newcomers, Maggie and Stacey, as well as Gretchen, who was no stranger to the art walk, we made our way through the throngs of clowns (oh, by the way, these aren't your typical circus clowns...they are more a mix of Cirque du Soleil, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Hells Angels mimes), art connoisseurs, bar hoppers, musicians, street kids, and, naturally, artists. It had a distinct Haight-Ashbury vibe to it, with alternative lifestyles being the overriding theme and clouds of incense and ganja smoke filling the air. Alternating between art displays and watering holes, we found stimulus in other peoples' creativity, as well as occasional shots of Tequila.

While it seems like one big party, and in some ways it is, art still remains the draw and main focus of the Alberta Art Walk. Whether on canvass, in style of dress, or the mode of transportation you choose to get up and down the street, Last Thursday is all about promoting creative expression.

We did our best to support the arts. Gretchen bought a stuffed terradactyl, quickly named Petrie, and Maggie bought a couple paintings (one for her, one for her soon to be married brother) of decrepit, futuristic looking tree houses. The art work was varied enough that we didn't get the typical art burn out you normally do when viewing at galleries or museums. In addition, the diverse crowd of performance artists, art viewers, and general neighborhood folk, provided enough intrigue that you couldn't help but to keep walking up and down the street.

For the "keep Portland weird" enthusiasts, the Alberta Art Walk is front and center in the battle to ensure the city stays unique and funky. Do your best to promote the city's creative spirit, as well as local arts, by visiting Alberta on the last Thursday of the month.


Pork said...

Love the new blog layout of Tales from the Stump, Stump. Your description of Alberta Street is so alive I want to visit it.

Dawn Sousa said...

Just wantted to say.."i love you guys."