Portland is known nationwide for their food, wine, and art. Having already spoken to people in both the food and beverage industry in this city, the obvious topic lacking in Hey Hank News is art. This is the second in a series all about art and artists in Portland.
Over the past decade, The City of Portland has gone through drastic changes. From the remaking of the Pearl District, to the creation of one of the greatests cities in the nation for artists, Victoria Frey has experienced this city’s growth first hand. Founder of Quartersaw Art Gallery and Executive Producer of Portland Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), Frey has experienced the changes that have occurred in this city for art.
“Thirty years ago [The Pearl District] was an industrial area. It was definitely an inner city industrial area. In the 80s we looked at [Portland] and said this is what happens in all major cities when you have dying industrial area near downtown. [We knew art would become a huge part of Portland,] but I never thought it would look like it does.”
Back in the 80s, when Frey and others tried to come up with ways to make art a central part of this city, they began to create things that would put Portland’s art on the map. They created festivals designed to get a lot of people to see new artists’ work. Frey opened a gallery called Quartersaw which had the mission of giving artists the ability to show their work regardless of how famous they were or were not.
“What [is] personal to me is artist advocacy- helping artists make a living at what they do and create art they want to create.”
The community of people in Portland helping make art accessible, the low cost of housing, and the beautiful scenery are three things that Frey credits as being the reasons behind why art has had a successful history in Portland. Although the landscape of art is constantly changing, there is one new element that has completed transformed contemporary art.
“The internet is making a consumer culture on the screen. Is that displacing the people who care about or want to make [art]? Probably not as much as you think. But it is affecting what artists make. More artists are going into other mediums and it has been a real challenge on the industry to try and find how do you sell that and make a living.”
And this leads to one of modern art’s greatest fears: the internet might make art irrelevant. With everything accessible on demand on the internet, Frey wonders whether the new youth consumer culture will rely solely on the internet and begin to believe they no longer need to live with physical art or the beauty that comes from that. Despite all that may happen with the new kinds of consumers, Frey believes that there is space in the art market for both forms of art enjoyment.
“The internet is making [art] more accessible to more people. So there are some people consuming it [through the web] but there are still people consuming art physically.”
Because the day in which physical art no longer exists is not yet upon us, I asked Frey one of the most personal questions ever: what makes good art?
“I go all over the place. I am inspired by many different things,” Frey explains. Frey points at a glass case in her office which holds two loaves of bread made out of what appears to be cloth or canvas (see photo). “I am inspired by these loaves of bread by Lynda Hutchins because the context for this work was really interesting and the craft in that piece is stunning. I am often inspired by things outside of myself. I am not inspired by familiar.”
Although there are many things that Frey loves about art, she also spoke of numerous times when she doesn’t like art but still chose to show it. The galleries of Quartersaw and PICA both have a similar promise to introduce new artists. This often means showing all forms of art even though it may not be desireable to the gallery curator.
“I have said I don’t love it, but I completely understand what role it plays and how important it is and yes I am going to show it. Curators have to take risk. They have to use their voice to say there is a really important conversation going on here and I may or may not be connected to it, but it is an important piece for what’s now and I need to represent it.”