Designs Collide: Art Shows at Portland Boutiques

Art Shows at Portland Boutiques  Designs CollideBy Vanessa Nix (Anthony)

Portland is a city known for both its vibrant arts community and its blossoming fashion scene. With such a profusion of art schools and design talent, the two were bound to intersect – and they have been in some of the hottest boutiques all over town. Transformed from simple, stylish storefronts to combination chi-chi gallery space and design-forward shops, these new hybrids are a slam dunk two-fer for those in the know. Discover the hot spots making art affordable (pieces average $20 – $1,000] and supporting local artists, whether their products be utilitarian, wearable or visual.

Black Wagon
Openings: Second Thursdays, 6:00 – 9:00pm

The only kid’s boutique on the list, Black Wagon’s hip clientele hasn’t traded in their identities or aesthetics just because they had children. And they’re making a great design a parenting priority. According to Operations Manager and photographic artist Alli Azevedo, though their art is “kid-friendly, it is not kid exclusive.”

Booking now for 2009, Azevedo is excited about the upcoming Brett Superstar show in July and very proud of last year’s show featuring a ten year old artist named Levi. “It went so well and everyone was so excited about it that we’re going to do a group kids show for our second year anniversary in August,” she says.

Openings: Second Thursdays, 6:00 – 9:00pm

Describing their clothing as “artist driven street wear,” Manager Amber Hansen has been putting together Blue’s art shows in their light and bright space since they first opened over a year ago. “At first it was just friends of the store that we featured at our first shows, but then local artists started to approach us,” says Hansen.

Though she calls Blue “pretty open” to different styles when it comes to artists, they have turned people down. “The stuff we show here is generally more feminine, not exclusively though, and it has to have an urban feel so that it doesn’t completely clash,” she explains.

Openings: First Fridays, 7:00pm – Close

New kid on the block, Destroy is the flagship store for its self-titled contemporary street wear designs. Owner Adam Brush opened the space on East Burnside in November and says he always planned to have a gallery. “Our first artist was Steve Matthews. I saw him at Alberta Street’s Last Thursday months before we opened and got his card. The show went well – he sold the majority of his stuff,” says Brush.

Brush chooses artists by what he likes and feels confident that he’s a good judge. “If I like it, it goes up…it makes our space look cool and it’s constantly changing along with our clothing,” he notes.

life + limb
Openings: First Fridays, 6:00 – 9:00pm

Freshly opened in November 2007, owner Molly Quan has been doing art shows in her home accessories store since December. She chooses artists based on her personal preferences and if the work fits the space: “I like things that are pleasing to look at…usually modern or contemporary art,” she says.

With a shop filled with indoor plants and home decor inspired by mid-century design and modern living (a la Dwell Magazine), Quan’s monthly rotation of artists are a mixture of national, international, local and emerging. “I’m booked through 2008…next month will be Adam Haynes,” she reveals.

Openings: Second Thursdays, 7:00 – 9:00/10:00pm

Local35 was recently remodeled, blending stark designer showroom racks with warm natural wood floors and a rotating array of fresh local art talent. The brainchild of Justin Machus, the urban boutique’s mission is to “bring small, creative labels from around the world to the Northwest,” and showcases artists that “are relevant to what we are doing, what we carry and in line with the atmosphere of the shop,” says Assistant Manager Andre Speed.

According to Speed, Machus’ vision was a no-brainer: “Portland seems very interested in if you can tie into the culture of the city. People here are much more receptive if you are involved.”

Openings: Last Thursdays

Owner Tony Secolo’s design background “informs everything” at OFFICE PDX. He and his wife and business partner, Kelly Coller, planned their modern-meets-retro stationary and office supply haven with a gallery in mind. Secolo says that at times passerbys stop in because the artwork catches their eye through OFFICE’s many windows. “Besides supporting artists, which we love to do, it’s a great way to get people into the store,” he observes.

The idea of affordable art was also key for Secolo. “Our store overall is form, function and affordability,” he explains. “For emerging artists, we hope we can be a stepping stone. For established artists, OFFICE provides a venue to show unusual or smaller scale works.”