DIY PDX: Portland Open Studios

By Vanessa Nix (Anthony)

Want to be an artist or just look at one? Nobody does it better than Portland Open Studios. If you love art and have always wondered how these creative types work their magic then there’s no better way to satiate your curiosity than to see them at work in their own studios.

Founded in 2004, the Portland Open Studios (POS) self-guided tour’s purpose is to bring art to the masses by showcasing artists in their natural habitat. Armed with the $15 guidebook (available at Weir’s Cyclery, Art Media, New Seasons Market and Powell’s Books) that includes two tickets, map and bonus keepsake calendar embellished with the participating artists’ work, the appreciator can work their way, neighborhood by neighborhood, to 98 different artists’ homes and studios.

Artists involved in this year’s tour were chosen by a three-person blind juror’s panel who do not consider artist’s resumes but chose participants soley on their work. With such a large variety of art forms and styles showcased in the POS tour there is a little something for everyone – which is something that participating artist and Publicity and Website Coordinator for Portland Open Studios, Bonnie Meltzer, is very proud of. “We want to be all media, all ethnic groups, all ages – the only thing that unites us is the creative spirit and the ability to make wonderful artwork,” says Meltzer.

Featured artists range in age from their 20s to 60s, utilizing mediums that include drawing, etching, painting, prints, sculptures, textiles, glass, mosaics, ceramics and photography.

Underwater photographer Connie Whelan is one of the SE Portland artists whose art, process and studio will be on display during POS. Whelan is working on her second career as an artist after being a symphony musician.

Ceramic artists and studio space roommates Natalie Warrens and Babette Harvey, both showing on SE Stark St, work in the same media but couldn’t have a more different aesthetic. “Natalie makes vessels, functional vessels, that are very sculptural and Babette has these classic figures and she paints them – at one point she was working with black and white geometric shapes but now she is doing these lush landscapes on them. They’re both exquisite,” says Meltzer.

POS studios run all the way out to West Linn and include artists such as Ann Munson, whose studio is a greenhouse and whose mosaic pieces brighten any garden, and Sarah Swink, who sculpts her whimsical pieces in clay. “She did a show six months ago at Gardinos and [the pieces] were all swimmers. It was about how she came to this new place, Oregon, and that she was just a fish out of water. Her pieces have an undercurrent of incredible depth, some deep core of who you are,” explains Meltzer.

Although this season’s Portland Open Studios won’t feature its annual bike raffle (raffling off a bicycle to be painted by the winner’s artist of choice), POS still encourages tour-goers to “Go by Bike” and will display the 2006 winner’s eclectically and brightly colored bicycle hand-painted by artist Miriam Badyrka at her studio during the tour.

So get out, explore Portland’s neighborhoods, artists and their studios at your leisure, as you DIY your art tour.

(This article appeared on