Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Funding Received: 2011
Portland, OR
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 4, 2011

Elusive Plans

Producing 10 years of a multi-day contemporary art festival and 17 years of artist projects can make you pretty confident in your abilities to get things done. Until you start a construction project.

There are just enough overlaps between our work as an art presenter and the realities of building out a new office to make our ambitious project and time-line seem doable. But there are also more than enough differences to mean that we're working double-time to keep up with all of the details. So here we are a few weeks into "construction" on our new space, and we've yet to get crews started on the work. Sure, we can knock up gallery walls in a warehouse in a weekend, and we can jerry-rig lighting with a pirate crew of techies for an ensemble dance piece under a city bridge, but we don't yet have the skill set to handily dispatch with permitting problems.

What do you do when you discover your new building is tenuously sharing a party sewer with the adjacent businesses? Or that you might not be able to occupy half of your space because of emergency exit egress on the roof?

Well, we've learned that you head to the city permit office. We've spent hours poring over decades of microfiche for existing permits and past floor plans and all of the other details needed to clear the code and inspection hurdles. It feels like we're taking aim at a constantly moving target, and having to learn and readjust and adapt as we go.

To help us, we've enlisted the in-kind support of four general contractors—Andersen Construction, Lease Crutcher Lewis, Walsh Construction, and Howard S. Wright—along with six subcontractors. Throw into the mix our office architect, the property's architect, a lighting designer, and interior designer, and two city bureaus, and we've got a lot of players to coordinate. But is that really all that different from managing an international performance company, with tech crews, front-of-house staff, concessions, volunteers, marketing, and more?

In a lot of ways, it seems like art organizations (multi-taskers that we are), are perfectly suited to managing a construction project.