Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Funding Received: 2011
Portland, OR
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 2, 2011


As we continue our long history of pop-up programming throughout Portland, it has also become clear that we need to strengthen our day-to-day presence in the city. To this end, ArtPlace is helping us not only to bolster our mobile infrastructure, but also to pursue a space in which we can capture a bit of the energy and community engagement we see during our temporary events. But this, in itself, is a tricky proposition.

How do you maintain a central location, but still remain flexible enough to hold events throughout the city? How do you not fall prey to the allure of a beautiful, expensive, fixed facility?

When it comes right down to it, we're trying to rethink and re-define just what makes an "art space."

A large part of this task will be to change audience (and frankly, our own) expectations around space. When people hear that we are pursuing a new office location with more public presence, they immediately fill in the blanks with their own visions of what PICA should be: they see a white box gallery, they see a black box theater.

We want to create a new, third space: a community hub that draws audiences and artists together, but is constantly shifting in terms of what it contains.

That means creating a facility that is flexible enough to host a wide variety of events—community conversations, small-scale workshops and residencies, film screenings, lectures, dinners—but doesn't fill all of our needs. We envision a space that will identify PICA as a vibrant point of convergence, but still force us out into the neighborhoods to present performances and gallery exhibitions and temporary projects.

We need to deny our own inclinations to fill the space with gallery walls and lighting grids.

We need to make a space in which we can be as creative as we are when we work in raw warehouses.

We need to make sure that what we put into the space can easily be taken out of the space and re-deployed elsewhere.

We need to create a facility with continual activity, but constantly challenge the expectations of just what form it will take.

The build-out will shortly begin, but for now the space is just a big empty cavern, full of potential. Our work will be to keep this potential alive long after we move in.