Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Funding Received: 2011
Portland, OR
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
September 20, 2011


We’ve come a long, long way from where we were at the time of our last post to where we are now. Our annual Time-Based Art Festival is well under way and entering its second and final weekend of performances, happenings, and contemporary art projects.

Over this past month, we’ve built a community. We’ve constructed it with wood and scaffolding and labor, and we’ve brought it together with art and shared experiences and the excitement of discovering something incredible and new. It’s an annual occurrence, and we learn lessons from the process each year (though sometimes we forget them!).

Just what does it take to transform an abandoned high school into 12 visual art galleries, a working theater, and an architectural beer garden? Well...

Be prepared to multi-task. We’re talking executive directors who can wield a chop saw, membership coordinators who can also coordinate nursery tree deliveries, and curators who will step in and schlep.

Give volunteers genuine experiences. Our best volunteers feel like they’re a part of building something important. Let them take on a task, like decorating a hallway, or building planter boxes, and they’ll return day after day. Provide them a chance to work directly with an artist and they’ll come back year after year.

Keep volunteers well-fed. It almost goes without saying that it is incredibly valuable to learn our volunteer’s names and spend time letting them know how much we appreciate their help. But it’s equally important to keep them fueled. Sometimes that means wrangling granola bar donations, other times it means bringing out the crockpot and serving up some soup.

It all gets done at the eleventh hour. In spite of all of our good planning and hard work throughout the year, certain things just can’t be completed until the bitter end. Fencing doesn’t arrive, security hasn’t begun, materials aren’t delivered on time. There are bound to be some long nights.

It’s all about connections. Whose brother owns a food cart? Whose friend runs a print shop? Which volunteer owns a car to pick up an artist at the airport? We learn these things in-the-moment during the Festival, but it’s year-round work to maintain these relationships.

If that fails, it’s all about resourcefulness. Weeks and weeks of mining friendships and tracking down Craigslist ads? It still takes a dedicated staffer to make cold-calls to local carpet stores to find 1200 square feet of green grass carpeting.

And really, even though we can hardly be thinking about the end already, make sure it’s all ready for to be disassembled and re-purposed for the next big event!