From the outside, The Artistery is almost unnoticeable. Situated on a quiet block of Southeast Division Street, with a mix of houses and commercial properties surrounding it, the brown clapboard building looks small. It’s easy to pass by–from across the street, there are no visible signs or windows, with the exception of a small “A” inside a cartoon-speech bubble. The building looks as though it may house offices, or perhaps a church.
From the outside, The Artistery is almost unnoticeable.
Situated on a quiet block of Southeast Division Street, with a mix of houses and commercial properties surrounding it, the brown clapboard building looks small. It’s easy to pass by–from across the street, there are no visible signs or windows, with the exception of a small “A” inside a cartoon-speech bubble. The building looks as though it may house offices, or perhaps a church.
On some nights, however, The Artistery is more visible. Street signs on Division are converted to impromptu bike racks. A small group of people smokes outside. Clearly, this building is a destination and a short jaunt to The Artistery’s basement/performance venue makes it abundantly clear why.
Admission is collected at a table inside the door, and signs point to a downstairs stage. The stairway is plastered with fliers advertising other bands that have played the venue, including Kimya Dawson, The Shaky Hands and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, to name a few.
In the basement, there is a sound booth, a merchandise table, a bar serving tea and other nonalcoholic beverages, and two distinct performance areas. One is a projector that displays images on the east wall of the building.
This is The Artistery, a multifaceted art community that continues to grow in its commitment to providing an outlet for artists of all stripes.
On any given night The Artistery can be turned into a recording studio, gallery, darkroom, artist’s studio, or movie theater. Ten artists rent space at the lower division hovel, and all work collaboratively to operate the basement venue.
The Artistery’s no-alcohol policy sets it apart from other venues in Portland. Another unique feature of The Artisery is the large number of touring groups who play there. Although local bands make frequent appearances as well, there is perhaps a larger proportion of out-of-town artists at The Artisery than at other “house show” location.
“We like to push the image of being a legitimate venue,” says Weston Smith, a musician in The Artistery community who books bands to play the venue. “Everything in the building is up to fire code, and we have an audience cap of 205, sanctioned by the fire department. But even though we don’t live here, it still has that house-show vibe.”
The house-show feel is certainly a draw. A show at The Artistery feels more intimate than a similar performance at other venues, in part because of the physical setup-the group smoking on the porch, the stairs to the basement and the couches at the stairwell landing. But the community aspect may have something to do with this as well.
The artists who work at The Artistery work in different media. Mehran Heard and Kevin Noonan display paintings at the venue, while Luke Mahan works on a webcomic, Baristocracy.
Others at The Artistery play in bands or exhibit elsewhere, but the sense of community is tangible with members meeting at least twice a month to help organize the future of their venue and provide upkeep for a communal garden in the backyard.
The Artistery has existed as a venue for seven years, which helps to ensure that the four or eight shows held there each month run smoothly. A six-month minimum commitment to rent a studio space helps to build continuity within the community.
Members give feedback on each other’s artwork and push each other creatively. But The Artistery is hardly insular. The degree of publicity and transparency that The Artistery aims for makes it unique among other independent venues, who tend to advertise events exclusively through MySpace bulletins and word-of-mouth. Its Web site is easy to navigate, and Smith hints at current “movements within The Artistery to make it more public.”
The passion, professionalism, and rapport of the people behind the scenes combine to make The Artistery an incredibly well-run, welcoming performance space, making the venue a prime example of Portland’s DIY ethos at its best.
Some upcoming shows at The Artistery that you don’t want to miss:Blue Cranes-Nov. 4Grey Anne record release show-Nov. 14Eat Skull-Nov. 15White Fang-Dec. 5
All shows at The Artistery are $6 and begin at 8 p.m. The venue is located at 4315 S.E. Division St.