Hatching an art center

For anyone who made it to the Modern Zoo way back in ’03, a question has been lingering. "What’s next?" For those of you who didn’t make it to the monumental Modern Zoo art expo, I’ll explain why it was such a big deal for Portland’s art community.

Imagine over 120,000 square feet of gallery space located in the industrial section under the St. Johns Bridge, and then fill this massive space with work from more than 200 regional artists. All forms were represented; visual art, interactive art (my favorite, big fluffy stuffed animal hands anyone could try on), bands, fashion shows, theater and dance performances revolutionized and solidified the Portland Arts community.

Then in ’04, when the community was preparing for the next big Modern Zoo, the idea fell apart. Why? Well, through gossip columns, I gathered it was personal. We can leave it at that, right?

Regardless of the Zoo’s break-up, I have awesome news: Gavin Shettler, founder and co-director of the Modern Zoo, has popped off another radical idea – the Portland Art Center.

Located at 2045 S.E. Belmont St., the center finds itself, ironically, in the center of a motivated community desperately lacking in venues.

The gallery can be seen in three parts: the main, the minor and the bathroom (seriously). The lounge is open to all who enjoy free coffee, an art-only bulletin board, cushy dental waiting-room furniture and a friendly staff of movers and shakers. The workroom is open for workshops and arts-related meetings. And if that weren’t the bee’s knees, PAC even has a database of regional artists, galleries and art groups. So, if you are making something and want to share it, the sharp networking aces at The Portland Art Center can help. Wednesday to Saturday, 12 to 8 p.m.

Keep in mind that the center is a non-profit organization, and as far as this art nerd can tell, it has no hidden agendas.

Why, then, is everyone so skeptical? Is it just their pretentious air? Do you really think the "non-profit art gallery" is just a gimmick? We’ll just have to wait and see what kind of shows they put together. They are in a perfect situation to do some crazy, over-the-edge, unpredictable art fiestas. If they only pushed the formal art gallery world into the underground, then we would see some crazy poo-poo.

Imagine it, they could cause yuppies and hipsters to cross over into each other’s art worlds. Judging by the centers grand opening it might just happen.

The gallery opened with "Hatching an Art Center," featuring a silent auction full of chicken-themed art by traditionally famous artists. (Only art school graduates know for sure.) At the same time there were real live chickens eating, pooping and apparently modeling while people drew pictures of them. It was pretty cute.

Cuter though was the mix of people rubbing buttocks while DJ Damn I’m Thrifty laid it down. The floor was full of ’80s art-world burnouts dressed in berets, all purple outfits, tight acid washed stretch-pants and way too much leather. Yet, in the same room – where there was barely any room because over 400 people showed up – co-existed bright eyed and sincerely interested people reminding us all that we came together to make this idea grow. Get it? "Grow," like a chicken – hatched and big enough to eat.

You should go by and check out the closing party Saturday, Feb. 19, 7 – 10 p.m. The real live chickens will be there, waiting for you. And while you’re there, consider the possibilities, for better or worse. The Portland Art Center has the opportunity to bring new juicy innovations to what many see as a completely dry and inbred art scene.

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