How much art can you take?

Once each year, the Portland Art Museum allows 12 artists from the PSU MFA Art & Social Practice Concentration programs to take over their space for an evening—a very late evening.

Once each year, the Portland Art Museum allows 12 artists from the PSU MFA Art & Social Practice Concentration programs to take over their space for an evening—a very late evening. From 6 p.m. until midnight, this dirty dozen of burgeoning artists will be given carte blanche of the space to re-purpose the museum and its contents to their own artistic ends.

Tonight will mark the second annual “Shine A Light” event at the Portland Art Museum. The community-supported event will feature support from local vendors and many volunteers, creating a unique atmosphere somewhere between street fair and art gallery.

“We want people to be open-minded about what can happen in a museum and find new ways to experience art,” said Tina Olsen, education director at the Portland Art Museum. “Art is something that is happening right now, this isn’t in the past. It’s directly related to your life.”

In the outdoor sculpture court, local vendors will sell food and locally brewed beer. Indoors, there will be people waiting to beautify patrons’ faces with hand-painted moles, and officiate vows of matrimony between visitors and works of art. Break dancers will freestyle about the museum to the beat of a live DJ, beginning impromptu dances wherever they please.

If this sounds like a decidedly un-hostile takeover, consider that this is all mere mood lighting for a ribald evening program of after-hours art.

Among the more Dadaist moments in the program is an exhibit called “You Can Touch This,” which strives to fulfill the tactile sense that is often left wanting at the museum. Replica sculptures from the PAM collection will be on hand for the handling in this delightfully simple about face on museum culture. The real tradition breaking, however, is much more rowdy than clever policy play.

Two boys performing live nude wrestling— a truly heroic display of homoeroticism to wrest fiery inspiration from the manacles of tame contextualizing—will realize traditional Greco-Roman posturing in classical sculpture. This visceral, living testament to that form which has been cast so gracefully and so often may be playful, is nonetheless reverential of the creative process—a self-referential casting of artists as inspiration.

In addition to nude wrestling and the entire Portland Art Museum being turned into an improvisational discotheque, many collections will each be given their own soundtrack. Musicians from the community will provide aural support for various spaces of the museum, creating an ensemble experience for the senses. The guided tour that accompanies the musical staging is one of three on offer for the evening. Museum staff will be celebrated in music themselves, in the form of jingles that recount their various duties, personalities and experiences.

Further elucidation on the life and times of museum personnel will be found in the “Hear me…See me…” audio tour. The audio-directed tour details the personal stories of museum security staff through their own individual narrative.

The final guided tour of the evening aims to incorporate the public at large into the fold, with a community contributed object tour. This portion of the program will include PSU MFA in Art & Social Practice graduate Sandy Sampson touring the museum with visitors and engaging them in discussion.

“On one recent visit, my guest became really excited about the possibilities of objects in the Grande Ronde Center for Native American Art as objects for speculation, and we were shushed by another visitor, and told to be quiet,” Sampson recently told Lisa Radon. “Maybe events like ‘Shine A Light’ can get people talking again.”

While any exhibition may serve to cultivate community discourse on art, events like “Shine A Light” and the Walker Arts Center’s “Open Field” in Minneapolis, serve to promote public involvement with the art. Tonight the Portland Art Museum offers the opportunity to not only see art as a living phenomena, but to actively engage with it as well. Whatever the collective experience may be, the individual is sure to be affected by this massive confluence of artistic endeavor. Whether one is left with a profound impression, sudden inspiration, or merely a hangover, there can be no doubt that this will be a night to remember at the Portland Art Museum.

Forgiving them the fact that they borrowed the idea from the Joker, “Shine A Light” is nevertheless a brilliant opportunity to experience art in the present tense—even if the DJ doesn’t play “Bat Dance.” ?