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First, Last or All

Many cities set aside one day a month where art galleries are either open late or have a special event to encourage the public to come see their shows. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Portland, Oregon’s First Thursday, by now a venerable institution in Downtown and the Northwest Portland Pearl District.

When condominiums replaced dilapidated warehouse and industrial buildings in Northwest Portland, many artists and galleries were priced out of the area’s housing and commercial space, causing an exodus to Southeast and Northeast neighborhoods which were still affordable. As the number of showrooms and galleries in these new areas reached critical mass, they formed their own cooperative marketing groups.   It reached the point where Portland had so many galleries across its metropolitan area that one monthly arts event wasn’t adequate.

Eastside galleries, under the auspices of the Central Eastside Arts District started its First Friday Art Walk, and the up-and-coming neighborhood around NE Alberta Street created their Last Thursday event. Now art aficionados must choose between attending First Thursday, First Friday, Last Thursday or perhaps attending them all.

The First Friday event on February 3rd, 2012 has an intriguing line-up of exhibits and artists, with mediums including photography, painting, book arts, and mixed media. Milepost 5 will offer four exhibitions and an artist talk, plus open studios. Milepost5 is an intentional community of artists; a facility providing both living and work space for artists, on either a rental or ownership basis. Featured artists in February include collaborations by Jesse Cunningham and Wesley Hubbard using photo transfer and painting; photographs by Michelle Taylor covering two themes—Mother and Child and Heartfelt; a group show on the theme of Unplug, Occupy, Hatch, Thrive; and a talk and exhibition of his photos from Asia by Larry Cwik.

The Newspace Center for Photography launches “Black & White,” this year’s annual themed exhibition with works by 50 photographers selected from over 400 submissions by Executive Director Chris Bennett.  The subject matter seems apropos in this winter season so devoid of color.

The i witness gallery, housed within the Northwest Center for Photography, features work by professional Northwest photographers, as well as emerging photographers and students participating in their workshops. In February, the featured artist is David Zaitz, who was born in Portland but now is based in Los Angeles. His unique staged photographs will make you look twice; once to appreciate his skillful technique, then again to appreciate the subtle humor incorporated into each carefully-designed image.

Zaitz wrote the following about his work. “I try to make images that don’t hit you over the head with the humor or irony. To me, the most successfully amusing images draw the viewer in first by the photograph, and after a beat or two the viewer ‘gets it’—sees the little detail that really is the story. If I’ve made someone smile through my photography, I’ve succeeded.”

There is so much more to offer at First Friday and Portland’s other two monthly art showcases. Do yourself a favor, and take in one or all of these entertaining and thought-provoking events.