Last weekend I was fortunate to have the opportunity to explore Portland West via the Open Engagement conference on Art + Social Practice at Portland State University. The conference directors and PSU’s Art + Social Practice MFA students curated a dynamic mix of presentations, discussions and topics for contemplation, encouraging a dialogue that becomes integral in the understanding of this emerging practice. Four focused themes were represented: Politics, Education, Representation and Economies, and it proved difficult to select from the overwhelming mix of presentations and events taking place each day.
Here is a look at some of the highlights from my weekend:
Went to a great toy hacking workshop at Field Work taught by Amelia Winger-Bearskin and Pratim Sengupta from Vanderbilt University.
Saw this amazing mural project Billions and Billions of People, a collaboration between New Avenues for Youth, international and local artists [including Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson], and 30 at risk youth and local businesses.
Saturday we heard from Allison Agsten, Rene de Guzman, John Spiak, Stephanie Parrish, and Dominic Willsdon in their panel discussion on current and past social practice activities happening at a number of museums including SFMoma, The Hammer Museum, The Oakland Museum of California, The Portland Art Museum and the Grand Central Art Center.
The panel on Alternative Schooling incited discussion on formal and informal structures for teaching and learning. We heard from Helen Reed + Hannah Jickling about their project Ask Me Chocolates, which was sweet, inspirational and funny. Dr. Stephanie Springgay spoke about The Pedagocial Impulse, which seeks to align contemporary art and educational practices. Amy Plant’s work responds to locality. Working with global communities, her projects are inspired by Ghandian ideals and the philosophy of deep ecology. The Domestic/Wild Field School is a collaboration between artist Emily Stone and Karin Bolender and investigates questions through the use of dance, home schooling, performative lecture, video diaries, homemade soap and more. The cross examination of these projects allowed for a rich discussion on the role of alternative and institutional pedagogy.
Paul Ramirez Jonas’ talk was exceptional. His use of photoshop and google search blew the audience’s minds and provided an engaging format for dissection of monuments and public art.
I’ve heard sunshine is a rarity in Oregon, so I took the opportunity to join the Eco Tour led by MFA student Erica Thomas. We combined the invasive species + urban bird watching tours to trek around the city to see the relationship between wildlife and urban spaces.
Art in Service panels members spoke about inspiring projects working in under recognized communities. I was particularly drawn to Oakland based artist Sadie Harmon’s work, which takes her into retirement centers to engage in arts with the residents.
At Field Work, I participated in a class taught by Andres Guerrero, a participant of Project Grow. Andres led a discussion on human rights for developmentally disabled adults and talked about the support and encouragement he gets from Project Grow and it’s programs.
This was my failed attempt to capture the lunar eclipse we saw while waiting in line to have dinner at Yale Union.
Yale Union, or YU, is a new contemporary art center in South East Portland. The building is incredible, and so was the meal we had while we discussed the highlights and conclusions from the weekend’s events. I was glad to meet and chat with Tessa Zettel and Rebecca Conroy of Makeshift and BillandGeorge, respectively, who are visiting from Australia and heading around the states visiting some of our favorite places, Works Progress in Minneapolis and Elsewhere in North Carolina.
We wiped our mouths with the translationnation project napkins.
If I could recount everything that happened, everything I saw, listened to or engaged in, I would, but that might take a while. Everything about Portland West was wonderful; the people, the food, the scenery, the arts. I thoroughly enjoyed it.