Artists expose themselves (kind of) with Portland Open Studios
Oh, times are a changin' for artists in the post-COVID-19 world, said Leah Kohlenberg, board chairman of Portland Open Studios.
Of course, producing wonderful art and selling it at fairs and elsewhere still can be effective.
But, as far as online, where the painter Kohlenberg admittedly found some success during the pandemic, things continue to evolve. Twitch? Instagram? Somewhat effective, but so yesterday. Patreon, Tik Tok and nonfungible commerce? It's in, she said.
So, Portland Open Studios has evolved, too, under the direction of Kirista Trask, the nonprofit's first executive director. She has led a push to educate more artists about promoting and selling their works, including online.
Part of the promotion comes Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 8-9 and Oct. 15-16, in Portland and surrounding suburbs with the annual Portland Open Studios tours. Visitors can follow a free online map — physical maps not available anymore — and visit artists in their places of work. It's a popular event for art fans, and it excites artists.
There are currently 118 artists slated to participate — nearly half of them for the first time.
"It's more than we've ever had (new)," Kohlenberg said. "It tells us a couple things: A lot of new people are joining Open Studios, and we have a variety, it's not just watercolors and landscapes. There are artists who do Procreate (digital illustration), virtual reality and big installations. It's fascinating."
Portland Open Studios has also improved its outreach.
Washington County Open Studios happens the second weekend of Portland Open Studios, Oct. 15-16, and "we encourage artists to do both. We don't see it as competitive, we see it as supportive," Kohlenberg said.
And, it has started a new scholarship fund for historically marginalized artists in honor of the late Molly Cliff Hilts, an artist who died of cancer and who served as a major organizer of nonprofit 99 Girlfriends. There will be three scholarship recipients, who receive waived Open Studios $250 participation fees and $300 each to support their studios.
Those scholarships are in addition to a scholarship in the name of late original board member Kimberly Gales for emerging artists.
The historically marginalized artists also receive training, arranged by Trask, a benefit that Portland Open Studios plans to extend to all members (for a fee) next year.
The volunteer Open Studios was able to fund Trask's position through a grant from Murdock Trust. Trask has made a big difference, Kohlenberg said, in leading artist education and marketing, including through websites.
"A lot of artists are not market savvy," Kohlenberg said. "A lot of them are introverts, so they struggle to talk to people. We do a lot of training. Open Studios is a big training event, because they have to deal with public."
There were about 14,000 people who visited artists during last year's Portland Open Studios.
The online maps are divided into six communities. You search for a neighborhood, see individual artists profiles and chart your course.
"Most people navigate through looking at artists profiles and Google maps," Kohlenberg said.
For the maps and more information, see portlandopenstudios.com.
For more on Washington County Open Studios, see washcoart.org.
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