Art in the Pearl

Dear Liza,

A map of the Pearl

The Pearl is a part of downtown Portland that has seen a lot of ups and downs. In the 1890s it was an important business district, with posh offices and beautifully built brick warehouses. Henry Weinhard’s Brewery operated here for over fifty years. But things changed.

When we visited here in the 1980s, The Pearl was the scary part of town…. you just didn’t go there. Abandoned buildings became home to illegal activities and legitimate businesses fled the neighborhood.

The First Regiment Armory built in 1890, surrounded by shining towers

Folks determined to change that, though, and gave the area the nickname The Pearl to help sell it to investors. Tall shining condos have replaced many of the burned out buildings, and even a few parks have been established to give some light and airflow to the place. New businesses, restaurants, and art galleries inhabit the old warehouses and are bringing people and cash into this corner of town.

On Sunday, we went to the 22nd annual Art in the Pearl festival in The North Park Blocks. Dozens of art and crafts booths lined one part of the park, and dozens of food booths lined the other. There was a river of people looking, eating, chatting, and enjoying the shady venue.

River of folks at the North Park Blocks

As always seems to happen, we got hungry as soon as we arrived! The food booths were very crowded, so Grandpa Nelson found us Fuller’s Coffee Shop, which has been on the corner of NW Davis and 9th since 1947, and looks like it hasn’t changed much in decor since opening day. However, the burger, grilled cheese sandwich and French fries were delicious and very affordable. Sixteen dollars for a three person lunch is a bargain in town!

Lunch at Fuller’s

Once we were fed, the Art-ing began. We walked past most of the booths, but were occasionally drawn in. We chatted with Marjolyn van der Hart, from Toronto, about her painterly collages.

Sheet music, wallpaper, old advertisements and artistry…

Dona Reed, from Anacortes, Washington, does wonderfully evocative linoleum prints of ravens and loons, with just a touch of red. Her booth was very crowded and she was beaming! This one reminded me of our three person household. Grandpa Nelson is in back, saying “Look what I found!” Auntie Bridgett says, “I like this one!” and I am saying “Oops! I dropped mine…”

Linoleum print of ravens

As we continued, I found a booth that reminded me of your Great Grandpa Lowell. Anthony Hansen uses old metal, from cars, factories and license plates to make metal ‘quilts’. They are welded and grommeted together in interesting ways while keeping the original colors.

At another booth featuring metal, Auntie Bridgett recognized the work of an artist that shows at SideStreetArts, but whom she had never met. Amy Ruedinger is a metalworker and they had a nice getting-to-know-each- other conversation.

We stopped by Kim Murton’s booth because of the whimsical ceramics but stayed for the fabric prints and conversation. Kim has been part of the Art Fairs in Portland for about six years, she said, and is finally getting her booth the way she likes it. She was very modest, not mentioning that she had designed the tee shirts being sold this year by the Fair. We got the very last one in our size from the Information booth!

The last artist we visited with was Josh, of Pacific Northwest Sculptors. He works in my own favorite medium, paper mache! He uses flour and paper for the outside and all sorts of things for the armature, even creating a unicorn strong enough for children to sit on! He made this for his daughter, because, he says, “I am not a monster. If I make a unicorn, my daughter should be able to sit on it!” We saw him working on a series of tentacles that just cracks me up.

We found more in the Pearl, but that’s all for now!


Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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