(Photo | Courtesy of Toriizaka Art)
This August, Toriizaka Art (Tokyo, Japan 2005 – 2018; Portland, Oregon 2019 – 2020) opened its doors in Sisters. Located in the heart of the Sisters Arts District, Toriizaka Art resides in a completely renovated two-story building with Sisters Gallery and Frame. Other neighboring galleries include Clearwater Gallery, Hood Avenue Art, Raven Makes Gallery, Wildflower Studio, Beacham’s Clock Company, Metals Jewelry Studio and Dirk Godby Studio.
In late 2005, Karen Thomas, with the support of her husband Jack Bird, opened a salon-style gallery in their Tokyo home featuring Vietnamese artists who were underrepresented in Japan. Karen’s first show was a sell-out and from there, Toriizaka Art was born (named for the Tokyo area in which they resided at the time). Karen started representing Japanese artists when she was asked to curate the exhibitions at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Tokyo, a responsibility she held for more than eight years. Their home gallery evolved into a fine art venue that hosted friend and fund-raising events for various international charities including The Asian University for Women, Room-to-Read and Tokyo English Lifeline.
After Jack retired in 2018 from his consulting job in Tokyo, the couple moved to downtown Portland with the idea of re-creating their salon-style in-home gallery in the former residence of Earle Chiles atop KOIN Tower. Shortly after completing a major renovation and after hosting only a few events, COVID and Portland’s troubles intervened.
During COVID, Karen and Jack found themselves spending time at their Black Butte Ranch vacation home which they had purchased in 2008. “Black Butte and Sisters are very special places and we were embraced by the community. A lot of people have moved to Central Oregon after reconsidering their work/life balance; taking a step back, slowing down and enjoying life in a different way,” Karen observes. Traveling, hiking, biking, wine tasting and pickleball contribute to their active lifestyle and their relationships with their neighbors.
When a tired, but well-located commercial property on Hood Avenue came to market, the couple decided to buy the building, undertake a complete renovation and re-open Toriizaka Art in Sisters. The gallery space was designed by Karen and features purposefully built viewing areas with custom lighting and a renovated outdoor space which will allow for music and art gatherings.
The gallery features a diverse selection of curated work from accomplished artists. The opening exhibition includes landscape paintings by contemporary artists Vu Cong Dien, Lieu Nguyen and Dao Hai Phong as well as figurative works by Yuji Hiratsuka, Bui Thanh Tam and Nguyen Minh Phuoc.
“Art, like music and good food, nourishes and sustains us. Art that makes you think, stops you in your tracks to admire its vibrance or jumps out and grabs you in some form is worth considering. We look forward to sharing the collection with our visitors,” says Karen.
For more information stop by the gallery at 222 West Hood Ave. in Sisters.