Photo from Portland 2014 Biennial

Exhibit Leaves Us Looking for Local Artists

I received a press release recently from The Ford Family Foundation announcing the selection of Oregon visual artists — five of Portland and one of Eugene — as the 2016 Hallie Ford Fellows in the Visual Arts. This is the seventh year of the $25,000 unrestricted awards to support Oregon visual artists and their exploration, conceptualization, production, exhibition and documentation of new work.

During the seven years not one Central Oregon artist has been selected for one of these awards despite local artists applying for this honor. I suspect that Hallie Ford, a philanthropist from Roseburg, Oregon who ‘ left a legacy of support to the Oregon arts ecology’ would not be pleased about the Portland/Eugene continued spotlight for her funds.

Another arts group, the Portland Biennial, claims to have “conducted a major survey of Oregon artists who are defining and advancing the state’s contemporary arts landscape.” The Portland 2016 Biennial is a two-month celebration of the here and now that showcases 34 artists at 25 partner venues in eleven communities across the state billed to be “the largest and most comprehensive survey of Oregon art, ever.”

Seriously? Of the 34 artists selected for this showcase not one is from the Central Oregon region, in fact 20 come from Portland, one from Beaverton, one from Ashland, two Corvallis, eight Eugene, one Springfield and the only one from the eastside of the mountains is from Pendleton.

I am really perplexed as to how the curator Michelle Grabner (credentials include co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial and senior critic at Yale University in the department of painting and printmaking) who claims to have reviewed over 400 artist submissions and conducted more than 100 studio visits across the state could completely overlook the talented artists in Central Oregon. Think Randy Redfield, Bill Hoppe and Sandy Brooke. She claims her search to be the most extensive outreach to Oregon contemporary artists to date. She missed and/or ignored the High Desert.

Grabner said in a press release: “From La Grande to Ashland, I was looking for work that addressed global realities as much as it embraced radical regionalism. By listening attentively to the language that frames artists’ imaginations while witnessing the space of making, my 105 studio visits yielded a treasure of exhilarating work. It was a privilege to transverse the State of Oregon and to meet with artists and arts professionals who are enthusiastically committed to fostering a spirited culture in the region.”
The Portland Biennial includes exhibitions, events and performances in multiple locations from July 9 through September 18 including COCC Pinkney Gallery and Art Adventure Gallery (see new exhibits this issue for dates).

Since I am not a visual artist, I don’t view my concern for lack of recognition of local artists as sour grapes. I hope you will help me in expressing your concerns about the Portland/Eugene artistic focus.

The Oregon Cultural Trust helped fund the 2016 Biennial.


  1. Which Central Oregon Artists do you feel deserve this award & why? Perhaps asking Grabner for some constructive criticism as to why your selections didn’t make it would be helpful to all.

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