I'm confessing right off the bat that I'm attending Shine a Light, the Portland Art Museum's one-night—and now daytime—public engagement with PSU's Art and Social Practice program, for the first time. What can I say? Too much Wampire, not enough time. However, I'm genuinely stoked to see what's in store for the third year.
I'm also happy to find out that visitors can leave and return to the event any time, because, well, we all have our reasons, yes? The museum's gamble to attract people who wouldn't necessarily visit otherwise appears to have paid off quite well: Previous years have been full to capacity, according to the press release, with 3,000 in attendance last year. Clearly, the ethos of the event—breaking down the barriers between the art from P.A.M.'s collection on display and the viewer's interpretation and interaction with it—has a lot for Portlanders with any passing interest in art, or simply an art party, to relate to.
Jessica Lyness, a publicist for NW Film Center, emphasized as much in our online conversation about Shine a Light 2011. "This event is focused on social practice art with an emphasis on community. I think that music is a strong part of the Portland community but so is comedy, food, dance, poetry, and tattoo," says Lyness.
In the main, this is exactly what I took away from the schedule at first glance. Obligatory, and no doubt excellent food carts (Captured by Porches, PIESpot, Tastebud and Portland Soup Company) will have new menus inspired directly by works of art in the museum's collection. Awesomely, their recipes will be included along with several local restaurant chefs in an official Museum Cookbook. Expect an off-the-hook holiday dinner near you. Representatives from Oddball and Atlas Tattoo will create illustrations inspired by their visits to the museum for the wonderful price of free (maybe one of them will recall the W.P.A. gallery). Also notable are the break and square dances, both at the ballroom in the Mark Building at roughly the same time (have fun segregating that, security).
Upon closer reading, some of these events seem a bit too cute, or maybe just merely treading water. Josh Mong is hosting Coloring Book, which offers one a chance to color in line drawings of works of art in the museum with crayon, and perhaps a chance to rebel with a sharpie. Lexa Walsh, an artist in residence at the Museum, is leading a cheer tour from a "feminine and feminist perspective" (that's from the press release), as well as One Of Us Salon, a collaboration with nearby Richard Herrera About Hair giving free haircuts inspired by artworks. "Do You Think This Is Funny?," a live comedy showcase in the early evening from locals seems a risky bet, but there's enough diversity in names and styles in the lineup to almost guarantee laughter at some point.
Looking over my final itinerary, the happenings I am most excited for seem to stand alone as gently challenging and intriguing but also genuinely fun. Ariana Jacob's "The Art As Experience" addresses the still controversial topic of physical documentation of art retaining greater relevance than the actual works. "For Ariana's project," says Lyness, "it is any experience you have with art in the collection that is being notarized, not her art. So even cooler, right? You can notarize your experience with Philip Guston, Basquiat, Monet, Picasso, etc."
Also cool is The Visitors' Exhibition Catalog, an active work in progress during the night of the event curated by local artist Molly Sherman and local critical darling Publication Studio, who also participated in this year's Time Based Arts Festival. Attendees can help build and compile the catalog by being assigned an installation or happening at Shine a Light to record with their own photos and descriptions. Can you still work that hard for art and have fun? Within the total breadth of the schedule, which I have barely touched upon here, lies your answer and mine.
Shine a Light, Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park, Fri Oct 14, 10 am-midnight, $15 (FREE w/museum admission)