A fairly seismic shift in Portland's art scene is happening this weekend, although most of the galleries involved seem too busy preparing to even let their audience know about it. On Sunday, July 22, the DeSoto Project—a complex of art galleries located in the old Daisy Kingdom building on the North Park blocks—opens to the public with a huge block party. For many of the galleries involved, the move ensures an enormous spike in visibility.
Anchoring the DeSoto will be the Museum of Contemporary Craft, who recently dumped their old Contemporary Crafts Museum and Gallery moniker. They are relocating from their beautiful but remote space on SW Corbett, where it was founded as a ceramics center in 1937. The museum's new galleries were built with a welcoming transparency in mind: The exterior walls are largely windowed, giving open views of the gallery from the Park Blocks and NW Davis. The museum now has two main gallery spaces, as well as a project room, where workshops will be held every weekend, as well as lectures and other events held in conjunction with other Portland art spaces. On top of all that, museum admission remains free, indicating a very serious and determined intention to engage Portlanders in a way that they were unable to in their Corbett location.
Two old downtown neighbors will also be moving into the DeSoto: Froelick and Augen Galleries. The two galleries have been joined at the hip at their next door locations on SW 2nd for years; they will still be adjoining at the DeSoto, but their new location promises a dramatic spike in walk-in traffic.
Photography will have a strong presence in the DeSoto as well, as the Blue Sky stalwarts relocate to a gorgeous new space (with the Nine Gallery in tow). Charles Hartman, a longtime private dealer of vintage photography, will also be opening an eponymous gallery this Sunday.
There's a huge block party to christen the new complex on the 22nd, with bands, craft demonstrations, food and drink, and a raffle for a '77 BMW art car modified by painter Tom Cramer. The celebration might start this weekend, but the rewards of the DeSoto will kick in soon thereafter, with a centralized, cohesive center for the scene, and several local galleries reentering the fray with renewed passion and a gorgeous new home in which to do so.