Looking to get cultured? From a bookstore in a welcoming old house to the oldest art museum on the west coast, Portland has the goods. Here’s where to go to see art and grow your book collection.

Where To See An Art Show

Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park) is the oldest art museum on the west coast, and the city’s obligatory big fancy art space, with all of the varied collections that entails. The permanent collection is pretty, but it’s PAM’s touring shows and original programming that really shine, often incorporating a wonderful mix of local context and nationally recognized work. Recent shows have taken on the architecture of Oregonian John Yeon, the impressive archives of Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery, the work of contemporary Native American artists, and the ’80s art world of Andy Warhol. PAM’s well worth devoting an afternoon to. And be sure to check the schedule for the museum’s Whitsell Auditorium if you like your visual art with a side of cinema.


Looking for something more contemporary? Then check out the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (415 SW 10th, 15 NE Hancock). PICA’s programming has been known to bridge genres and provide a steady mix of local and nationally recognized artists. Does a reading from Lynne Tillman juxtaposed with presentations from local performance artists sound good to you? It’s happened at PICA. While the organization’s year-round programming is consistently excellent, the best time to experience their eclectic curatorial inclinations is during the annual Time-Based Art Festival, a jam-packed performance festival that fills Portland with innovative work each fall.

10 More Places We Recommend:

Newspace Center For Photography (1632 SE 10th), Open Gallery (323 NW 6th), Elizabeth Leach Gallery (417 NW 9th), PDX Contemporary Art (925 NW Flanders), One Grand Gallery (1000 E Burnside), Nationale (3360 SE Division), Melanie Flood Projects (420 SW Washington), p:ear (338 NW 6th), Charles A. Hartman Fine Art (134 NW 8th), Blue Sky Gallery (122 NW 8th)

Where to Buy Books

Powell’s City of Books

It’s obvious for a reason: Powell’s (1005 W Burnside) has (almost) everything, but I’m especially partial to their collection of art books and the true-crime aisle just outside the in-house coffee shop. As an added bonus, you can also see an author reading here almost any night of the week. Go on a weekday to avoid the weekend rush.

Mother Foucault’s

In a world of e-books and Amazon, Mother Foucault’s (523 SE Morrison) proudly clings to the old ways, with a dizzying selection of amazing literature in weird, old editions. I have a copy of Georges Perec’s Things in French from here. If you want a book-buying experience that’s as close as you can get to a Parisian flea market table, this is where you’ll find it.

Wallace Books

Wallace Books (7241 SE Milwaukie) is a little out of the way, but well worth the bus ride/drive/Lyft ride. Step into this delightful old house in Sellwood, and you’ll find books on every available surface. It reminds me of walking into the house of a beloved professor and discovering that (hooray!) they’ve never MariKonned their library. You’re sure to find something good to read here, and you won’t find a cozier browsing spot anywhere else.

10 More Places We Recommend:

Annie Bloom’s Books (7834 SW Capitol Hwy.), Broadway Books (1714 NE Broadway), Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne), Longfellow’s Books (1401 SE Division), Daedalus Books (2074 NW Flanders), Another Read Throug (3932 N Mississippi), In Other Word (14 NE Killingsworth), Floating World Comics (400 NW Couch), Boulevard Books (3129 SE Hawthorne), Adelina Film & Art Books (902 SW Morrison)