A Quirky Extravaganza of Art and Diversity - Alberta Arts District in Portland

This artsy, unique area prizes its individualism and displays its eclectic mix of art galleries, shops, and restaurants with great, swelling pride. The interesting mix of Alberta style is in part created by the multi-cultural diversity of the residents, the visitors, and the art. Some stores have been in the district for what seems like forever, while new ones contribute to the ever-changing flair.

The Alberta District didn't earn its nickname, the "Arts District,'' just because of its many galleries displaying local artworks. In fact, each and every restaurant and coffee shop gratuitously displays arts of all kinds, and each shop is so unique that it almost functions as its own art gallery. As if this wasn't enough to show off their incredible, vibrant style, the district is full of murals and statues that can be enjoyed by people just passing by. In fact, the Alberta Arts District feels like a functional museum, and it's impossible to pass by without noticing it and taking a long look.

Retail stores sell all kinds of trendy and interesting items, such as paper mache lamps, handmade local designer clothing, and imported gifts from afar. Each subculture in Portland seems to be represented by at least one coffee house, since it seems there can never be enough coffee shops in the city, and events, such as artsy fairs and festivals, take place in the area year-round.

For example, the district features an event called "Last Thursday'' where on each Thursday of the month, galleries and shops are open late for viewers to enjoy. It's perhaps the most popular and well-known event in the district, and its made possible be "Art on Alberta.''

Art on Alberta, a nonprofit coordination of art-related organizations, functions to provide education to a wide ranging audience to "foster understanding and appreciation al all forms of art.'' This organization is in charge of the annual Art Hop, which displays varieties of art, juried exhibits, and all kinds of performances. During the Art Hop, an enormous diversity of stands and carts are available selling food, face painting, crafts, and art works. The AoA (Art on Alberta) proudly states that their intent is "(to increase) the visibility of the art events in this community to foster the voice that we lend to the larger dialogue. Hosting a major art event such as Art Hop challenges our members, animates and inspires artists, unifies the business community, and builds Alberta Street's reputation as an exciting place for art in the Portland metropolitan area.''

AoA also provides an Art Map for the Last Thursday Art Walk. It organizes the Art Agog project, which creates scrap metal structures made by teens in the Vocational Village to display on the street, and the Tannenbaum Maddness where unusual holiday trees are displayed. They even publish a monthly electronic newsletter. They oversee the Community Mural Project, inviting community members to increase the beauty of the district through painting, and they also focus on revitalizing buildings all over the district, commercial as well as residential. Without AoA, Alberta would not be the magnificent collection of art and culture that it is today.

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