Sunday, July 13, 2008

Block Party

The Craft PDX Block Party was a free community event put on by the Museum of Contemporary Craft. On its second year, it was also to celebrate the Museum's one-year anniversary in its new Pearl District/ North Park Blocks location- although it's actually been part of Portland's cultural landscape for at least 70 years.

Funny thing- I got my dates mixed up and I mistakenly waited in the park for almost two hours the day before the actual event. And there I was thinking they were being disorganized since they were still having to set up mere minutes away from when I thought they were scheduled to start.

Anyway, a craft block party was not what I was normally into but it was something to do on a Sunday afternoon. Boasting of lectures, live music, and art demonstrations, I decided to see what it was all about. The venue was held not only in the Museum itself but also spilling out into the streets on three sides of the building under tents to provide shade from the sun.

Out there, I walked by stalls where different guilds were representing a specific craft- sculpting, woodworking, weaving, and glass blowing just to name a few. There was also a place for kids to play with clay and make figures. Another area was reserved for making your own raku pots- a specific way of firing pottery which creates designs on the wares. Food carts were also lined up to provide nourishments for those who had more than a hunger for the arts and crafts.

I then went inside the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Needless to say, I felt out of place there as I knew nothing about art. I just looked at each piece, lingering longer on those that caught my eye for one reason or other. One of which was a collection by John and Robin Gumaelius. (Information were provided by pieces of paper next to each display and not from my inherent knowledge of artists and their works.) They made sculptures that were a mixture of bird and human forms. For example, the body of a bird was also a human head. They were definitely different.

Then there were these cool movable glass sculptures by Andy Paiko. One was called "Spinning Wheel" which was very elaborate in design. Another was "Balance"- a glass-blown scale. Mostly there were ceramic vessels- like bowls and vases but there were also furniture, jewelry, and some tapestries. A popular piece was of a bent over happy child with flowers stemming out of its butt appropriately entitled "Flower Child".

On the second floor was a retrospective exhibit of a Pacific Northwest artist named Ken Shores. What was cool was his "Feather Fetishes" display in which he combined ceramic sculptures with feathers to create something new and interesting.

I also sat through a lecture on the Museum's history that was commemorated by the publishing of "Unpacking the Collection". The curator and author- Namita Gupta Wiggers- was the speaker. While the lecture was comparable to being in class again- and it did kind of drag towards the end, I found it fascinating how deep people can sometimes get with art, finding meaning in what I'd call just very colorful bowls.

After that I went back out where a stage was set up and listened to the Scrambled Ape- one of the five bands scheduled to play throughout the day's festivities. Their sound was what I thought of as catchy funky music because I really can't describe music well either. But as put in better terms by one of the members, they played cartoon jazz which is exactly what it sounded like- a very fitting background music if Wile E. Coyote was chasing the Road Runner at that very moment.

All in all, the Craft Block Party was a very pleasant enriching experience. It was incredible that the Museum would hold a free community event giving people a chance to explore the world of arts and crafts when they normally wouldn't be exposed to those things. I was also amazed once again by how supportive and encouraging Portlanders were of their local talents and by how volunteerism really helped with the running of these kinds of events.

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