PICA Lands a New Home in Northeast Portland

The contemporary and experimental art presenter has been given a 16,000-square-foot warehouse just off N Williams Ave.

By Fiona McCann April 21, 2016

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15 NE Hancock will be PICA's new home.

Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), the cultural powerhouse behind Portland’s annual Time-Based-Art festival, has found a permanent new home—a 16,000-square-foot space in inner Northeast Portland.

The space was donated by philanthropist and PICA board member Allie Furlotti, who purchased the building at 15 NE Hancock last month with PICA in mind. “PICA needs a secure home and spaces for large scale projects. For example, their annual Time-Based Art Festival is endangered in the shifting Portland landscape,” says Furlotti. “They have been providing a critical civic and cultural contribution for 20 years and I want to see it extend into the far future.”

Furlotti has offered PICA a long-term, low-rent lease as the primary tenant in the building at a time when arts spaces are increasingly hard to come by.

Having a permanent office and performance space represents a departure for PICA, which was founded in 1995 as an itinerant organization, at a time when new spaces for projects were easily secured. “We could just call one or two developers and say 'What about that space?'” recalls Victoria Frey, PICA’s executive director. “Developers at the time were sitting on a lot of properties waiting to develop and thinking of us as a catalyst. But we’re in a market now where these spaces are developed as fast as they’re being purchased.”

PICA, which over the years has found homes in the Pearl, at Washington High School in Southeast, and more recently at the Redd, also in Southeast, will use the new space for offices, TBA, their annual gala event TADA!, a resource room, performances, exhibitions, residencies, and public programs.

“Stability is a really important part of this,” says Frey. “If we’re spending less energy finding and building space, we’re going to spend more energy serving the artists and programs that we already have.”

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Inside the new space at NE Hancock.

According to PICA board chair Ethan Seltzer, the move comes at a pivotal time for Portland and for its artistic community. “The genius of the city is that it brings people together and it allows them to interact in ways that create new ideas and come up with new takes on the world and new ways of doing things,” says Seltzer. “That’s why cities are so cool—they bring people and ideas together. So we need places for that too happen, and that’s what this building will do.”

In the past 18 months alone, several arts organizations shifted around the city as rents rose and new development trumped long-term leases: among them, Conduit, NW Dance Company, and theater company Third Rail, which crossed the water to share a Southeast space with Imago. PICA’s new space doubles down on contemporary artists and their audiences, while allowing the organization—known for bringing renowned international artists and performers—to expand year-round programming.

“We’re 21,” says Frey. “We just got the keys to the new house and it’s time to really figure out how we’ll do it differently in our community while remaining very focused on our mission to artists.”

PICA's annual benefit gala TADA! takes place at the Redd on April 30.

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