MEET THE AWARD-WINNING ARTISTS OF PORTLAND OPEN STUDIOS
Portland’s oldest and largest art studio tour is this October! Visit 117 artists in their studios in many neighborhoods in greater Portland (find our contactless tour guide at www.portlandopenstudios.com). You can get a peek into how an artist works, ask questions, and tour the many creative micro-businesses in your own and other neighborhoods.
This year, we’d like to introduce you to our accomplished scholarship winners – of the Kimberly Gales Emerging Artist (age 20-30) Scholarship, and the newly established Molly Cliff Hilts Scholarship for Historically Marginalized Artists. These artists scored highest with our jury panel, and we know they’ll score high with you, too, so don’t miss them on the tour.
MOLLY CLIFF HILTS SCHOLARS
Linda Dalal Sawaya, Studio #14, was born in LA, the youngest of five children, from Lebanese immigrants who made creating art central to family life. “My mother and my grandmother were craftswomen,” she says, “my dad was a photographer … My grandfather was a Renaissance man – a doctor who spoke eight languages and created eclectic collaged journals.” So inspired, Sawaya says she has done many art forms: ceramics, collaging, painting and sculpture. She wrote, photographed and designed her own Lebanese cookbook, too. You will find ALL these influences in her studio during the 2022 tour.
After earning an Environmental Design degree from UCLA, Sawaya says it was the rain that caused her to eventually move north to Portland – quite literally. “I actually got a job at a magazine called RAIN: The Journal of Appropriate Technology, in 1977. It covered solar, wind and geothermal power, recycling and beyond.”
Since then, she’s worked as a creative –teaching art in schools or her studio, doing graphic design, illustrating children’s books, and painting murals, among other things. Her family connections are also extremely cherished influences. Her work continues to evolve, too.
“When people ask when I will retire, my response is ‘Artists never retire’,” she says, “This is what we love to do.”
Cole Reed, studio #55, is a true Renaissance woman. She has a dimensional mind and a career with art woven through everything she does. Whether it’s industrial design, running a gallery, running the anti-racism non-profit she’s founded, running a co-working facility, building sculptures, designing indoor and outdoor spaces, or burning wood reliefs, among other things, she is constantly creating. The difference, now?
“I am no longer a businesswoman who does art,” she says. “I’m an artist who does business. And the business is the business of making change.”
Reed, who was born in Chicago and studied in Arizona and California, moved with her business partner, Day, to Portland because Oregon offers same-sex adoption (she has three kids now). She and Day ran Greenhaus Gallery, representing BIPOC artists, on MLK Avenue for ten years. Increasingly hateful, racist actions against the gallery and Reed herself caused them to close the gallery in 2022 and pursue what Reed calls “gangster of joy.” (it’s on all her business cards)
To combat the racism she experiences in Portland, she founded Exit the Maze, with the goal of exposing the invisible tentacles of racism by creating and energizing a diverse community of engaged leaders. For Cole, building community around creating art is an essential part of any healing process. (She’ll host two other open studio artists at her space this year).
“I want to bring education and mental health using art,” she says. “I’m a neurodivergent artist and designer, I cannot think inside the box.”
Tieara Myers, studio #30, balances her abstract painting career and practice with work as an event planner and psychic meditation teacher. Her art, she says, “is not about complicated patterns. It’s symbols, colours and shapes. I want it to be easy and I want it to be fun.” Circles feature prominently in her work, which she says symbolize both beginning and completion and are made with everything from jar lids to pizza pans. “My circles are never perfect,” she says. “Intentionally like everyday life.”
Myers, who moved from Chicago to Portland two years ago, says she’s always created and made things with her hands. It was acrylic pours that first attracted her to paint, because “you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she says. And now her apartment is also her studio, with art supplies spilling out from every corner of the space.
“Color has a deep impact on me and is an integral part of my daily meditation practice and teaching. It pulls from each person something different - because the color will have a personal meaning for everyone,” she says.
“It’s interesting to see how your art changes as you change,” she observes. “I went through a phase where I was hiding in my life. My artwork at that time was darker and more subdued. But now, as a creative, I’m really going for it, so pink and gold are now the colours I turn to most often.”
KIMBERLY GALES EMERGING ARTIST SCHOLARS
Elizabeth Fennelly, Studio #21, may be an emerging artist – but her medium, tintype photography, is centuries old.
“I know, I know,” she laughs, “I’m young and my medium is really, really old. But I can’t help it, I love old processes.”
The Beaverton native said she was drawn to wet plate work, an alternative, hand-made process, when she got her arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York, graduating in 2015, and returning to the area in 2018.
“I loved silk screen painting, photography, things where I had to use my hands to make things come alive,” she said.
Visitors to Fennelly’s North Portland will get to experience the process, by getting a tintype photo taken in front of her big, old-school camera and watching the tintype develop in the different solutions. For a fee, they can own the tintype.
Zachary McRae, Studio #82, describes himself as a self-taught artist who moved from drawing to abstract painting, using primarily acrylic and oil and big brushes to create his intuitive works.
He began to take art seriously, he said, while on a study abroad program in Tokyo, Japan in his early twenties.
“I found myself putting myself into dangerous situations several times,” he said. “In the last one, I woke up with a broken nose after falling off a bicycle. I suffered memory loss from the combined result of a concussion and overconsumption of alcohol. Let’s just say it was a wake-up call for me to direct my energy to something I could be proud of.”
McRae has lived around the country, and is new to Portland – he moved here from New York with his wife, Kaila, in 2020, and they’ve since had a baby, Julian. He’s currently getting a master’s in education, works as a substitute teacher, and paints out of his home studio.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting other artists and art patrons,” he says. “Moving here during the pandemic has slowed that process down.”