Living in Portland, Oregon has exposed my children to more art and culture, which is something I don’t take for granted, considering such exposure isn’t available in all areas of the country. Here, it’s everywhere; from the handful of art deco buildings in downtown, to the Portlandia statue, to the innumerable art galleries around Portland State University; Portland is a hub of art. My children appreciate this.
So, when I asked the kids what they wanted to do this weekend, they nixed the zoo, they poo-pooed the park, they snubbed their noses at the beach. “We want to go to the Portland Art Museum!” My heart warmed and a smile spread across my face.
I gladly say to my wife, “Come on, honey. Let’s go to the Art Museum.” (This was always our top choice anyway).
The Portland Art Museum (not to be confused with the Portland Museum of Art) is located in the Park District of Downtown Portland and has both impressive permanent displays and rotating exhibits. The permanent displays feature everything from American Realist paintings, to graphic arts to sculptures to, my personal favorite, Native American Art. The Native American pieces remind me both of the rich cultural Native American Heritage of the Pacific Northwest and serve as a reminder that I am the true immigrant in this region.
My kids like the modern art.
They rush to those seemingly nonsensical displays of splashed color and random sketches and they imagine what they mean. In one, my son sees a boat at sea surrounded by sharks with money for teeth. In that same painting, my daughter sees a tent hovering precipitously over a canyon filled with honey badgers wielding crossbows. My wife and I, even though we try to pretend we get it, see nothing but random colors and squiggles and shapes. If only we had the imaginations of children.
We move on.
Sculptures. Paintings. Sketches. Pottery. We see it all. No matter your cultural aesthetic, there is something here that you can enjoy and attach yourself too. The Portland Art Museum is as diverse as it is unique. It both celebrates Portland and the world at large. It reminds one of the late greats while bringing to light many lesser known and burgeoning artists. It does what good museums do: present the art without subtext, without judgment and without sentimentality. It’s raw art and raw emotion and it is largely left open to the interpretation of the viewer. Perhaps that’s why my children are so fond. It allows them to delve into the imagination. I like it because it’s free for them and because it broadens their horizons.
Next time you have a free day, consider the Portland Art Museum. It’s open every day except Mondays and it reasonably priced ($15 for adults, $12 for seniors and free for kids seventeen and under). Visit the Portland Art Museum and celebrate the creativity of those who have (and do) occupied this terrific blue planet.