For the first time in 11 years, Portland's schedule of spring and summer street fairs will not include Art on Alberta's Art Hop. The one-day annual celebration put on each year by AoA—the nonprofit founded to promote the Alberta Arts District—last year drew to the district more than 15,000 visitors, allowing artists and gallery owners to mix and mingle with vendors, neighbors, tourists, foodies, drinkers and all-around revelers.
According to AoA board member and public relations coordinator Jaye Campbell, the AoA began to realize that it was no longer easy to find consistent sponsorship to fund the increasing costs of putting on the Hop (hiring police presence, closing off city streets), especially considering the still-unfolding fate of the district's grassroots-organized, monthly Last Thursday events, comprehensively detailed last year by Neighborhood Notes contributor Liz Hummer.
"We decided that maybe we would have more impact doing things differently," Campbell says.
Over the course of the last year, says Campbell, AoA often consulted with the Regional Arts & Culture Council's George Thorn, who helped the organization realign and reinvent itself. It was during this time that the AoA's Hilary Pfeifer came across what they've now dubbed the "Red Rover," a 1960s Teardrop trailer which had been repurposed as a mobile art gallery by an independent regional art collective. The collective, Campbell says, had installed in the trailer several windows, which were used to exhibit the collective's artwork, which they showcased as it traveled from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.
It wasn't long before the AoA's board of directors voted to buy, refurbish, repair and repaint the trailer, deciding that, rather than bring people to the art district for only one day each year, they would instead bring the district to the people all year long.
"It's a perfect manifestation of our goal to bring art to the people and to cultivate art and arts education," Campbell says, because it helps not only to showcase an artist's work, but because the Red Rover can also serve as mobile invitation to remind Portlanders to travel to and explore the Alberta Arts District.
Each month, Campbell says, the Red Rover will feature exhibitions by individual artists, or artist groups and will travel around the city making stops at community functions, art fairs, street fairs and schools.
At present, the AoA is calling on artists to present their work in time for Red Rover's official unveiling at the art district's Last Thursday event on June 30.
The public has, however, received a sneak preview of the gallery's potential when it was christened in April for the Alberta Street Clean Up Day by a group of young students working with SCRAP (School and Community Reuse Action Project). From outside the Red Rover, the public could view the students' collective exhibition, "Wild Things," in which they turned Red Rover into a a sort of menagerie, installing it with found and discarded objects they sculpted into animal representations.
Artists interested in exhibiting their work in the Red Rover should email Alice Orleman McLean at submissions (at) artonalberta dot org. The deadline to show work through the month of July is June 1. Artists are also encouraged to donate at least two hours of time to travels with the gallery to serve as docents when the gallery visits schools and gatherings.
Those interested in bringing the Red Rover to their events or schools (or even those interested in towing the trailer to any or all of them) can email Susannah Kelly at exhibitions (at) artonalberta dot org.