the social life, 2008.

looking back across the rich and varied days of the last year, it’s a bit overwhelming to think of all that has transpired..     at the heart of everything is the birth of the Leftbank Project.   While it’s damn near impossible to pin down exactly when it happened, it’s not hard at all to know that it has.   Some might argue it was born through the events it hosted, and others might suggest it was when the first folks from the outside joined in.   Still others will suggest it was most deeply connected with the physical transformation of these wonderful, formerly derelict buildings… regardless, it was quite a year.    For a look back, get cozy and read on..  We’ll be doing a series of these lil’ retrospectives over the next few weeks, starting with this look at the year in events…

that is, EVENTS!
the T:BA festival, Oregon Manifest, the city’s most happening NewYearsEve party..  for a building not yet even officially ‘open’, leftbank’s arrival as a place for happenings was rather auspicious.   Honestly, Even though Leftbank’s been conceived as a place to gather people from the very start, even the most ardent believers amoung us were a bit suprised at this… The fun began in the midst of our so-called indian summer, as we opened our doors to a mellow mob of marchers holding signs that said Nothing high above their head.    It was a reenactment of Anna Halprin’s ‘Blank Placard Happening’- a playfully austere initiation of the 10 days of performance and festivity that is Pica’s T:BA festival.   As home to the WORKS, the late nite hub and spiritual center of the festival, Leftbank saw literally thousands of creative luminaries and revelers gather within its grand, raw space.   And so, the beginning began.       Just a few weeks later came Oregon Manifest, and with it the most righteous collection of handbuilt bikes and bike people on the planet.    It marked the first use of Leftbank’s Greenroom  event space and also brought the opportunity to host what was likely the most raucus bike party of the year, the Rapha Roller Race.

RAPHA Cross Roller Race – Oregon Manifest 2008 from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the garage, the people from pica were preparing for a month long gallery exhibition and yet another party of their own, this one celebrating one of their greatest patrons, Leslie Durst.  This event, called ‘The Butterfly Effect’, gathered some 120 works she has commissioned through pica over the last many years, and also inspired a series of performances Cloud Eye Control’s latest piece, “Under Polaris”.

Under Polaris-fixed from citrusink on Vimeo.

And so this way the fall tumbled on and more events came with it.. Including the IPRC’s annual Text Ball, a holiday party for our good neighbors, the Trailblazers, and in the spirit of the historic, often mind numbing and seemingly endless election season, Ralph Nader stopped by, too.   His occasion was a fundraiser for his presidential run, and while there’s no shortage of excitement around here for Barack Obama’s movement, it was a welcome opportunity to step outside of it all and discuss once more what the words democracy and citizenship truly mean.

As the year wound down, we couldn’t have closed out without a proper nightcap.. and proper it was when Stylus503 and Leftbank pioneers, Chychele,  conspired to create “Rare Magic”, the most smashing and stylish get down of Portland’s NewYears.   It channeled the boppin ghosts of the building’s jazz club past, and ushered in the new year with fine drinks, fine people, and the finest grooves from DJ Beyonda, Rev Shines, and Leroy Trenton.     All said, ’twas a damned fine time.

THE WORKS- Leftbank looks back at TBA ’08

The dust has finally settled, the fairy lights have been packed away and everyone who came for TBA has gone home, but Leftbank doesn’t feel empty any more.  That’s partially due to the tireless construction work which is going on, but also to the trans formative nature of PICA.  They came to the building with artists and friends creating canvasses, conversations, happenings and moments, we were audiences and participants.  By festival’s end I was exhausted and recharged.  We saw and experienced so many great things, included here are links to a few performance reviews and my own reflections on tiny tba, my favorite day this fall…

Willamette Week hosted a number of TBA diary articles, many with video.  Matthew  Korfage posted a great synopsis of the opening night march and Anna Halprin revival happening along with film clips provided by PICA here… Byron Beck raves about Leftbank as a venue and covers the WORKS opening night here… and Mary Christmas rounds out the evening with party photos at Leftbank.

On their website, PICA has a number of blog reviews from outstanding events at the WORKS including, the Neal Medlyn Experience (a live lipsynced Beyonce tribute), The Parenthetical Girls, Ethan Rose & Au, Occurrence Hosted by Reggie Watts, and a write up of the closing night party Brother and Sister where a few brave TBA fans celebrated tattos aquired on the scavenger hunt.

The last day of TBA at the WORKS was devoted to contemporary arts for kids, aka “tiny tba”.  This was my third year as a participant with Indiekid Films, and definitely my favorite.  Belinda and Hova along with Lil G, of Greasy Kid Stuff Mc’d the party with an amazing dance performance from Hot Little Hands , body movement from Anna Oxygen,  and songs from Elizabeth Mitchell.  My kids loved painting the art car from the Children’s Art Healing Project parked in the back lot and making their own visual and verbal poems in a workshop provided by PNCA. I brought in a number of contemporary art films for kids including Makyla Bishop’s Flowers and Love which just showed at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and Joan Gratz’s oscar winning film Mona Lisa Decending a Staircase.  In one of the back rooms we set up a projector and kids made an experimental film on the fly using found 16 mm footage, markers and splicers.  Insturments were on hand inculding the innards from a salvaged piano for impromptu musical accompanyment.  By the end of the afternoon the kids were covered in paint, and peanut butter and completely tuckered out.  I looked around the room and saw some of my very favorite friends from around town meeting for the very first time and collaborating on art projects and thought, “yeah, this is the way things should be.”


I installed “Bang-Bang” in November of 2007 at the Leftbank. The piece “Bang-Bang” was about the building’s impact on the post-WW II jazz community of Portland. During World War II, a significant number of African-American migrant workers traveled from the Southern US to the Columbia River looking for jobs in the booming war time industry. Most of them found work in the Kaiser Shipyards, and when the war ended in 1945, a majority of them stayed, establishing what we know today as North Portland. more