Fresh art and a beer garden: just what Bend needs.Sean Anderson looks happily stressed. He moves around the gallery at PoetHouse Art checking on the sound equipment, the event staff, the guests and, through it all, his two young daughters. PoetHouse Art - a spot you've probably walked below and didn't even realize - is throwing a benefit for Rise Up, a non-profit that provides education and outreach to the poor in places like India, Nicaragua and China on this recent Thursday night, featuring local artists and musicians in their one-room studio and gallery.
PoetHouse Art began as an idea in the back of Anderson's mind as he and his wife attended a First Friday art walk in January and happened to stop in at the TBD Advertising on Bond Street and noticed the vacant loft space. Anderson, a graphic artist, says he had an idea for a combined gallery and studio art space, but had never come across an opportunity to do anything with it. After meeting with some friends who also expressed interest in a joint art studio/gallery, the group put in an offer to TBD for the space. According to Anderson, the space had been vacant for about a year and TBD had turned down requests from other businesses in the hopes that they could fill it with a more creative enterprise.
The room, with its open ceiling and exposed rafters, consists of a row of individual studios separated by a heavy-duty floor-to-ceiling canvas drop cloth. No two studios look alike. While one studio contains rows of brightly colored paintings, the next contains an array of old newspapers and pieces of wire while another has the floor covered with blankets and pillows because that particular artist prefers to work from the floor.
PoetHouse celebrated its initial First Friday in April and hasn't looked back. While Anderson says friends and colleagues warned that he wouldn't sell much on the First Fridays, PoetHouse has sold art at every show and has received a warm reception from the people of Bend.
What makes PoetHouse unique is its approach to the art scene, a route that Anderson describes as a "pay it forward" experience.
"Most co-ops are for the benefit of the artists," says Anderson. "Ours is driven toward benefiting the community, which then, in turn, benefits the artists."
According to Anderson, a majority of new artists cannot afford studio space. Instead of giving an artist a fixed studio rate, PoetHouse asks what he or she can afford to pay and then works with that artist to make it happen. Anderson says that PoetHouse hopes that by investing in their artists in this way, the artists will turn around and invest in the community.
So what's in store for PoetHouse Art? Since the gallery changes its art over on a regular basis, look for a variety of upcoming local artwork shows each month as well as local music acts.
"Art is more than just painting and we're trying to live that out," says Anderson. "We have a lot of great talent in the local people."
An hour into the benefit, there is a good-sized crowd of about 30 people, with more trickling in. The audience ranges from middle-school-aged kids to folks who could easily pass as their parents and everything in between. The next band takes the stage to begin warming up. Anderson, never stationary for more than a few minutes, is still checking to make sure everything is going smoothly. It's only been five months since the idea for a joint studio/gallery space was set into motion, but it seems that PoetHouse Art is already finding a nice niche within the Bend gallery scene.