Friday, January 25, 2008

Finding SoWa's Soul

Under the radar, a series of South Waterfront District Artist in Residence events have been happening at the South Waterfront District, with an eye to honing in on some sense of place in our cities newest neighborhood. AiR Studio is hosting, Linda K. Johnson, wants to provide a sense of history for a place that is percieved to have none. She will be implementing place-based ephemeral and performance works throughout the year. Check out Corpus Botanicus for a taste of the site-works, and investigate her Daily Movement Journal: 'A day-by-day accumulation of movements sourced from a rotating series of sites in the neighborhood, this extended dance phrase will capture Johnson’s daily impressions of the neighborhood over the residency year.'

:: From the Daily Movement Journal - image via

To expand on the placed-based approach Stephen Beaven profiles Johnson's approach and writes in yesterday's Oregonian about the monthly rotating series of 13 guest AiRs that are looking to engage in a variety of media to explore this common themes. Currently, I have been working alongside a group of much more talented writers, some of them SoWa residents, under the expert tutelage of writer David Oates exploring themes of Portland's Past, Present, and Future, and culminating in a collaborative piece of found poetry.

Another fascinating upcoming event is the Urban Acupuncture Project by Artist Adam Kuby. Slated as the guest residence for March, his project aims to investigate this phenomenon: In the artists words:

"I plan to bring together a group comprised of acupuncturists, city planners, art professionals, people from the city’s Asian communities, poets, writers, etc. Together we will re-envision Portland as a metaphorical body, map its meridians and diagnose its health. As a group we will explore how energy flows through the city and what parts of the metropolitan area might correspond to what bodily systems."

:: Urban Acupuncture - image via Adam Kuby

Will these art endeavors successfully unearth some of the hidden history or dare I say, a Soul of SoWa? Time will tell, although participation by residents and other community members at least allows us to feel connected to a place. There is already history and place. These alone provide fertile seeds.

In addition to site, good architecture, the signature tram project, expert planning, and quality built form - add taste and texture. Along with these activities, the upcoming SoWa Neighborhood Park design being completed by Hargreaves Associates, and implementation of (in some form) the SoWa Greenway designed by Thomas Balsley and Walker Macy will add some much needed ground-level greenery and context to the mass of current urbanization. Finally, the Greenway Art Plan created by Seattle artist Buster Simpson will hopefull infuse some additional, more permanent, artistic placemaking into the mix.

:: image of South Waterfront Greenway via Portland Parks

The final ingredient: perhaps, is time.

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