Best Places for Oregon Creatives: Alberta Arts District

The Alberta Arts District
The Alberta Arts District

You don’t have to dig deep to find creative culture in Portland’s Alberta Arts District. Painted murals of bright colors splash the side of nearly every building. Eateries and coffee shops display rotating local art on their walls. The streets are dotted with public art installations—even the garbage cans were designed by a local artist using recycled street signs. In this bohemian neighborhood, art isn’t stuffy or uppity. It’s accessible.

Alberta wasn’t always the hip, thriving area that it is today. One of Portland’s oldest areas, the Alberta neighborhood was established by mostly immigrants in the 1880s. It quickly became known for its affordable housing for the working class, drawing many African American families from other areas. Alberta’s founding residents are still represented by the area’s multicultural flavor of art. Business was thriving throughout the early 1900s, but the ’60s and ’70s brought massive displacement of residents due to large building projects in the neighborhood. Violence, vandalism and gang activity ensued, and Alberta was deemed an unsafe, steeply declining community.

Painting by Matt Schlosky

However, the 1990s brought new optimism as community organizations banded together to create a vision for a better Alberta, focusing on development of small neighborhood businesses. These groups established one of the neighborhood’s most successful attractions: Alberta’s Last Thursday art walk. As attendance to the event grew each month, marked by art, street performers and food, Alberta became associated with the arts.

Today, you can still attend Last Thursday or the annual Alberta Street Fair, art-centered events that ultimately helped turn the neighborhood around. For visual artists, collectives like Alberta Street Gallery draw extremely diverse makers. Nonprofit Alberta Art Works aims to beautify and create community with public art. Resources can be found at the popular art and craft store Collage or the Modern Domestic, a design-minded fabric store that hosts courses in sewing.
For creatives who are fashion-oriented, local clothing designers are celebrated in stores like Frock and Tumblewood Boutique.

Need fuel for creativity? The Alberta Arts District is home to some of the best eats in Portland. Find comfort food at Pine State Biscuits, Indian flavor at Bollywood Theater or a slice of sweetness at the Random Order Pie Bar.

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