You likely know that Portland has a prolific art scene; the city is full of artists and galleries, and hosts several art walk days such as Last Thursday on NE Alberta Street. Often when we visit galleries we do so because of a particular show they are hosting at the moment. However, if you aren’t on an art circuit, or can’t/don’t want to visit during the bustle of the art walks, it can be daunting to simply explore the galleries on a whim. You also miss out on the intimate feeling of visiting during off-hours and the possibility of being surprised by new art you didn’t think you would enjoy.

We often think of galleries as a blank slate to house the art, but sometimes the gallery is worthy of its own attention whether it is because of the building, the atmosphere or the interesting gallerists. Here I am listing 5 unique Portland galleries that are worth visiting regardless of the show, and can introduce you to various segments of the Portland art world.

Five Must-Visit Portland Art Galleries

Guardino Gallery

Located on NE Alberta at NE 30th Ave, the Guardino Gallery has been consistently showing interesting work for well over a decade. The owners, Sal and Donna Guardino, focus on Pacific Northwest artists and artisans both in their monthly rotating gallery shows and their gift shop. The artists chosen to show reflect diversity in medium, style and background. The gallery itself is welcoming and unpretentious while maintaining quality.

The current show includes intricate textile works that speak to spiritual and ancestral roots, by Portland artist Adriene Cruz, known for her prominent public art pieces. Catch her for an Artist Talk on Saturday, November 14th at 2pm. Also showing until November 21st are encaustics by Anne Mavor and ceramics by Noah Starer.

Guardino Gallery is open Tuesday 11-5 pm, Wednesday through Saturday 11-6 pm and Sunday 11-4 pm.

The Yale Union Building

The Yale Union Building is worth visiting for the building’s history and the renovations done to it alone. YU is interested in being a full-on contemporary art space for the city of Portland with an emphasis on both purely visual and performative arts. In addition to art exhibitions, they also rent out their beautiful space for events and house a printing press. The building, built in 1908, is registered in the National Registry of Historic Places for its role in the laundry industry and the history of women in labor. (For more about the building, check this 2010 article.)

The current exhibit at YU is called “MOMMY” and deals with, you guessed it, issues surrounding concepts of motherhood from over a dozen artists including Aura Rosenberg, Lutz Bacher and Anicka Yi. MOMMY opened October 10th and will continue until December 20th, 2015.

Regular gallery hours at Yale Union are Thursday through Sunday, 3-6pm.


The Ford Gallery

The Ford Building, like Yale Union, is a renovated historic building. But where YU is an arts organization, the Ford is a collection of suites housing many businesses. The main floor includes the Ford Food + Drink café which spills over into an unconventional gallery space. The Ford Gallery encompasses the entirety of a long hallway through the first story of the building. The nice thing about this layout is that you can wander over after a coffee, look at the art, and casually peek into the backdoors of all the storefront businesses since they all share the hallway.

Because of the sheer volume of wall space this gallery offers, it is perfect for a large show of a prolific artist like sculptor and painter, Olinka Broadfoot. This show, up until November 25th, is an assortment of mixed media paintings and sculptures. Some of her pieces incorporate old circuit boards from Communist era Prague, others depict Christian iconography, and many more explore portraiture.

The Ford Gallery is located at 2505 SE 11th Ave. The door lists building hours Mon-Fri 8-5, Exhibition hours Fri-Mon 12-6. However, you can still see the art during later café hours.



Augen is the go-to gallery for people who love the art of printmaking and works on paper, although they also represent painters and other media. They have an impressive collection of Contemporary Master Prints, and they also represent a diverse group of productive artists. Both staff members and the director are highly knowledgeable about the art they have on display, the art in the back, and the artists they represent. I suggest visiting outside of the First Thursday art walk so you can easily ask questions and take advantage of the knowledgeable gallerists.

The current exhibit includes two artists that contrast well together: abstract woodblock prints by Tom Cramer and a collection of delicate tree drawings by Pamela Green. It is up until November 21st.

Augen is located in the Desoto building at 716 NW Davis, which also houses Froelick Gallery, Blue Sky Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft, so it is easy to make a day of it. Open Tuesday–Friday 11:00–5:30 and Saturday 11:00–5:00


The Fernie Brae: A Magical Gallery and Shoppe

The Fernie Brae is one of Portland’s newest galleries and it is also one of the most unique in atmosphere in that it’s dedicated to magical art and Faerie. There is dedicated wall-space to fine art, as well as artisan jewelry, fine crafted dolls, book, cards, prints, and candles. The gallery itself is worthy of a browse because of the attention the owners, Bryonie and Eric Arnold, have given to the space from the wood-work to the little patches of moss and the aged walls… you really do feel like you are in another world.

Their premiere exhibit showcases artists Brian and Wendy Froud (known for their work on movies like Labyrinth and Dark Crystal) and their son Toby. Also exhibited are works from UK artists Rima Staines, Terri Windling, Alan Lee, and many more. These works will be up until mid-December, but because the proprietors have a close relationship with the Froud family, some of their pieces will always be displayed at the Fernie Brae.

Located at 4035 SE Hawthorne Blvd, regular hours at the Fernie Brae are Wednesday through Saturday 11-6, Sunday 12-5, and by appointment.