Portland Open Studios

Explore the homes and workspaces of more than 100 local artists.

_74A5414-cropArtist Shannon Carlson works in her Southeast Portland studio.
Ashley Anderson

Portland is known for its thriving creative community, which embraces mediums including painting, photography, ceramics, woodworking and jewelry making. For two weekends every October, visitors can witness more than 100 local artists’ creative processes during Portland Open Studios.


Portland Open Studios was started in 1998 by Portland painter Kitty Wallis. The citywide event takes place in the personal studios of painters, photographers, printmakers, jewelry designers and other talented craftspeople. Attendees lead themselves on self-guided tours, visiting creative workspaces ranging from living rooms and converted sheds to shared industrial warehouses.   

“Open Studios is like a glimpse into another secret world that exists right under our noses,” says artist Amy Ponteri. An acrylic painter and art therapist, Ponteri creates large-scale works at her studio in the Ford Building, a former Model T plant built in 1914. “[Artists] mostly do our work quietly, in isolation or around just a few other people,” she says. “This is an opportunity to throw open the windows, let the sun in, and show our work and our processes to others.”

Around 200 artists apply to participate in Open Studios each year. Typically 100 or so are chosen, with selections made by a blind jury composed of three arts professionals. (The jury members change each year.) The blind jury process — based solely on images of the artwork — produces a diverse selection of emerging and established artists.

Portland’s Poppy Dully showcases her work. (Photo by Ashley Anderson.)


As part of Open Studios, artists are encouraged to facilitate interactive experiences for guests. Rather than simply viewing artwork, attendees can converse with the artists, ask questions and observe their creativity in action.

“Artists like meeting the people and having a personal connection with them,” says Pat Kane, Open Studios communications chair. Kane describes the tours as less formal than visiting a gallery, with the artist/viewer interaction making art more accessible. “It’s an energetic experience,” she says. “The artists are glad to see people, talk to them and look them in the eye.”

Many artists participating in the 2017 edition of Portland Open Studios will enable guests to make art during their visit. Encaustic (hot wax) artist Maude May, whose studio doubles as her dining room, will show visitors how to make their own encaustic collage. Painter Shannon Carlson, who loves collaborative art, will invite guests to pick up a paintbrush and add to her work. Poppy Dully, a painter, printmaker and book artist, will have a work table and materials for people to construct their own personalized books.

Families with kids are welcome on the Portland Open Studios tour. Watercolor painter Winifred Martinson’s studio will feature a children’s station for kids to paint their own works. Glass artist Bob Heath will have glassware available for visitors to decorate (for a small fee), creating a take-home memento. 


Artists also have work for sale during the tour, though Kane emphasizes that there is no pressure to buy. For those interested in purchasing art, meeting the artists behind the work can give chosen pieces more meaning.

As oil painter Dane Eisenbart points out, “Connecting with artists in their studios gives you the unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their art and where it comes from.” Eisenbart is a member of North Portland’s Falcon Art Community, an underground studio collective that he likens to a “secret museum art dungeon.” During Open Studios, Eisenbart will demonstrate the techniques used to create his dreamlike paintings of animals, people and manmade objects. (He’ll also have prints for sale.)

Shannon Carlson works on a mixed media painting. (Photo by Ashley Anderson.)


Held Oct. 14–15 and Oct. 21–22, 2017, from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., this year’s Portland Open Studios features 103 artists throughout the Portland metro area. Tour locations are accessible in three formats: a free mobile app (pre-loaded with addresses); a $4.99 upgraded app that includes Google maps for the addresses and images from participating artists; and a $15 full-color print guide with artist information, images of artwork and community maps.

Kane says that some tour guests focus on one or two neighborhoods that feature several studios. (Southeast Portland, for example, is popular for walking or biking parts of the tour.) Others might choose to see artists working in a particular medium. However you approach it, Portland Open Studios provides an excellent opportunity to engage with local artists and various communities. “This is the perfect event for a visitor,” said Kane. “You can be all over the city and meet all kinds of people.”

Portland Open Studios’ printed guide is available through the Portland Open Studios website or from the following businesses: Blick Art Supply, Artist & Craftsman Supply, Portland Art Museum, Madrona Hill Cafe, Guardino Gallery, Bullseye Glass, Copy Pilot (North Portland) and New Seasons Market.

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