Internationally known for its Time-Based Arts Festival (TBA), the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) has a long history as a presenter of cutting-edge performance works and visual art installations. In addition to showcasing innovative artists in their adaptable warehouse space in Northeast Portland, this organization enriches the community by funding local artists, projects and visual arts spaces. PICA also encourages artists to research, experiment and collaborate across disciplines.
Where is PICA?
Street parking can be difficult, so using rideshares, bikes and public transit is encouraged. The Rose Quarter Transit Center Max station is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away. A stop for the 4 and 44 TriMet buses is 1.5 blocks away, and a stop for the 17 bus is three blocks away.
When can I visit PICA?
Do I need tickets for PICA?
Is PICA accessible to people who use wheelchairs?
A Quick History
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art was founded in 1995 by Kristy Edmunds, who curated the “Art on the Edge” program for the Portland Art Museum. Edmunds expanded upon this programming through vacant storefronts, warehouses, parks, fountains and parking lots around Portland to allow contemporary artists and audiences to explore art in alternative spaces. Along with a group of dedicated volunteers, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art put Portland on the map as a place that supports experimental artists and artworks.
PICA began the Time-Based Arts Festival (TBA) in 2003, modeled after the Edinburgh Fringe, an intensive festival for young and established artists to share new and experimental works. TBA has since presented well-known artists like Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Marina Abramović, Richard Foreman, Carlos Motta and many more, alongside local artists and performers. In its 20-plus year run, TBA audiences grew from 7,500 in 2003 to 26,000 people in 2022.
After 22 years of presenting in traditional theaters and unconventional venues throughout Portland, PICA relocated to an 18,000-square-foot (5,486 m) warehouse in Northeast Portland. The capacious warehouse contains a box office, a resource room with a contemporary art library, a black-box theater and a bar with a small selection of beverages and snacks. An open warehouse space also transforms to hold galas, dance parties, lectures, rock shows, drag balls, installations, sonic experiments, artist-led workshops and more.
The variability of what you might see and experience at PICA is part of its charm. It could be a video installation in quadraphonic sound with bean bag chairs slunk around a darkened room or a musical performance pulsing from speakers in the middle of the warehouse as onlookers stick to the walls. An interactive installation of modular synths may welcome guests to don headphones and plug cords into different inputs, experiencing new and changed sounds. You might see contemporary dance traditionally lit on a stage or a theatrical performance that transports you from an urban warehouse to a sonic and visually immersive world. PICA’s exhibitions, performances and festival events offer the opportunity to discuss contemporary art or merely enjoy something beautiful, complicated or flashy.
Accessibility at PICA
PICA endeavors to be accessible for all visitors, no matter their needs. Select performances, conversations, workshops and events offer ASL interpretation. For guests with access needs, PICA provides priority seating, bartop menus and ADA wheelchair accessible bathrooms and facilities. Earplugs are available for all performances and on-site staff are always prepared to answer questions and offer accommodations.
Events and Community Engagement at PICA
Time-Based Arts Festival
Called “the best contemporary summer festival in the country” by The New York Times, PICA’s Time-Based Arts Festival (TBA) was founded in 2003 as a 10-day annual festival featuring boundary-pushing performances, visual art and projects that defy categorization.
In 2023, PICA launched Time-Released, which extends the 10-day TBA festival format into a months-long festival presented in short bursts from August into late fall. With the hope of allowing artists and audiences to spend more time with the work, Time-Released offers multiple showings of new performances. It also includes events like panel discussions and artist-led workshops to allow for deeper connections with the exhibits and art.
Programs at PICA
Beyond the festival, PICA hosts occasional performances and curates exhibitions, often in partnership with other local arts organizations. With a focus on community arts education, PICA’s Institute organizes workshops and lectures from well-known and emerging artists to cultivate understanding and context for new performance works and exhibitions.
PICA also seeks to enrich Portland’s artistic landscape by bringing local, national and international artists together at the Creative Exchange Lab, an invitation-only artistic residency that encourages collaboration and experimentation between artists from all backgrounds, disciplines and perspectives. PICA further invests in Portland’s artist community with the Precipice Fund, distributing over $61,000 for 13 projects and 37 individual artists since its start in 2013.
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