This installation was unique in that I was able to marry the aesthetics of an old building undergoing renovations with historical Portland photography. The perfect match. I with the designers at Group Mackenzie, as well as the project development lead at Blackhawk. Our initial meeting took place at the construction site, to map out locations for artwork. From the get-go, the designers knew the VA Clinic, their client, wanted current and historic Portland images. Prior to this meeting, I curated a digital image file of historic Portland and Oregon photography, which was the perfect kick start to get the ideas rolling, and get feed back from the client. After the walk though, we had areas in each room selected for artwork, in the upstairs entry, the waiting area, and the community room, as well as the employee area which is downstairs.
With the image selection completed and locations selected, the big issue next was whether or not it was possible to hang artwork in brick walls. One of the things I love most about my job is solving my clients’ problems, and what was of great concern to this client was the issue of hanging art on the brick walls, without the bricks crumbling. The solution was easy, I pointed out, as one of my many resources is a professional installation team that is equipped for just this type of tricky installation.
The designers wanted to compliment the maple wood that was used in the finish carpentry work. I liked the idea of maple wood frames, but thought a darker finish would be a nice complement to the black and white historic photos, specifically against the brick in the front waiting room. There was a lot of maple already there with lockers and other accessories, so a darker frame would set the artwork apart. I suggested a steel grey, but the client really wanted something warmer. A compromise was made, and a matte walnut finish ended up working well in the space.
In the end, as it does many times, the budget took first place. Not all of our desired locations got art on the wall, but the space does look great! We were able to add historic photography to most of the main areas. The feedback so far is that people want to know what the images are, when they were taken, and where. I presented title plates to them, which will be a wonderful finish to this project, and we’re working on getting those added. Lesson learned: people have an innate curiosity, and when I’m dealing with a large installation of historical photography or artwork, addressing the concept of information-giving title plates should be part of the initial presentation.
It was a fun project, and neat to hear feedback about the people who would eventually be in the space to appreciate the artwork.
Chris Pero, Art Consultant