Meet your neighbors: Oak Grove Art Studios

Artist Jennifer Finn explains how the Oak Grove Art Studios, a new art co-op in downtown Oak Grove, began. She meets me on the street on Oak Grove Blvd. and we climb the stairs to the second-story art studios.

“I was on a Bike Milwaukie ride on the Trolley Trail and noticed some of the buildings in the neighborhood,” she says. “I’d never been to Oak Grove. I came back the next day and peeked into one of the properties and my husband looked up and saw the for rent sign above the Oak Grove Bar. My first reaction was, ‘look at all the windows.’”

The building that houses the studio has had various incarnations throughout the decades, including a butcher shop, shooting gallery, and a ticket office for the long-lost trolley.

Flash forward to December 2012 and the studio is open and in full gear. Finn, who lives in the Ardenwald neighborhood of Milwaukie, leases a large portion of the upstairs and sub-lets it out to other artists. It’s an impressive space: open, with a creative vibe that’s noticeable when immediately entering. Various media, from fabric, paintings, to hand-knit materials are tucked away in each space. The building’s post-industrial distressed interior walls adds to the ambiance.

One of the artists that shares the space with Finn is Joseph Riso who also lives in the area. Riso’s space isn’t as packed as usual since he’s currently showing his work at the Spring Creek Coffee House. He was introduced to the studio through photographer (and recently elected Milwaukie city council member) Mark Gamba. “I know Mark and he was taking pictures of my work and he mentioned the space to me,” says Riso. “I like the spot; the space is cool. I also like the different business owners in the neighborhood. I just showed some work at Rocco’s across the street and it sold well. I’m also looking forward to next year’s farmers market.”

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Recent work by Riso created at a local event.

Riso also does mural work in the Portland area and painted the Trolley Trail signage on the side wall across the street from the studios at Quilter’s Corner and most recently designed and created a mural commissioned by The Mystery Gallery on McLoughlin Blvd.

Finn gives me a quick tour of the other artist’s areas in the space, including Joe Macca, David Ratzlaff and Kathryn Stinson and then we head back to her spot in the studio that overlooks Oak Grove Blvd.

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“I feel like I’m finally settling in,” Finn says, “and my spot gives me a great view of the neighborhood. I’m influenced by what’s out the windows.” Pointing to a now-barren late fall tree across the street, a few weeks ago it was bright yellow with leaves and shined in the sun. Finn was so inspired by it, she painted the scene and it now hangs in her studio. She also walks across the street to Belle Fleur once a week and picks up a bouquet of flowers which she paints and then displays at Belle Fleur.

“We’ve got a two-year lease but I see staying here beyond that,” adds Finn.

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Oak Grove Art Studios, located at 2099 Suite B Oak Grove Blvd. will open its doors on December 7, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. as part of downtown Oak Grove’s First Friday event. Local shops along Oak Grove Blvd. will stay open late, Sellwood Soap Company will give demonstrations, Hips Chicks Do Wine will have tastings and there will be snacks and music.

To see some of Finn’s current work, visit Flora, downtown Portland. Here’s a gallery of pics from the studio tour:

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