For 350-odd days of the calendar year, the Washington High School building sits blank and boarded. All the ground-level windows are blocked by sheets of plywood, and all the exterior alcoves are walled in by chain-link fencing. “What are they doing with that place?” murmur nearby residents, and the neighborhood dog-walkers and soccer players who use the school’s surrounding lawn.
Enter PICA, aka the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. For a few days of the waning summer, PICA’s preparing to bring the defunct edifice to life. The signs are already popping up: trucks pulling onto the lawn; seeming staff, dressed uniformly in black, ushering in cargo. A big black banner now adorns the brick building’s west wall, and a corrugated steel shipping crate landed a couple weeks ago at the northwest corner, tags in-tact and bearing a deceptively industrial paint job emblazoned with the letters “TBA.” The innocuous box suddenly opened as a ticket-selling office. (A “box office.” Get it? Oh, clever, clever PICA.)
PICA’s Time Based Art festival (TBA), a ten-day sensory overload featuring a carefully curated pastiche of mostly modern and post-modern performance art, traditionally establishes a home base it refers to as “The Works.” The name equally evokes art-museum jargon and hamburger-stand slang—oddly appropriate considering TBA’s simultaneous prestige and irreverence. Throughout the years, various locations have been christened “The Works,” from Pearl-area warehouse spaces, to Eastside industrial, bridge-hugging hideaways. But last year and this, The Washington High School Building on SE 14th and Stark has held the honors, hosting banquets, talks, concerts, and dance performances, and generally establishing a hub for hobnobbing.
Portland Culturephile has planned comprehensive TBA coverage. Details are forthcoming. But meanwhile, the Washington High School building has begun its second-annual magical transformation: from pile of bricks, to piece of work.
For a more comprehensive list of upcoming events, visit the Arts & Entertainment Calendar!