Paige Knwell, who heads the îfearl Arts Foundation, is langely responsible for bringing such artists to Portland. Pbwell, who returned to her hometown after 15 years in New “fork, where she was associate publisher of Intervieıo magazine, says, “It’s kind of amazing how design oriented this city has become. In a way it makes sense because you have this lovely, old Victorian city that hasn’t been destroyed by commercial development, so of course it’s going to attract a lot of people who are interested in keeping it beautiful. But it’s stül quite something.” Psrhaps inevitably, the response to Portland’s evolution has not ali been favor able. “There’s a long tradition of people who think of Portland as their own para dise that nobody else knows about,” says City Commissioner Eric Sten. “And, of course, those people aren’t too psyched to see the city becoming şort of popular and polished.”
The primary casualty, of course, is the city’s dark, seedy charm, which is fast disappearing under fresh coats of plaster and paint. Malkmus com plains that “the only old, shabby places that are left here now are self consciously so, so there’s really no place to hang out anymore.” And Portland’s unofficial poet laureate, Walt Curtis, laments, “The thing that’s too bad about the develop ment is that a lot of the city’s bohemian flavor has been lost in the process; I mean, this used to be a place where people could come and afford to live and be Creative without having to work too hard, but now the rents are so high that kids can’t really afford to do that.” Stili, many of those “kids” have made a tidy profit from the city’s evo lution.
A trip inside Wieden + Kennedy reveals Malia Jensen’s Beaver Story an enormous plywood statue of a beaver and sleek con temporary furniture created by local designer Tom Ghilarducci (who also designed some of the furniture inside Bluehour). “The Creative community here is very small but very strong,” says Ghilarducci, who followed a girlfriend to Portland from Massachusetts in the early Nineties and never left. “Everybody knows each other, and people tend to work together more so than they might in larger cities.” And although Ghilarducci acknowledges that the city’s character is fast becoming “more hip than hippie,” he says that “people stili feel really free to be themselves in a way that you wouldn’t come across elsewhere. I mean, we have a lesbian mayor, the last mayor was a bartender, and the governor goes every where in jeans and cowboy boots. Where else are you going to find that?”