By Maquette Reeverts | Alberta Art Works
Started in 1997, Last Thursday was a people-powered solution to bring patrons to the Alberta district. Never advertised, the event grew in popularity and prompted community members to plead with the city to close Alberta Street for safety as crowds started to pour off the sidewalks.
It took several nonfunctioning cars and brazen artists to push them into the street to stop the traffic flow before the city took note.
Alberta arts community was charged with reigning in the event that happened five summer nights, and Friends of Last Thursday was born. The volunteer group raised funds to pay for toilets and security, built street barricades to close off the 15 blocks, met monthly with city stakeholders, recruited volunteers to become community liaisons and got the first permit for the event.
It was mayor Charlie Hales who took the handling of the event away from the community and gave it to his aide to run, and it was later handed to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) when mayor Ted Wheeler stepped in. Currently Greg Raisman, PBOT Livable Street Program specialist, is working with local leaders and groups to bring the management back into the community.
Last year the pandemic sent Last Thursday events to the internet.
This summer, Lizzy Caston is leading Alberta Main Street and, together with the community, will be guiding the direction of the event. Until the pandemic has passed, Alberta Street will not close. Instead, you will find live performances, community art projects and a few pop-up vendors as the galleries hold their openings on the last Thursdays of each month.
Find out more information and downstream videos of performances at LastThursdayPortland.org.
Michel Reeverts, aka Maquette , holds a master of arts degree in art education, serves Alberta Art Works as director and Alberta Street Gallery as a board member. She is also a practicing artist. Contact her at Maquette@AlbertaArtWorks.org