Portland was the site of an exciting event in the world of photographic studies this past fall. For three days, from October 19 through 21, a group of emerging photography curators, historians, and nonprofit professionals gathered from around the US, Canada, and the UK for the first meeting of a new network: FOCUS. Blue Sky's Executive Director, Todd J. Tubutis, partnered with the Portland Art Museum's Minor White Curator of Photography, Julia Dolan, to co-organize this inaugural event.
After a tour of Newspace Center for Photography and the Portland Art Museum's photo galleries, the weekend officially began with a Welcome Reception at the lumber room and exhibition preview of Terrain Shift, featuring photographs and video from the collection of Sarah Miller Meigs. Despite a (typical) rainy Friday evening, FOCUS:PDX attendees also had the great opportunity to meet more than 40 invited curators, gallerists, artists, and other professionals from Portland's thriving arts community.
On Saturday, everyone gathered for a day-long conversation about the purpose and goals of FOCUS, including an incredibly fruitful session where each participant shared with the group their research interests as well current and future projects. The day undoubtedly ended with new contacts and ideas for collaborative exhibitions and publications. But wait...there was more!
Drs. Stu Levy and Cris Maranze hosted FOCUS:PDX at their home that evening for a viewing of their extensive photography collection, and some tasty appetizers by Cheese and Crack.
After a lovely dinner at Luce, the group convened again the next morning at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art for breakfast, then concluded the conference with a session here at Blue Sky. That Sunday, just before Noon, everyone present came to agreement on a concise identity statement for this new exciting network:
"FOCUS is a non-commercial collaborative network of emerging curators, academics, and other professionals who further the understanding of photography through research, scholarship, exhibition, and publication."
There was overwhelmingly positive response from those who came to Portland for the conference. As one participant summarized her experience, "it was wonderful to meet so many fellow-emerging curators and academics, many of whom I've known only by name or email. I love the idea that we will all 'grow up together' in this business, which makes networking among us now invaluable. It was thrilling to hear about the research, publication, and exhibition projects that members of this group are developing. I've already made plans for collaboration with several people from the meeting. Without this opportunity to meet and exchange ideas, that collaboration would not have taken shape."
FOCUS will convene again next year in New Orleans, hosted by Russell Lord, Curator of Photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and then in Rochester, New York, October 9-12, 2014, hosted by Jessica Johnston and Jamie Allen, Assistant Curators at the George Eastman House.
FOCUS:PDX was supported, in part, by the Portland Art Museum, Regional Arts & Culture Council, Sarah Miller Meigs and the lumber room, The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Portland Art Focus, Portland Art Dealers Association, Fraenkel Gallery, and Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts. Co-organizers Julia Dolan and Todd J. Tubutis would like to express their gratitude to the leadership of their respective institutions for supporting this endeavor.