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Why Portland Needs All-Women Art Spaces

Killjoy Collective in Portland, OR is a feminist alternative gallery space giving a platform to women and women-identifying artists in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Killjoy Collective

This article originally appeared on Creators.

As part of 50 States of Art, Creators is inviting artists to contribute first person accounts of what it is like to live and create in their communities. Killjoy Collective is a group of multidisciplinary artists running a feminist alternative gallery space in Southeast Portland.

We are Killjoy Collective, made up of Rachel Brown Smith, Maggie-Rose Condit, E.M. Fuller, Anastasia Greer, Tessa Heck, and BriAnna Rosen. We met in graduate school, hailing from all corners of the US. We grew very close and talked about our dream of managing our own space for close to two years. Our individual work ranges from painting, to sculpture, textiles, installation, video, stand-up, print media, to social practice. Our goal is to provide a platform to increase the visibility of women and women-identifying artists in the Portland art community and beyond. By hosting events such as exhibitions (which we take turns curating), screenings, and happenings, our local audience is able to engage with emerging and underserved artists who are voicing resistance and deserve notoriety.

Shortly after acquiring our space, we composed our Womanifesto, which states our objectives within our forum to foster criticality, promote progressive language, destroy expectations, cultivate cooperation, and surprise the senses. Beyond these goals, we like to think of our space as one filled with joy, excitement, and fresh ideas. Killjoy recently hosted a Nasty Women exhibition featuring over 40 artists from Portland to Amsterdam, raising funds to benefit a fantastic local organization, the Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter. We are currently planning an upcoming Panty Drive event, Laugh Your Panties Off, supporting the same organization, which will feature several comedy and performance-based acts.

Installation view of POST exhibition at Killjoy Collective (November 2016). Photo courtesy Zach George.

Portland is a great town in which to be an artist, especially having access to events such as the Time Based Arts Festival. It's a city saturated with artists of all ages and their enthusiastic supporters. Portland is constantly re-imagining ways of living, and is incredibly intellectually engaged. However, Portland also has its fair share of ugly problems. Though Portland in certain aspects embraces multiculturalism and promotes social justice, rising property costs and gentrification have driven historically marginalized groups further from metropolitan centers, and forced artists out of studio/gallery spaces and the neighborhoods they helped develop. Viable spaces to live and work in are difficult to come by. Alternative artist-run spaces have become the solution for many of our emerging artist friends. Some of our favorite artists host events in their living rooms, chicken coops, garages, and basements (we are in the basement of the Troy Laundry Building).

Opening of Transference exhibition at Killjoy Collective (March 2017). Photo courtesy Killjoy Collective.

The need is stronger than ever to create and sustain art spaces in Portland and the greater United States. Last November, after discussing plans for the inaugural exhibition at the gallery, all of the Killjoy members walked across the street to the local bar to watch the results of the 2016 presidential election and bask in the glory of our newly acquired gallery space. The atmosphere quickly changed once it was determined that the United States would have to once again wait for its first woman president. But with this defeat came a refreshed dedication to the ideals of intersectional feminism and art as resistance.

Our role as operators of the Killjoy space is to ensure that we celebrate women making challenging political work, women of color, immigrant women, indigenous women, queer women, and trans women, and that our language and ideas are ever-evolving, and open to discussion. We want to showcase badass women - and get as many people in the door to join the party as we can (while respecting fire codes).

Opening of POST exhibition at Killjoy Collective (November 2016). Photo courtesy Zach George.

Nasty Women exhibition at Killjoy Collective (February 2017). Photo courtesy Zach George.

Opening of POST exhibition at Killjoy Collective (November 2016). Photo courtesy Zach George.

Nasty Women exhibition at Killjoy Collective (February 2017). Photo courtesy Zach George.

Opening of Transference exhibition at Killjoy Collective (March 2017). Photo courtesy Killjoy Collective.

To learn more about Killjoy Collective, visit their website.

All year, we're highlighting 50 States of Art projects around the United States. This month, we're covering Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Tennessee, and Delaware. To learn more, click here.

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