The multimedia arts center known as Disjecta has had more lives than most cats—and now it has another. Founder/director Bryan Suereth (pictured) has announced the opening of a new venue where Disjecta will mount visual arts programming as well as music events, dance, and performance art.
The 12,000-square-foot building at 8371 N Interstate Ave. will be the nonprofit's third location, after an inaugural stint (2000-2004) at the Northeast Russell Street building (116 NE Russell St.) now occupied by the Secret Society Ballroom and a troubled tenure (2005-2007) in the Templeton Building (230 E Burnside St.) on the southeast side of the Burnside Bridge. The new location, in the Kenton neighborhood, used to be a bowling alley, then a hydraulic shop, but in recent years had gone derelict. Suereth says he has signed a 10-year lease with the building's owner, the Grunbaum Family Trust, and will rent out five artist studios and a performance rehearsal space in the complex, allowing for a total of 3,500 square feet dedicated to regular visual arts exhibitions.
To kick off the space, Disjecta is mounting a group show called Immaterialized, curated by Damien Gilley, a graduate student in P.S.U.'s studio art program and director of Igloo Gallery in the Everett Station Lofts. Beginning next year, Suereth hopes to begin a rotating curatorial residency program in which curators will put on seven shows per year, receiving a stipend of $1,000 per month for twelve months. At the end of the one-year period, a new curator will take over for the next twelve months, and so on. He hopes this unconventional model will attract local and emerging national curators and "give them a steadier dialogue with the community and the ability to really hone what they're bringing to the exhibition space."
Disjecta's seven-person board of directors will continue endeavoring to raise money for the organization, while two recent windfalls have enabled the nonprofit to move forward with its new location: a $35,000 grant from the Portland Development Commission and a $25,000 grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. But Suereth doesn't intend to run Disjecta on grants and individual donations alone. "One of the biggest things we've learned in the cultural and philanthropy scene in Portland is that the percentage of earned revenue to the overall budget is extremely important. The Portland Art Center certainly provided an obvious instance of an institution that had gotten some grants early on but that didn't have any earned income to speak of." The key lesson, he holds, is to combine grants and individual donations with money-generating enterprises such as renting out artist studios and mounting events such as music concerts.
Suereth says he is working gratis for Disjecta until the organization grows more. He also acknowledges that past donors are not jumping through hoops to shower the nonprofit with cash. "Until we prove ourselves again, some people are sitting back and saying, ‘We've given.... Now we want to see some results.' And I think that's fair." In the course of the nonprofit's many ups and downs, he has also suffered from the impression that he can be a mercurial personality with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. "I'm kind of a no-nonsense person," he acknowledges, "and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way. I think the pressures of trying to get an arts organization going can be overwhelming, and perhaps that has given people the impression that I'm short-tempered, but I really do try to be genteel, and I'm looking forward to going forward with artists and the public and keeping Disjecta an essential resource."