Last year, Strawberry Pickle’s future was looking grim.
The artist and DJ sold her house to fund Rainbow City (21 SE 11th Ave.), the psychedelic warehouse just off East Burnside she opened in January 2020. People told Pickle for years that she’d never get her self-described “community center for the weird” off the ground. But her critics didn’t count on just how many weirdos would come out of the woodwork to validate her vision.
“It’s a really diverse and accepting group of people,” she says.
Pickle grew up in Portland attending legendary all-ages venues like City Nightclub, X-Ray Cafe, and Big Bang Warehouse. When no heirs apparent emerged after the Barmageddon of the mid-2010s, she set out to find a roof under which to unite misfits from the hip-hop, rave, drag and under-21 crowds. She found it in Southeast Portland.
At its calmest, Rainbow City acts as a trippy art gallery, populated with vivid cartoon murals, furry day-glo monsters and lifesize sculptures of a horse, a triceratops and Darth Vader. But when the energy turns up, it’s impossible to categorize: It has hosted everything from water-gun fights and lightsaber duels to fashion shows and music video shoots.
Pickle now sets her sights on philanthropic events. Her first one will benefit survivors of domestic violence, and she hopes to support more efforts as parties come back.
“After being able to survive COVID for a year, when a lot of other people had to close their doors,” Pickle says, “the community had so much to do with donating and helping us along that we want to give back to the community.”