This month, I am calling attention to Portland’s exquisite Russo Lee Gallery, which features artists’ work from throughout the Pacific Northwest. For my Portland-local audience, the gallery is located off 21st Avenue – a perfect opportunity to spend the day touring the Russo Lee Gallery and exploring the attractions of NW Portland!
Stay tuned at the end of this blog for food, drink, and shopping recommendations within walking distance of the Russo Lee Gallery!
The Russo Lee Gallery: Then and Now
When Russo founded the gallery, her mission was: “to represent regional artists and connect them with the local community through regular exhibitions and artists’ talks, and with a national and international audience.” The gallery still features artists and artwork who inaugurated the showroom in 1986, and have since ushered a new generation of PNW artists into the gallery “helping to foster Portland’s vibrant visual arts scene.”
In 2010, Laura Russo, who committed her life to Portland and her innate passion for mid-century art, handed her torch officially to Martha Lee before passing on. She was a “seemingly shy yet tough” art dealer who is said to be responsible for establishing Portland as a contemporary, creative mecca. Beyond her founding of the Russo Lee Gallery, she was known for her work with Arlene Schnitzer and the Fountain Gallery in 1961 and the development of the First Thursday Group, now known as the Portland Art Dealers Association. In regard to Russo’s death in 2010, Arlene Schnitzer commented, “it’s not the end of an era, it’s the evolution of one.”
Laura Russo photographed at JoBar by Catherine Karnow
Laura Russo believed in her artists and the power of art to connect a community. Her influence in Portland transcends today – the Russo Lee Gallery has reached capacity and is not actively taking art submissions (as of April 2022). In lieu of adding to the gallery’s permanent artwork displays, two local artists are featured each month in a rotating art showing. Below, I have handpicked four art pieces displayed in the Russo Lee Gallery, including statements from the artists themselves, as a preview to the gallery as a whole.
Artist Statement, “When I think about a piece first in my head I visualize it [displayed] in about 15 shapes. When I bring it to a venue, I work with handlers who are more familiar with the space than I am. Together we figure out the best way to hang each piece."
This Month’s Featured Exhibition
Fernandanz was raised locally in Portland and received his BFA from the Northwest College of Art. Since his graduation, he has left his mark across the PNW and California, recently featured at the Seattle Art Museum.
The Russo Lee Gallery features two artists each month, in addition to their permanent artwork. View the gallery’s exhibition calendar and mark your calendars!
For three decades, Laura Russo, Martha Lee, and the Russo Lee staff have showcased the finest Contemporary art of the Pacific Northwest. Although there is more to be said about a gallery than the art alone – Russo dedicated her career to enriching Portland, and our community with culture, technique, and creative inspiration.
Since 1986, the gallery has been located off NW 21st Avenue, as the chic culture of Nob Hill developed around it. When visiting the Russo Lee Gallery, make sure to reserve a full day to enjoy the artwork and explore the surrounding streets. Below, find a list of recommended restaurants, cafes, and bars within walking distance of the gallery.
Enjoy your visit!
- Urban Fondue – Stylist, red-velvet-clad interior, serving indulgent fondue.
- BHUNA – Casual vibe, serving rich Indian dishes.
- Serratto – A fusion of Italian and Mediterranean-style dishes.
- Bar West – Quaint cafe with a famous brunch menu.
- 23 Hoyt – Chic tavern, serving American-Spanish fusion cuisine.
CAFES AND BARS