Portland, Oregon’s Blue Sky Gallery entered its 40th year with a retrospective exhibition at the Portland Art Museum and the launch of Blue Sky Books, a new print-on-demand publishing program that offers affordable books by 36 of the artists who’ve shown at the gallery.
Since it opened in 1975 as a collaborative project by local photographers, Blue Sky Gallery has grown into an important photography outlet with an international reputation. It shows the
work of both emerging and established photographers from the region, the country and throughout the world.
The museum exhibition includes more than 120 works and looks back on more than 700 exhibitions at the gallery by 650 photographers.
The book program grew in part from the gallery’s DIY esthetic. “We’re a very populous, democratic gallery,” says Christopher Rauschenberg, president of the Blue Sky board of directors and the editor of Blue Sky Books. “We’re an artist’s space, and artists don’t have any money,” he says. The books cost $18 dollars on average and can be ordered through MagCloud, the print-on-demand service owned by Blurb. The price includes a 15-percent fee for the artist and a 15-percent fee for the gallery.
By releasing 36 books at once, as the gallery did in October, Rauschenberg felt the artists could leverage their collective networks to promote the endeavor. “We’ve asked everybody to not just put your own book out but promote the whole series,” Rauschenberg says.
Community support and collective effort have contributed to the gallery’s longevity.
Rauschenberg remembers the flood of exhibition proposals the gallery received soon after they opened so many years ago. “We came in with a certain amount of a dream, and then other people’s dreams have added to it,” he says. – Conor Risch
“Blue Sky: The Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts at 40” runs through January 11, 2015 at the Portland Art Museum.