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The Region's Art

Pete Springer/OPB

How have the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards impacted the local art scene?

The Portland Art Museum’s has garnered a lot of attention lately with its inaugural Contemporary Northwest Art Awards (CNAA). The exhibition opened earlier this summer, showcasing a number of works from five regional artists and awarding one the top $10,000 prize. The visual smorgasbord includes stop-motion animation, paintings, drawings, sculptures in neon and ceramics and installations constructed using wool blankets.

The CNAA replaced the long-running Oregon Biennial, which featured fewer works from more artists. It also, for the first time, considered artists from outside Oregon — specifically from Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. This year’s exhibition features four Washington artists and one Portlander. The process for creating the show also differs from its predecessor. Artists can’t submit their own work directly anymore. Instead, the museum solicits names from the regional art community (gallery owners, regional curators, and critics).

What does Oregon gain from this regionally focused art exhibit? What do we lose? How have the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards impacted the local art scene?


  • Jennifer Gately: Curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum
  • Dan Attoe: Artist featured in the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards
  • Jeff Jahn: Publisher of Port
  • Richard Speer: Visual arts critic at Willamette Week, contributing critic at ARTnews and contributing editor at art ltd

Photo credit: Marie Watt, Forget-me-not: Mothers and Sons, 2008, Reclaimed wool blankets, satin binding, thread, name tags, and steel, 10 x 20 feet, Image courtesy the artist, Photo by Adam McIsaac.

portland art museum visual art artist

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