After the better part of a decade of exile in Westbrook, the Bakery Photo Collective is coming home to Portland. In an era where artists all over the city are struggling hard to find affordable rents, the collective — one of the first to flee gentrification back in 2009 — is returning to the art scene that spawned it.
Founded in a former bakery on Pleasant Street in 2000, the collective is an member-run digital and darkroom space — plus a gallery — serving fine art and commercial photographers. It left Portland for a larger footprint in Westbrook’s Dana Warp Mill, where that city’s government gave it a favorably-termed loan to help build out the space.
But the lease ran out this year and the membership has been dwindling. So they decided to move back to Portland. They’ve transferred all their equipment to 630 Forest Ave., a storefront previously occupied by Phoenix Glass. The collective is currently raising money to finish the interior.
The move was made easier by one of the collective’s members, Jocelyn Lee. She and her husband bought the building, which also houses Ahram Halal Market, and is leasing the storefront to the group.
“I didn’t have a problem going out to Westbrook,” said longtime member and West End resident Tonee Harbert. “I know a lot of people did. It was just too far or too inconvenient.”
The new location, where thousands of cars pass daily, should boost the collective’s name recognition. It’s the opposite of its former, anonymous digs, deep in the bowels of the old mill in Westbrook.
“We’ve definitely had a lot of interest since we announced that we’re coming back to Portland,” said Harbert. “I expect our membership is going to be building. We just got a new member the other day.”
Busy, five-way, Woodfords Corner is experiencing a miniature revival. After nearly 20 years of being stuck at quarter past two, the Oddfellows hall clock was repaired in August. About a year ago, the folks behind Woodford Food and Beverage brought fine dining back to the corner. There’s also plans afoot for some public art in a redesigned plaza in front of the Oddfellows building.
“Yeah, it does seem like Woodfords Corner is being rejuvenated some,” said Harbert. “And we’re happy to play any role we can in that.”
The Bakery Collective hopes to re-open in early 2017. They’re looking for the public’s help in doing so with an Indiegogo campaign. As of this morning, members were only $7,760 deep into their $35,000 goal, with 14 days to go.
“We have some big plans while we’re here in Portland to really expand our public programming since we will be that much more visible right here on the corner of Forest Avenue,” said Harbert.