Stumptown Artist Fellowship

Dec 01, 2017

Over the past decade, we’ve been honored to work alongside some of the best and brightest paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs from regional artists in our Portland and Seattle cafes. Since 2007, these galleries within our cafes have both launched and furthered careers by Northwest greats, including some of our talented very own coworkers. (We’re looking at you, Tim Root, Tim Wenzel, and Ty Ennis.)

This month, we’re thrilled to continue that legacy and announce alongside the freshen-up of our downtown Portland cafe, the launch of the brand new Stumptown Artist Fellowship program with an inaugural museum-worthy solo exhibit by Wendy Red Star. Red Star is a Portland artist working across disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonialist structures, both historically and in contemporary society.

Curated by May Barruel, gallery owner and curator of Nationale, and curator of the downtown cafe since 2007, the artist fellowship is designed with the understanding that producing high-quality, large-scale work is often a big financial undertaking for working artists.

Each artist selected by May and a small committee will be awarded a $2000 award and a solo exhibit in our Portland downtown cafe for six to eight weeks, with a catered artist reception.

“As we aim to attract artists further along in their careers and give the cafe more of a gallery atmosphere, we wanted to recognize people who have been dedicated to their art practice and who have contributed to the cultural wealth of our city, and assist them in producing outstanding work,” May says.

The first two recipients of the fellowship are the Portland artists Wendy Red Star, followed by Jennifer Brommer. Wendy Red Star will be presenting a series she showed at the Seattle Art Museum in 2016 when she was awarded the prestigious Betty Bowen Award. She created five pieces for the Stumptown show in addition to the seven shown in Seattle.

“Wendy's work is so important, I was blown away by her piece Apsáalooke Feminist last year at the Portland Art Museum, and it is a true honor to have her show at our downtown cafe this month,” says May. “In February and March 2018, Jennifer Brommer will be presenting a series of large photographs depicting her 90-year-old grandmother's life in Memphis, Tennessee. I'm especially excited to see the sheer contrast between these wild and weird southern interiors and our stark, modern cafe.”

We sat down with a cup to talk to May about the new fellowship.

Stumptown has a long history of supporting regional artists - how does this continue to build upon that legacy?

Stumptown has always had at least one curator on staff, someone whose part-time job is dedicated to selecting, installing, and promoting shows. Since 2007, we’ve had two, with Wendy Swartz curating our East Side cafes. This ensures that the work of the artists we show is professionally presented and promoted, often making those exhibitions the last stop before showing in a more traditional gallery.

What do you take into account when curating for a the downtown cafe space versus your own gallery Nationale? How do you think the fellowship will help support our community and promote conversation?

I try to be a lot more conscious of what our customers and staff might want to see when curating the cafe. Whether someone is going to have enough great work to fill the space is also very important because it is huge and that can be quite challenging. Over the years it has become apparent that what works best here are very large pieces. Bright colors also keep people happy, especially in the winter.

At Nationale, I have to also consider the programming itself, so that it's cohesive and makes sense together. I'm also much more invested in building long term relationships with the artists I represent there. And interestingly, many of these relationships have actually started with solo shows at Stumptown, including artists Amy Bernstein, Ty Ennis, Jaik Faulk, and William Matheson.

What are you looking forward to most about this program?

Supporting and recognizing artists who are working hard in this increasingly expensive city, and who, regardless of the challenges they face (single parenthood, day jobs, underrepresentation, etc.) are still finding the time and energy to make outstanding work. I’m looking forward to offering our customers the chance to see gallery—and in the case of Wendy Red Star— museum-worthy exhibitions.


Wendy Red Star’s solo exhibition Grandmothers (I Come As One But I Stand As Ten Thousand) runs December 7th, 2017 through January 31st, 2018. The reception is Thursday, December 7th, 7–9pm. Portland Downtown Cafe, 128 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR.

Photo 2 in image lockup: © Wendy Red Star