2004 Prize Winner
A self-described "vision person," Gavin Shettler has an imaginative flair well-suited to the task at hand. On Jan. 7, Shettler and his colleagues will open what they hope will become Portland's art mecca, a nonprofit gallery and cafe. Currently, faded newsprint still covers the windows of the unassuming building at 2045 SE Belmont St. Inside, a dusty yellow hard-hats lie piled in the center of the unfinished gallery. But Shettler has it all mapped out. The Portland Art Center will provide a meeting space for artists and nonprofits alike will showcase local artwork that can't find a home in Portland galleries. Shettler is especially interested in installation art, "which can't be done in commercial gallery because you can't sell the stuff." The son of a minister, he learned the important of community service early on. Shettler attended college at Texas Christian University on a full ride, but decided to drop out to play cello in a rock band, which, he now concedes, "was not that great of an idea." In 1994, Shettler, who was born in Aberdeen, Wash., repatriated to the Northwest to finish school. In 2000, began helping a friend run a gallery in the Everett Lofts. Shettler loved the work and decided to pen his own space, the Gavin Shettler Gallery. During this endeavor, he encountered a stream of artists needing advice about how to prepare portfolios, show their art and find buyers. Shettler, responded with his first nonprofit enterprise, the Modern Zoo, which showed installations in donated spaces throughout the city. When Shettler and business partner Bryan Suereth parted ways earlier this year, the Modern Zoo disappeared and the Portland Art Center was born. The young director's cell phone rings incessantly. A sleeping bag lies crumpled in the corner of his office, and one gets the impression that his life and work are one and the same. "I'll put in anywhere from four to 10 hours a day," he says not counting the bartending gig needed to make ends meet. "Every one of my Mondays is at least an 18-hour shift." Or, at least it was. When asked what he planned to do with the Skidmore Prize money, Shettler replies with glee. "I've already done it. I quit my job. I don't want to bartend, I want to do this," he says, with a gesture encompassing the empty building. "One of the things I'd like to do is to curate the bathroom. To get submissions for the bathroom. To use the whole space, you know?"