TC Smith: A celebration & benefit

TC-OptionA-Hero-960x540As many of you know, I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) a few years ago and have experienced an exceptional recovery. I was lucky. I gave a talk about my journey at the Curiosity Club a few weeks ago. It’s online now if you want to hear my story.

But that’s not what I am writing about today. I am writing about someone who was not so lucky. TC Smith of Portland’s ShowDrape was a longtime friend and supporter of the arts. He suffered a TBI at work and passed away December 30th, 2014.

If you’ve been to a public performance in Portland in the last several decades, chances are TC and his company were probably behind the scenes helping bring it to life.

PICA and many friends of TC have pulled together an event March 30th to honor TC’s life and his many acts of generosity, kindness, and everyday heroics. The event is also an opportunity to help offset the vast medical expenses incurred by TC’s family.

TC Smith Benefit Celebration

Performances and media by:
Linda Austin
The Boris & Natasha Dancers:  Brian Jennings, Bill Boese, Chris Rousseau, Jeff Forbes, Dora Gaskill, Summer Turpin, Dug Martell, and maybe more!
Jessica Kelley
Vanessa Renwick
Do Jump!
Pixie Dust Productions
Open mic for toasts and tributes, and more to come! Reception to follow.

Details from PICA

March 30, 2015
7 – 10 pm
Lincoln Performance Hall
Portland State University
1620 SW Park
Portland, OR 97201

I’d like to also say thank you to PICA for putting this event together. This is of course a great opportunity to celebrate TC’s life and his contributions to our community. But it is also an opportunity to simply celebrate the fabric of the community we are all part of.

If you find yourself standing in Lincoln Hall on March 30th, take a moment to stop and look around. Breathe in and marvel at how people and organizations can come together to support and care for one another. I could feel that very energy and love at an event that PICA put together to help me and my family during my recovery. It was a truly inspiring thing, one this I know I will never forget.

If you can’t make it to the event and want to help TC’s family directly, please visit their YouCaring page.


Posted in Art, events, Opinion | Leave a comment

More Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Students Now That I’m Not Taking Their Money


Bitter MFA Dude chastises the whiny MFA memoirist

Bitter MFA Dude chastises the whiny MFA memoirist

by E. T. Moreno

I recently left a teaching position in a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program. I had a handful of students whose work sounded like something I myself might write. The vast majority, unfortunately, were literally not me. (And yes, I did just use the word “literally” in 2015, outside the context of a marketing meeting—even though I’m a Great Writer.) Here are some things I learned from these experiences.

Writers are born with talent.
I know this because I was there, in the delivery room, when each of my students was born. I easily recognized the ones who were destined to write memoirs that would make me cry, because they popped out within the first two hours of labor, holding first edition hardcovers of Pynchon novels, using umbilical cords for bookmarks.

If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.
Talent is baked in, hardwired, God-given—if the Fates didn’t see fit to bless you with lyrical skillz like mine while you were in the womb, chances are you did something really bad in a previous lifetime. The gods may also see fit to curse you with being nonwhite or female. Continue reading

Posted in Opinion, zombies | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Through the universe and into the moment

I did a talk earlier this week at the Hand Eye Supply Curiosity Club. If you weren’t able to make it, I am sharing the video here. It contains my presentation as well as the Q & A.

There are a few books that I reference in my talk. Links to those resources are here, below the video.

The title of this post is something my friend Jeff Faulker said when he shared this video on Facebook today. I like that idea a lot, thanks Jeff.


The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson


Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Doing Better: How I Broke My Brain and Changed My Mind


When I set out on my bike for my normal ride to work toward the Steel Bridge on May 18, 2012, my to-do list was packed with stuff—call designers for Plazm, the magazine I art direct; manage global retail campaign for the launch of Windows 8; prepare my work for an art installation; take my family to my cousin’s birthday party. A couple weeks later, my task list said, “Wake up more,” written on a whiteboard in my hospital room. I had no memory of the accident itself. Apparently I flew over the handlebars and smashed the left side of my head into the pavement, resulting in a severe Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI.

My bike accident put a process into motion: coma, returning to consciousness, inhabiting a pre-verbal state, and being unable to walk or control my body. My view of the earth, human life, and our role as individuals has changed. I am still recovering and exploring new territory. As I have added things back into my life, I have taken the approach of evaluation. How much time do these activities take? How engaging are they to me? Do they fit my values? There are many things clamoring for our attention in today’s world. These can cloud our judgment and distract us from what truly matters. How do we filter out the noise and find what is meaningful to us? This is an opportunity to do better.

Join me at the Curiosity Club for my talk next Tuesday, February 24th, 6:00 pm—Details here


Posted in Art, Design, events, Plazm events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plazm Farmhouse Ale release party featuring Asss, Regular Music, Mary Lattimore, and DJ Jason Urick

plazm_farmhouse_UHI’ve been working on the Fort George brand since day one. I remember when Chris and Jack first sat down with me in my office. They brought a big collection of beer labels from around the world and we talked about doing something unique. They didn’t want to look like just another beer label. They wanted something that represented both the rich, industrious heritage of Astoria and the organic, hand-crafted artisanship that they were dedicated to.

A few years later they put in a canning line and Plazm started creating a packaging system. We also developed an approach to their seasonals that celebrated artists and artisans throughout the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes Fort Geroge collaborates with other breweries. Sometimes they collaborate with a coffee roaster. Other times they team up with a record label. About six months ago they said they wanted to do a collaborative beer celebrating Plazm—the magazine I helped found in 1991 and continue to publish periodically to this day.

What a nice thing. I’m very happy about this collaboration and what it has become. The can design was a collaboration too—with my Plazm partner Niko Courtelis.

You will be able to find the beer starting last week of January where Fort George is typically sold. They distribute exclusively in the Pacific Northwest.

We are having some release parties too! Details are below. I hope you can join us at one of these events and raise a glass or can to collaboration and creativity.

The February 1 free show at Holocene was booked by Eric Mast (aka E*Rock). Thanks Eric! We will be raffling off a Plazm collector’s edition box as well as some other fun things. And there will be free limited edition commemorative stamps made by Niko Courtelis for the first 50 people through the door.

Sunday – February 1st
Free show featuring Asss, Regular Music, and Mary Lattimore
1001 SE Morrison Street
Portland, Oregon
8pm – 11pm

Facebook event page.

Here’s a photo of the press proofs of the new 16 oz. can.


If you want the beer without the free show, here are some other Plazm Farmhouse Ale events throughout the Northwest.

Thursday – January 29th
The Bier Stein 1591 Willamette Street
Eugene, Oregon
6pm – 9pm

Friday – January 30th
Belmont Station
4500 SE Stark Street
Portland, Oregon
5pm – 8pm

Saturday – February 7th
Beer Junction
Seattle, Washington
4511 California Ave SW
4pm – 7pm

Posted in Design, events, Plazm events | Leave a comment

Stamps ate my brain

102114_Image01_5980383b-6c28-4119-9b52-6c8b05c5e3c8 (1)Join Plazm’s Niko Courtelis for a talk at the Hand Eye Supply Curiosity Club. First Curiosity Club in the new location!

Stamps are tiny pieces of eye candy with great stories. Niko’s is a cautionary tale of a casual pursuit that’s become a passionate obsession. The discussion will range from his childhood stamp collecting and graphic excellence, to correspondence and mail art, and the absurdity of collecting turn-of-the-last-century perforating machines. He’ll be sharing some very unusual, artful, and rare stamps. There’s a lot more to these little things than you might think!

6–7 PM
Tuesday 10/21/14
Hand Eye Supply


Here’s the talk if you missed it:



Posted in Art, events, Opinion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Do designer’s read?

Just in time for back-to-design-school I made this shirt. It’s available at Buy Olympia. Thanks to Pat for producing it. So, is it true? What do you think? There was a little discussion about it in the AIGA LinkedIn group today. That was fun.

Posted in Art, Opinion, plazm thread | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Two years ago today

Hi friends

I am writing on the anniversary of my bike accident. Many of you have offered love, support, and positive energy to me and my family, which is why you are receiving this email.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years.

As my friend Jon once said “time is weird.”

Here is a short update on my recovery, and a few things I have learned.

My experiences have been life-changing.


Thanks to Jelly Helm for the use of the image above, taken from his thoughtful presentation last week at The Curiosity Club on Joseph Campbell, story, and human adventure.

Two years ago today I was riding my bike to work, as I normally do, when, as best as I can piece together, something caused me to fly over my handlebars and do a face-plant on the pavement. I was wearing a helmet, which probably saved my life.

My next recollection was about two weeks later in the brain injury recovery unit at Providence. Technically I was “awake”—i.e.: out of a coma—before this time, but I don’t remember anything from the emergency room. Apparently my first words were “Oh, shit.”

I am not fully recovered—I’d say I’m 95%. I am told that in the world of Traumatic Brain Injuries, I’m doing great. One thing for certain, TBI is an invisible, long-lasting injury.

The brain is only about three pounds, but it controls a lot of stuff.

Today, I feel like I have a half tank of gas. When the car’s running, everything’s great. It just doesn’t run as long as it used to. I need a lot more sleep. There are other lingering effects (like a lack of feeling on my left side), but I am not complaining. I am very thankful and happy to see each day.

Here are five things I credit with helping me recover as quickly as I have:

1. The strength of my family

2. The excellent medical team and the care i received

3. My good health and focused diet

4. An optimistic attitude

5. The love and support of my friends

I feel very fortunate to be part of such an amazingly supportive community. Your generosity and kind thoughts have truly been a pillar of strength to me.

My bike accident put a process into motion: coma, returning to consciousness, inhabiting a pre-verbal state, & being unable to walk or control my body. My view of the earth, human life, & our role as individuals has changed & deepened. I am still recovering & still exploring new territory.

Here are a few of my thoughts on personal responsibility, mindfulness, and our connectedness to the earth & one another.

Why does it take a near-death experience to comprehend what is important to us?

It’s easy to get busy in the minutiae of our day-to-day lives. This experience has taught me appreciate the effect we have on one another. Let’s celebrate the people in our lives more often.

How we choose to spend & experience our time is up to us. For me there is no such thing as “wasting time.”

Every moment is important. Everything we do matters.

As near as I can tell there are only three guarantees in life:

We are born.

We die.

Things change.

I am trying to embrace uncertainty and to live fully in the miracle of each moment.

About a year ago I was fortunate enough to attend some Dalai Lama events here in Portland. I’ll leave you with his words:

Quality of life is not measured in material things.

Thank you again. I look towards the future.



Posted in Opinion | 5 Comments

The decline and fall of the American mall.


Shopping malls, by their nature, are a sort-of false optimism. A constructed reality. It is revealing to bear witness to actual reality organically consuming the fictitious. This series of images and short article by Matt Stopera on Buzzfeed is quite interesting.
Thanks to Art Chantry for posting on Facebook.


Posted in Art, Opinion | Leave a comment

You Can’t Ride the Bus for Free Forever – Place lease discontinued


Place Gallery has been a vital and important part of the Portland creative community for a number of years. I have appreciated not only the diversity of the programming, but the location as well. I had the honor of installing my work there a couple of years ago as well.


They are losing their lease in the Pioneer Place mall and having a closing event on March 30th. Details and backstory on why their lease is being lost are shared below in a text written by curator Gabe Flores. This is also posted on their website.


March 30th 2 – 5pm will be the final event at Place entitled
You Can’t Ride the Bus for Free Forever  


Place Announces the Termination of Their Lease by General Growth Properties. 

Portland, Or March 22nd 2014 – General Growth Properties (GGP, the managers of the Pioneer Place Mall) has abruptly decided to terminate Place’s lease agreement as of March 31st. GGP’s stated reason for terminating Place’s lease is that they have recently acquired new retail tenants willing to develop the 2 store fronts currently occupied by Place. This is certainly possible, however the news comes shortly after a pointed disagreement regarding the themes of the current shows in Place’s White gallery: Paul Clay’s Parking Lot Dance, John Dougherty’s Shit Balloons, and Michael Reinsch’s A High Improbability of Death: A Celebration of Suicide. In the interest of transparency Place has decided to make available the correspondence between Place, and GGP which occurred shortly before the termination of Place’s lease. What follows is an email sent February 21st from GGP’s General Manager Bob Buchanan after receiving Place’s standard newsletter invite for the shows in question:GabeSeriously?Did you stop to think for a moment where it is that you’re currently doing business. A video that tweaks the nose of the “over-the-top, self-infatuated American shopping culture”?; shit balloons?; a mock suicide?Why would you imagine that this would be okay here?If this is what we can look forward to, you’ll have to find a different venue in which to curate your art.There is an appropriate time and place for everything…I have an obligation to multiple users of this facility.I haven’t felt that an appropriate period of time for approval of activities was appropriate until now. I will be revising our License Agreement to include a protocol for submitting a detailed request for approval inclusive of appropriate time for that review.


Curator/Director of Place, Gabe Flores’, response February 23rd:

Hello Bob,

Sorry if we stepped over any lines. We were not intentionally trying to isolate anyone who might be a potential contemporary art enthusiast. We spend quite a bit of time at the gallery making sure we are inline with what is already displayed throughout the mall. Where we often look to make sure we are not overstepping are the following shops: GameStop, Kitson, Fuego, Victoria Secret, Forever 21, H&M, and Regal Cinemas. We feel we have kept within the aesthetic concerns as defined by what already is present in Pioneer Place.

As a conceptual installation/performance gallery we take ideas that exist within culture and simply ask for a longer and more thoughtful conversation. In Michael Reinsch’s “A High Improbability of Death: A Celebration of Suicide,” he is asking viewers to contemplate a shared existential crisis of being trapped knowing he can never leave on his own accord. Michael has 2 kids and a lot of people who really love him, so he knows he would cause too much emotional damage to those who care about him. Here is how Michael explains the process in his statement:

“The task at hand is not to bring about his own death, but to create an aesthetic experience that is a confession of his own intimate struggles with being. This performance is an attempt to couple his personal struggle with a wider conversation concerning the devastating effects of suicide on families and society.”

He will be reading “notes” from folks who were suffering and have now passed, whether it was assisted suicide (cancer), hate (family disowned because of sexuality), Iraqi soldiers, and depression. This is an incredibly important and powerful exhibition and will touch anyone who knows someone suffering or who is suffering themselves. The closest I’ve ever been to someone who had either attempted or had committed suicide happened a little over a year ago in front of the gallery.* That experience completely shook me up, but am so incredibly glad I was there to assist, but also it made me much more empathetic. I know people are suffering and feel incredibly alone, so even if it is a conceptually difficult show we feel it’s important because it’s a very real dilemma that affects so many people.

We found many extremely violent games at GameStop where kids are able to play/watch on large screen tvs visible from the outside the shop. One game in particular sold, Persona, requires the player to first shoot her/himself in the head before enacting a ghost to fight for the player. You must commit suicide to play. The clerk at GameStop explained that individuals often commit suicide while playing to find out the limitations of the game, usually by jumping off of a building or drowning. We are not asking people to not play those games or not see violent movies, instead we want folks to slow down when they are in the gallery and think about the role of violence within our culture. I’m the first to find escape by watching violent movies at Regal, but realize it’s a bizarre phenomenon for me to want to watch as much violence as I do.

In John Dougherty’s “Shit Balloons,” the artist is analyzing culture from the lens of being a dog and what would be most important to a canine to show as a work of art. Initially, John was exploring how dogs in Portland are often humanized and he decided to take the absurdity one step further and is showing in an OMSI like demonstration how the gas released from a bag of dog poop will inflate a balloon. The show is really about how different species transfer information and with canines it is through scent. For a dog there is nothing more important. The balloons in the installation are not filled by this means; all were filled with good old-fashioned hot air.

I understand the word “Shit” is of concern. We do not use vinyl for the most part to advertise our shows, so the word doesn’t appear in the gallery anywhere except on a description at our front desk. In Kitson and Fuego they use Fuck, Bitch, Shit, and Ass, and a couple of times they use F*ck. We could easily in our description at the front desk change it to Sh*t Balloons, similar to how F*ck is displayed on the street level window at 5th and Morrison. Although, Fuck is visible from the front window at Kitson, none of the stores have an adult’s only area, besides the movie theater, so the assumption is the language is safe for people of any age.

From your response to Paul Clay’s “Parking Lot Dance” it seems to be interpreted as a direct challenge to Pioneer Place. Paul is examining a context that is both participant and observer. Paul knows he isn’t able to make his own clothing, food, fuel, technology, etc., so he is coming to terms with being inconsistent. The shops depicted are Walmart, Target, Sleep Country, and Best Buy and the video takes place in a strip mall.

I’m so sorry if the language used to describe the work made us sound flippant or disrespectful. I’d be more than happy to send you information in advance for our exhibitions and realize you received our invite and not a project description, which would have been more informative. We love that we are in a context where many folks who visit us are seeing contemporary art for the first time and we really love the long conversations we’re able to have with folks shopping at Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, H&M, etc.

Attached is documentation from what other stores in the mall are displaying.

We really do appreciate the many opportunities you have granted the arts community of Portland. Pioneer Place has become an integral part of the contemporary art community and last year we were named the best installation gallery in Portland.**

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or suggestions you might have.

Thank you again for your continued support,

Gabe Flores***

(Attached are the 6 of the 19 photos Place submitted with the above response depicting products sold throughout the mall that variously include profanity and violence. Additionally, Place immediately submitted to GGP the requested information regarding our next 3 months of programming for advance approval.)

No further contact was made between Place and GGP until Place received a notice of lease termination via certified letter on Wednesday, March 19th. Later that afternoon Gabe Flores met with GM Bob Buchanan to ask if there was any possibility of continuing the Place project. Mr. Buchanan stated that GGP could no longer afford to subsidize Place’s rent and that he had tenants willing to pay full market value. Mr. Buchanan continually reiterated, “You can’t ride the bus for free forever.”   

The all-volunteer staff at Place is certainly saddened to be losing the gallery, but are thrilled with Place’s impact on local art. Place was founded by Gary Wiseman, and Gabe Flores in June of 2010 as a two month performative installation. It concludes its nearly 4 year run after having exhibited the works of hundreds of artists—leaving a legacy of synergy, and interconnection in Portland’s contemporary art community. Place’s relationship with GGP has long been smooth and surprisingly effortless. GGP has been incredibly generous and Place does not want their support of the arts to go unnoticed; it’s been an experiment for GGP as much as it has been for the staff of Place.

Place has loved being able to create a welcoming art hub in a truly unique location. A very important thank you must go to Place’s incredibly loyal and hardworking crew of dedicated volunteers for the thousands of hours they have collectively donated to support contemporary art.

Regretfully this termination causes the cancellation of Place’s remaining 2014 exhibition season. The following artists, curators, and institutions will be losing their exhibitions:

Hannah Piper Burns, Palma Corral, Brooks Dierdorff, Will Elder, André Filipek, Chris Freeman, Jonathan Eric Gann, Nicolo Gentile, Erik Geschke, Ben Glas, Katherine Groesbeck, Joshua Kim, Matthew Leavitt, Rhoda London, Mark Martinez, Albert Navetta, Kayleigh Nelson, Travis Nikolai, The Pacific Northwest College of Art, Roger Peet, Julie Perini, PHAME Academy, Portland State University, Claire Redman, Nicolas Reibel, and Gary Wiseman.

Place plans a performance-based closing celebration, You Can’t Ride the Bus for Free Forever, Sunday March 30th from 2 – 5pm. More information regarding this event will be released in the coming days.

Attached is a PDF of the email thread between Place and GGP.

*On January 27th Gabe Flores grabbed someone as they attempted to jump from the balcony along the top floor of Pioneer Place Mall.

**PORT named Place as one of the Best Alternative Spaces in town in their article, “Last Words: Portland’s Visual Art Scene in 2013.” The statement was shortened for the sake of simplicity within the correspondence.

***Gabe Flores’ response was edited for typos.

Additional images and details can be found at the Place Gallery website.


Posted in Art, events, Opinion | Leave a comment