On the first Thursday of every month, the Pearl District and downtown Portland get dressed up. Art galleries and people put on their best look for the first Thursday Art walk. Galleries from downtown to the Pearl open up special shows between 6-9 p.m. Often there is food, wine and artists who present their work.

Walking around the area on the first Thursday of the month well-dressed possibly carrying maps going from gallery to gallery sometime stopping at pubs and bars. Not just official galleries there are several buildings with artists’ lofts where the artist open up on these Thursdays and allow the public to view their work and interact.

A section of 12th Street in the Pearl District is blocked off, allowing people on the art walk to visit smaller vendors. Walking about one of the loft/studios will offer a unique an new style to check out.

Wine and beer and cheese are usually available. Restaurants, coffee shops and pubs will sometimes host artists premiers.

This is a well-organized and well-advertised professional event.

In contrast last Thursday is more of a street fair.

Roughly 20 years ago Portland artists could not afford a loft or to wait  for a gallery showing started casing their wares at Last Thursday. Artists set up tables along the street on a first-come first serve basis. If you’re a painter, writer, maker of jewelry or any other type of artist show up on Alberta around 2 p.m. to find a spot set up your table. Vend away.

There are often musicians, street performers and dance crews that add to the party style and festive atmosphere. Multiple restaurants with a variety of food styles stay open as well as food carts to feed the general public.

This street fair styled event is not well-organized. There are galleries along the route and artist on the sidewalks. The street is blocked off during the summer months while the event is going. Thursday, Sept. 25 will be the last closed street event for this summer season.

Last Thursday continues during the fall but the streets are not blocked off. Although the street fair is a sober all ages event there are many bars along the way. This is a uniquely Portland event organized at the grassroots level and very hodgepodge.

However the city has been stepping in and it may be changing or going away. There is a public meeting scheduled in October to decide how to deal with parking issues noise complaints and other event problems.

It would be a good idea to try and make the Sept. 25 event and see this unique long run Portland event while it exists.

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