Open Door Gallery opens at McCoy Academy
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
Holding the belief that art should have a permanent place in education, brother and sister art educators Bobby Fouther and Liz Fouther-Branch recently opened a space called Open Door Gallery to offer the local community affordable access to art.
Their dream was to provide the community with some of the same tools and guidance that was influential to them as young artists growing up in an art-oriented family in northeast Portland.
By offering free and reduced-price art programs, “We’re here for the community,” said Bobby Fouther.
Run by a collaborative of artists, social activists, community elders, and small business owners, Open Door Galley is located within McCoy Academy at 3802 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
As a community art space with more than one function, it provides a bridge to art programs that have been stripped from local schools because of budget cuts.
McCoy Academy is an alternative school for Oregon Outreach, a non-profit agency that helps provide students at-risk of dropping out of high school. It offers a variety classes to students within the Portland area that will prepare them for post-secondary education or training.
During the week, Fouther and his sister teach credited art classes to students at McCoy.
Liz Fouther-Branch, a former special education teacher, calls art instruction a multi-sensory approach to learning and a motivator for students.
“It’s a vehicle for developing the whole person,” she said.
The students don’t just learn to draw and paint, they are taught practical career-building skills that will benefit them in the future, like installing art pieces, curating shows, and freelancing in the community.
Bobby Fouther reaches out to the community to collaborate and meet mutual needs of various groups. Students, for example, created props for an African American Health Coalition fair and the gallery hosted a cast party for the all-African American cast of Oklahoma!
Young people learn in schools, he said, but they are also encouraged to learn traditional knowledge at home from cultural elders within the community, like dance and creative expression.
“We are supporting this process,” said Fouther, who grew up under the creative influences of his mother who was a dancer, and his stepfather, a musician.
Open Door Gallery is a traditional art gallery too, open to the public Friday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Local and international artists, many African or African-American, feature their artwork in the hallways of McCoy’s first floor, including Camaroon natives Kwa Franklin Ghong and Nereus Patrick Cheo, as well as works by local artist Kali Wilson-Hoesch and Bobby Fouther himself.
Another room provides space for a marketplace that local vendors use to promote their crafts; earrings, jewelry, Shea butter, and other artwork, including Liz Fouther-Branch’s line of cosmetics and skincare Arbonne.
Workshops, performances, and outdoor festivals are among other functions of the art space. A specialist in dance based on the cultures of the African Diaspora, including West-African and Afro-Brazilian to the Civil Rights Movement, inspires participants. Bobby Fouther offers a variety of low-cost dance and performance classes.
Twenty percent of all proceeds from art sales go directly to supplies and instructors for art projects in the community. The artwork at Open Door Gallery is impressive and professional, but emphasizes affordability.
On Saturday, Dec. 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the McCoy Academy Open Door Gallery will host a holiday fair for the serious gift-giver, featuring paintings, drawings, prints, posters, jewelry, craftwork, notecards, and gifts from Africa.
In celebration of Kwanzaa on Dec. 26, Open Door Gallery will host Siku Kuumba and a day of creativity, which includes an opening of the marketplace at 1 p.m. and performances at 3 p.m.
For more information, call Bobby Fouther at 503-422-3076 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo captions for Artwork: (Left) An acrylic painting on wood and canvas by Kali Wilson-Hoesch of Portland is displayed in the new community art space. (Right) A painting by Camaroon native Nereus Patrick Cheo is showcased in the new Open Door Gallery.