January 13, 2010


Last week, I found out that one of Portland's beloved landmarks was closing its doors and relocating to southern California. The Velveteria is a museum of velvet paintings, both old and new, lovingly displayed alongside vintage ephemera and labeled with the museum owners' humorous notes. When I realized I was about to lose something I hadn't even enjoyed firsthand, I knew I had to go.

A few days after hearing this sad news, Garth of Extremecraft sent an open invitation to join him and his wife at the Velveteria. They were driving up from Eureka to visit it one last time. The place was packed with newcomers like us, getting their first visit before it left town, and old-timers who wanted to pay their respects. They called out their 500th ticket sold while we were there, saying they've never had this many visitors in one day before.

I was awestruck by the variety of paintings inside the museum (they don't allow photos beyond the entry room, so you'll just have to buy their book for more velvety eye-candy). I imagined that I'd see mostly big-eyed dogs and elvises, but there was so much more than that! There are some seriously talented and inspired artists who use black velvet as their medium.

I loved that the paintings were grouped by themes--y'know, Jesus, next to the virgin Mary, next to Mr. T. There was a shrine to Michael Jackson, with portraits depicting the pop icon in various stages of his life. They've even got a black light room, where you can view some of the art in ways that nature never intended.

Having just glimpsed a small portion of the Velveteria's larger collection, I'm disappointed that it's moving away. Locals like to claim the place as an example of "Keep[ing] Portland Weird." I say, Portland can be weird without the Velveteria, and maybe it's time to spread some of that kitschy inspiration to another city.


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