The Columbian

Up and away

Around the corner on Main and upstairs, you’re welcomed into the Phoenix Rising gallery by a little girl clutching a fistful of balloons that lift her into the blue sky.

“I just thought that was the most beautiful, hopeful image,” said gallery owner Malee Octavia of the painting by Andrei Engelman, a Portland artist who hails from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Phoenix Rising’s spring show is teeming with images of growth and change, from several surreal Engelman scenes to woodcut portraits by Portland’s Astrid Beatriz Furstner of the very real heroes and martyrs of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Octavia launched the sunny, big-windowed gallery months before the coronavirus pandemic stole all visitors away, she said. When galleries were forced into a complete shutdown for months, she used the downtime to renovate the space and network with local artists, as well as do her own art.

“I’m a hard worker, I guess,” she said. “The arts shouldn’t disappear when we are going through hard times. That’s when human beings need the arts the most.”

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