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Foster Row

SE Foster's new shared art studio

Southeast Foster is a neighborhood with plenty of variety. In a single block you can find a Thai food market, wellness center, Vietnamese bakery, a few food carts, two nudie establishments and a trendy burger joint. “The neighborhood is going through a transition,” says Jen Erickson. She and partner Mark Pendergrass are now throwing a shared art studio into the mix.

Jen, a textile artist, and Mark, a contractor and woodworker, are thrilled to be putting in long hours transforming the former Hubbard’s Drapery building. Since they got their lease January first, they’ve ceaselessly ripped out the old décor. “It looked like nobody had touched it since the ‘70s,” says Mark. “It was in bad shape.” They’re taking the building back to its roots, revealing gorgeous exposed brick walls.

Darling Press and Stationers will be the space’s first tenant. Mark expects the letterpress printer will open in April. This is a big step for Darling Press, which till now has been working out of a garage. They hope to teach workshops in their new space.

Exactly who else will inhabit what they’ve dubbed “Foster Row” is still an open question. Mark plans to share his woodworking space with another artist or two. Jen thinks a seamstress or somebody who shares her love of working with natural dyes would be a good fit for her bright, upstairs textile studio. The front downstairs space could be retail, a coffee shop or another studio. The angled upstairs could be an event space or bar. They also hope to set up a darkroom to use the photography equipment a friend donated.

Lots of people have shown interest in Foster Row, ranging from a distillery to film makers. “It’s been fun to see the response we’ve gotten,” says Jen. “We’ve had 10 ideas for each space. It depends who comes our way.”

Mark and Jen are trying to learn more about the building’s history. So far they know it was built in 1922 and housed the drapery company since the ‘50s. In keeping with the historic character, they’ve added old doors they got off craigslist and from the Rebuilding Center. “I wanted to put my design into it,” says Mark. As a remodeler and contractor, he usually follows other people’s designs. Mark looks forward to displaying before and after photos at Foster Row’s grand opening.

Both are optimistic about the neighborhood. It already has a lot going for it food-wise. The Red Runner barbecue food cart is amazing, says Jen, and the bar Slingshot has a great happy hour. She especially likes An Xuyen, the Vietnamese bakery across the street. “I go there every day and try something new,” she says.

Portland is planning to update the Foster streetscape, reducing traffic and developing a more bike and pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. “I’m hoping this is the next big neighborhood,” says Mark.

For now, they have a five-year lease. After that, Mark says, they may try to buy the building, or sign on for five more years.

“It’s been our dream for a long time to have a space like this,” says Jen.

Artists interested in opportunities at Foster Row can contact Jen and Mark through Facebook or by emailing them at fosterrowpdx@gmail.com

By Teresa Bergen, www.teresabergen.com