ABOUT LAST THURSDAY
For 25+ years, Last Thursday on Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon has been a community driven monthly arts & culture gathering every last Thursday with street closures June, July and August. Always free and all ages, Alberta Street comes alive with artists, musicians, and performers. Art galleries have opening parties and receptions. Local arts & crafts vendors sell their handmade wares.
Interested in what's happening this month? follow us on instagram @lastthursdayalberta
or on Facebook: Last Thursday on Alberta
No single entity controls, owns, manages or "produces" Last Thursday. Alberta Artworks 501(C)3 hosts this website alongside a wide variety of community partners to provide information to the public and to support our local businesses, art galleries, vendors, artists, musicians, performers, residents and visitors alike connected to Alberta Street.
This is a volunteer effort with open and transparent reporting and accountability for any fundraising or donations.
Last Thursday has a strong commitment to supporting Black artists and businesses in our historic African American community of Albina, and we commit to supporting the Black community and underrepresented and marginalized groups.
Donors, sponsors, and funders have a choice in supporting local projects and we report and are transparent to the public we serve.
History of Last Thursday
The Alberta area was run down and forgotten. Drugs, guns and intimidation were the rule on the streets. In the 1993 editions of the Concordia News, the descriptive word was blight. The neighborhood association was formed to “clean up the neighborhood”. An epidemic of drive-by shootings, abandoned cars and derelict houses; that was the Alberta District in the 80s and early 90s.
1997 was a pivotal year in Alberta Street’s history. The story goes that a Donna Guardino, a new gallery owner, encouraged local artists and several businesses that were showing art, to come out to vend and for the businesses to open their doors on First Thursday for the traditional Art Walk usually held on the west side of town. Those businesses discussed the possibility and decided that since the action was on the west side of the river on that night, it was unlikely that people would come all the way over to Alberta Street. But the idea grew and the group decided that they should limit the art walk to just Alberta Street and pick a different night. Last Thursday was jokingly referred to as a more appropriate name for the event and “Last Thursday” was born.
The first Art Walk, held in May of 1997, was off to a shaky start. That first year less than ten destinations were added to the monthly-published art map. As the years passed the number of participating art venues fluctuated, but the event grew in participation and attendance. Street vendors, musicians and street theatre have added a unique element to the atmosphere of Last Thursdays. From the very beginning of the Art Walk the phrase "Art on Alberta” was coined to identify the street and the Last Thursday function.
The “buzz” that Alberta Street was a place where things were happening was fueled by the monthly art walks and by media attention. Old buildings were slowly being renovated and converted and more and more businesses and art studios were locating on the street. Small independent and first time businesses set the tone and art galleries began opening their doors. -Alberta Mainstreet It didn’t happen because of real estate investors. It didn’t happen because the City gave the businesses and landlords a lot of development money or tax breaks. It happened because the original investors in the neighborhood, the artists, the galleries and restaurants decided to try a neighborhood art walk. It sparked fifteen years of steady improvement and investment. And now, this last year, the PDC, Main Street and urban renewal have come to the street. - Concordia News 2011
Over the next 15 years, Last Thursday on Alberta developed organically, from what was originally a visual art event aimed at promoting the street’s art galleries, into an amorphous celebration of art in all its forms. The monthly event has become increasingly popular and, in recent years, is attended by approximately 18,000 people in the warm weather months. As awareness of the numerous violations occurring during and after the event spread, the City, with Mayor Sam Adams and Councilwoman Amanda Fritz leading the way, put in place the beginnings of a governing body to address the boorish behavior. With their help Friends of Last Thursday was started. The first two versions of this group did not make much progress. Lack of direction and divisiveness kept the committee from effectively working. While the vandalism was taking the spotlight away from the event, no resolutions were being found. As you can imagine, Last Thursday does not fit into any standard model of management.
In May 2011, the city laid a mandate on the Last Thursday table. Essentially saying get it done or shut it down. That is when the Friends of Last Thursday steering committee came together as a positive, progressive, capable, creative group. And over the course of the summer every problem identified by the City’s mandate had been solved or with new community policing policies in place had been greatly reduced, including most of the costs the City had been paying.
Starting in 2007 Alberta Street was closed from 15th through 30th Avenues to accommodate the crowds. This cost was covered by the city until FoLT stepped in and took over these costs in 2012. May 15, 2016 Friends of Last Thursday (FoLT) was a volunteer group of business owners and neighbors that managed Last Thursday (LT) until Charlie Hales placed unobtainable requirements for the event’s permit, effectively ousting the group.
The former leaders of FoLT began a non-profit in order to continue to support the artistic culture of the Alberta Arts District and in turn support local artists. Alberta Art Works (AAW) is art driven and continues to work with neighbors, businesses, and city agencies to create public works of art. Their first project is a series of six mural panels depicting the history of the Alberta area on the Black United Fund of Oregon building. Other projects include a public art walking map and tours with Know Your City. With an Adopt a Landscape agreement, AAW has replaced graffiti covered bus benches with art, enriching our environment. The former director of FoLT’s Street Ops, has also continued the work he started during his time with FoLT. “Dancing Don” as he became known, teamed up with a friend to create a street closure business for community events. They employ teens who can also earn credits towards school scholarships. FoLT’s community built barricades are still put to good use.