Music » Our Town Could Be Your Life

The Manor of Art

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Now that the baby boomers are beginning to qualify for senior discounts, I expect that edgy rock concerts at old folks' homes will become a relatively common occurrence, and things like Boy Eats Drum Machine, Magic Johnson, World's Greatest Ghosts, and the Prids playing a show on the grounds of the Baptist Manor retirement community out on NE 81st near Glisan—as they are on the evening of Friday, August 14—will cease to surprise.

However this particular show has nothing to do with octogenarians, as Baptist Manor shut down years ago. Rather, this strong sampling of local music represents only the first night of the interdisciplinary, free, all-ages Manor of Art festival running August 14-23 at Milepost 5, the intentional community catering to artists and creatives that consists of over 150 live/work, exhibition, and commercial spaces now occupying the former digs of Baptist Manor and an adjacent defunct elder-care hospital built in the 1960s [see this week's feature].

The result of a partnership between the Portland Affordable Housing Preservation Trust and Beam Development, Milepost 5 was conceived as the first of a potential series of artists' communities around the city designed to be sustainably and affordably priced by virtue of mechanisms such as sales-profit caps to discourage property flippers on the condo units in the former hospital building (now dubbed the Lofts) that went on the market in 2008.

Twenty local bands will play at the Manor of Art fest, over the course of two weekends, in the courtyard and erstwhile Baptist Manor chapel, but one wonders—given the noisy nature of their art, will musicians be welcome at Milepost 5 not as festival participants, but as tenants alongside the visual artists more traditionally targeted for live/work situations when the monthly rental units in the former Baptist Manor (AKA the Studios) open next year?

Brad Malsin of Beam, who has recording studios as tenants in several other Portland properties, says they will: "Our goal is to include musicians to live and work and practice in our facilities. Part of the intention of an intentional community is to create a certain level of flexibility and the kind of adaptation and tolerance to your neighbors that you wouldn't get in a typical housing or potential live/work scenario. You're obviously not going to eliminate every sound (with soundproofing), but we think we can eliminate 90 percent of it."

While Malsin is optimistic about the prospects for music making at Milepost 5, he acknowledges the challenges involved, as well as the possibility that Studios residents might ultimately have the right to put the kibosh on it. Milepost 5 is a forward-thinking endeavor designed to guarantee desirable space for working artists in a growing city by moving faster than the rate of gentrification, but only time will tell if it will help to protect local musicians in particular from the dangers of displacement attendant to rising property values. Cheap basements and marginally legal practice spaces are the incubators of the current golden age of Portland music and it's not hard to imagine a post-Great Recession future in which these structures are replaced by up-market condos. The time is now, then, for developers, architects, and city planners to devise a solution to this problem before it descends by creating specialized work and live/work spaces that are expressly for musicians and defended from the negative consequences of growth.

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