PORTLAND — The Contemporaries, a group of young art enthusiasts, will host its annual Winter Bash from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Portland Museum of Art.

The museum will transform its Great Hall into an urban backdrop with graffiti art, fake construction sites and food carts. The “Urban Landscape” theme echoes the Rackstraw Downes “Onsite Paintings” exhibition on view in the first-floor galleries. Many of Downes’ paintings show urban scenes.

Thursday’s party marks the fifth anniversary of The Contemporaries. The group has grown to more than 250 memberships, and most memberships are dual, meaning they serve two people. Annual dues are $300 for a dual membership, $200 for a single.

“The Contemporaries have grown into their own at the museum. We have an identity that is distinct, and we are able to fit into the mission of the museum,” said William Cary, the museum’s membership director. “This year’s Winter Bash encapsulates all that the Contemporaries are good at.”

Admission to the event is $25, and membership in The Contemporaries is required to attend. The Winter Bash is a key membership-building effort, Cary said.

The Contemporaries are advocates for the museum. The group’s goal is to build awareness of and support for the museum among a younger generation. Most members are between 25 and 45 years old, said Cary, who is 27.

The museum schedules several events for The Contemporaries through the year, providing behind-the-scenes access not only at the museum, but across the larger art community. Part of the mission of the group is to encourage its members to be active throughout the community, Cary said.

The co-chairs of The Contemporaries steering committee are Kyo Bannai and Bree LaCasse.

Bannai said Thursday’s bash provides an opportunity to celebrate the group’s growth and success.

“We’re in a pivotal moment in the growth of our group. Our numbers have grown and our diversity has grown. It began as a small group of people who had a vision, but grew independently from the rest of the museum,” Bannai said.

“Now we’re at a point where the rest of the museum has noticed our presence and the impact we can bring to the future of the museum. We are getting an increasing amount of support and enthusiasm from the rest of the museum.”

The galleries hosting the Downes’ show will be open for Thursday’s event, as will the lower-level area. But the top three floors of the museum will be closed.

The museum has hired graffiti artist Tim Clorius to paint a series of pieces that will hang in the Great Hall, and artists Carl Haase and Kyle Bryant will do wheat-paste installations on plywood walls that will mimic an urban construction site.

Kris Johnsen, a Portland designer, has created a lapel pin that will serve as a name tag, and also made a limited-edition print series that will be included in gift bags.

The city’s public works department has offered the museum old street signs and leftover construction materials to complement the decor, and several local restaurants will set up food carts in the Great Hall. The hall will be covered in scaffolding.

In addition, the museum is working with Preble Street Resource Center to call attention to Portland’s homeless problem, Cary said. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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