A distinct artistic vibe soaks Astoria, a North Coast burg rife with communal, creative talent. That spirit comes alive for the venerated FisherPoets Gathering each February, and it lives on year-round. Exploring the vibrant visual arts scene provides a fitting introduction to why so many creators call the place home. For an inside scoop, we turn to longtime resident artist Judith Niland, who highlights some of the city’s imaginative offerings.

Art Walk

First, she recommends the monthly 2nd Saturday Art Walk, when downtown businesses are open late, providing refreshments, entertainment and showcasing original works. “It’s the hottest happening in the region right now,” she says. “Eclectic, vibrant and always fresh. The Art Walk is jumping with a variety of top-quality art up and down the street, from shop to shop, gallery to gallery. You never know what you will find on the trail, but you are guaranteed to hear great live music, eat yummy snacks, enjoy refreshing drink, and meet and greet new and old friends. All this as you get the chance to view a multitude of beautiful creations by local and regional artists, who are usually there to interact and give you a sense of what their art is all about.”

Galleries Galore

Showcasing myriad art mediums are Astoria’s array of interesting galleries, including (but not limited to) RiverSea Gallery, Imogen Gallery, Astoria Fiber Arts Studio, Tempo Gallery, Fernhill Glass Studios and Astoria Art Loft, which offers workshops and classes, artist studios and creative spaces. Specifically, Niland recommends Wynnifred Byrnes Luminari Arts, her favorite. “It’s special because you can find a wide variety of cards and inexpensive unusual gifts you can find nowhere else in town,” she says. “Jewelry, tile, ceramic, paper mache, dolls, sea glass, original paintings, collage, fabric to repurposed plastic that look like floating jellyfish. It’s an adventure and an experience of visual delight just to walk through the door, with odd and wonderful things to see and touch in every nook and cranny. You’re always guaranteed to see something new each time.”

Open Studios

Astoria Visual Arts hosts “the other most interesting event” in town, says Niland. For two days each July, the Astoria Open Studios Tour spotlights the city’s diverse artists who welcome visitors into their studios, including Niland’s. “It was a joy to bring guests into my home, which is my studio,” she says, “to see where I work and be able to present my art directly to them. It was a wonderful, magical experience sharing my love of art and interacting with others who also loved art.”

Story by Michael H. Kew

Photo of HiiH Lights’ owner Lam Quang by Justin Bailie