WAIT, WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH NATIONALE?
May Barruel, Nationale’s owner and director, has worked diligently to showcase artists and host free cultural events in Portland for over a decade. Her singular curatorial eye and her focus on creating community make her a critical force in this city’s cultural landscape. In addition to running Nationale, she established and curates Stumptown Coffee’s Artist Fellowship . She also operates an offshoot project called Le Oui , which raises money for organizations fighting for social justice through the sale of limited edition prints. She works very hard and if life was fair, she'd be drowning in money. But it isn't and she's not.
This spring, May found a bigger and more centrally located gallery space with a five year lease. The plan was to share this new spot with Portland record shop & label Beacon Sound and together become more of a cultural destination. Nationale would have more room to show big work — in contrast to all of its previous homes, which have been pretty small — in addition to a back studio to facilitate various collaborations with the community. Both businesses moved out of their locations in late August but unexpected permitting issues prevented them from reopening the new space in early September as planned. Enough time passed that Beacon Sound was forced to back out—the financial burden of being without a brick and mortar home was too heavy.
Nationale has now finally secured the Change of Occupancy permit it needs to begin the build-out of the new gallery space. Unfortunately, being closed for almost three months and facing the unexpectedly high costs of permits and construction without a business partner have exhausted the resources May had set aside for the move.
WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?
I’m Carson, an artist represented by Nationale and an old friend of May’s. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years, since we were neighbors in a warehouse in Southeast. Even then, May was doing some version of what she does today. She had a bookstore in her home. She hosted house shows, plays, and film screenings. She got people together to eat and drink and talk about music and art and books. She is absolutely driven to assemble people this way and she would probably do it in a vacuum.
The good news is that May does not exist in a vacuum. She exists in a culturally vibrant city. A city that loves art. A city that would truly not be the same without Nationale. A city that will lose its galleries if it doesn't support them. Not to chide, but it's true.
HOW MUCH MONEY AND FOR WHAT?
In order to finish the build out, reopen its doors before the holidays, and get back on its feet, Nationale needs at least $32,000. This is to help cover some of the permitting fees and construction costs in excess of the Tenant Improvement Allowance provided by the landlord, build fixtures for the retail area, and alleviate some income loss associated with the temporary closure of the gallery.
If you have ever availed yourself of Nationale’s riches — brilliant exhibitions; readings, performances, and artist lectures; an impeccably curated offering of books; French candy galore — please consider helping the gallery stay afloat through this move. Much of what May and Nationale offer to their community, they offer at no cost, as a labor of love. We've benefited mightily from May and all of Nationale's volunteers' hard work and now it’s time for us to say thank you with some MONEY.
WHAT DO OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT NATIONALE?
"When I think of the Portland I love, the Portland that feels alive and I want to see endure, one of the places I first think of is Nationale. An art space whose exhibitions and performances both provoke conversation and create community, Nationale's distinctive & lovingly curated selection of books and magazines likewise entice you with avenues--aesthetic, literary, political--that you haven't yet taken but now, having seen the opportunity, very much need to."
— David Naimon
"Nationale continues to remind us that art and artist's voices shape our world in a profound way. What May does with Nationale fills a special void in Portland, and without it, would further the cultural monotony that threatens this city that we love and have worked so hard to build!"
— Britt Howard
"I found Nationale through a friend, back at the last East Burnside location. The art drew me in, but the library kept me. Nationale introduced me to “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine, and Yvan Alagbé’s “Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures,” both books that expanded my vocabulary for speaking about the world. Issues of The Plant and Apartamento satisfied my visual eye, and works from Baldwin fed my heart. May takes care to curate the newsstand with a nourishing variety of material, and the selection is always evolving. What a lovely, special place."
— Matthew Hayes
"I first met May in 2001, when we were neighbors in a warehouse in SE Portland. Our studios shared a wall. She listened to a lot of Cat Power back then. And while my roommate and I used our studio for things a typical Portland twenty-something might do – eating, sleeping, drinking, writing – she transformed her space into a café and a bookshop. There were a lot of DIY entrepreneurs in those days, starting record labels and literary magazines and the like, but May had her own ideas about entrepreneurship. She was a curator, first and foremost. Her bookshop carried an inscrutable stock, books that May had either sought out or stumbled upon. You didn’t go to May’s bookshop to find a certain book – you were at the mercy of May’s aesthetic temperament. But whatever you ended up with, it was certain to be good.
The fact that I was asked to play a house show in May’s space continues to be one of the prouder moments in my career – that somehow my songs fit inside of May’s peculiar curatorial throw. I remember playing a kid’s guitar, which was something that one did in those days. I played a few songs that became Decemberists songs; I played my first attempt at Everyday Is Like Sunday, a song I still play regularly. Someone recorded the performance. It’s one of the few bootleg recordings of my music that I can recommend. You can hear May’s bookstore in the recording – a perfect kind of reverb between the high concrete ceiling and the book-lined shelves."
— Colin Meloy
"Nationale is a clean, well lighted capsule of immaculate taste reflecting the brains and eyeballs of the indispensable May Barruel. She stocks excellent books (literary and artistic), interesting knickknacks, and revolving displays of real, serious art by soulful people near and far."
— Jon Raymond
"Portland is known internationally for its culinary and coffee culture. Tourists would flock to Powell’s Books. Whilst they are indeed important parts of what makes Portland unique, I dare say: it is not enough. I felt it when Nationale moved from our neighbourhood on Division street. Shops and cafés are great, but when May’s unique venue that expresses her sensibility relocated, we felt the void. Art matters. Aesthetic sensibility matters. And we don’t find anything like Nationale with its blend of local art and choice books. Portland, with all the admirable attributes, won’t be the same without individualistic curation of aesthetics. By deftly defying pigeon holing categories, to me, and to many other Portlanders, Nationale is indispensable."
— Tatsuya Goto
"I adore Nationale and all of the work poured into it. May consistently curates the most interesting shows in Portland AND has rad and accessible shop selections. I am always excited to see what she is discovering and sharing. The best!"
"Nationale is a star in Portland’s gallery scene, consistently offering thoughtful, engaging exhibitions that provoke reflection and conversation."
"Nationale is always a place where travelers from Japan can get inspired and it has been included in our guidebook, True Portland since the first issue in 2014."
"I moved to Portland three months after graduating college on a complete whim. I knew hardly anyone there, I had no money, but I wanted to get as far away from the east coast where I grew up as possible. Oh, and I wanted to work in the arts.
After researching all of the city’s amazing museums and galleries, I discovered the website for Nationale- a perfectly indefinable gem. One part specialty boutique, one part insightfully curated gallery, and one part progressive performance space, Nationale quickly became my new home. The owner/curator May Juliette Barruel welcomed me into her world like I was family, immediately finding ways to meld my interests with her vision while also introducing me to her community of equally engaged and talented friends and artists. Her faith in my talents as a curator, and, more importantly, as a woman, continue to inspire me years later and miles away. And whenever I feel nostalgic for those magical days tending desk at Nationale- listening to The Silver Jews, writing press releases for the upcoming exhibitions, and sharing my love for the gallery with every visitor- I simply look around my apartment in Los Angeles at all of the artwork I proudly own from Nationale’s beautiful roster of artists and I’m immediately transported back. To me and many, many others, Nationale will always be a second home."
— Corey Mansfield
FROM NATIONALE'S PAST INTERNS & VOLUNTEERS:
"In my experience, Nationale is a space that’s distinctly human. There is a clear focus on the artist, rather than the Art, and their practice of challenging our ways of seeing the world & people around us. May's commitment is to community that is rooted in the idea of place, of actually getting out to the gallery in order to see, learn, and share. Art, here, is a tool. And that deserves our support."
"Nationale is an irreplaceable part of Portland. It’s a beautifully curated, multi-dimensional gallery that acts as a hub for artists, writers and the greater community."
"Nationale is a poetic place, where emerging and established artists meet. A place I cannot resist coming back to—a ritual experience essential to the Portland cultural scene."
"Nationale has been my favorite gallery since I first walked in, years ago. Somehow every show at this gallery challenges viewers’ expectations of art while simultaneously creating a soft, empathetic resting place. It is owned and curated by a woman with astounding integrity, both ethically and creatively. She and the gallery provide much-needed nourishment for Portland’s art communities. Volunteering at Nationale has been an honor, and I look forward to seeing what’s next at 22nd and E. Burnside!"
Thanks so much for a taking a moment with this today. Please consider giving some money if you value Nationale. Every bit counts.
- Krista Bangsund
- Laurel Boyd
- Andrew Barton
- Amanda Evans
Organizer and beneficiary
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