2017 Emerging Artist Brooks Oliver

2017 Emerging Artist Brooks Oliver

Brooks Oliver – Artist Interview


How would you describe yourself?

I hope they would say I was funny.  I think they would most likely say that I was a very passionate and friendly person with an ability to relate to people.


 When were you first introduced to ceramics and by whom?

I was first introduced to ceramics in high school by my high school teacher, Raymond Ochs, who I still talk to regularly.  Raymond first “gave me the ceramics bug”, but I really discovered my passion for ceramics in college at Southern Methodist University with Peter Beasecker.  Peter was the person who gave me the courage to switch my majors from Mechanical Engineering (that I studied for 3 years) to ceramics.  I am forever grateful to Peter for giving me the confidence and courage to do that as it changed my life in countless ways.


What are your influences? Who are your mentors?

I am so extremely lucky to have such amazing mentors!  They are Peter Beasecker, Shannon Goff, Tom Lauerman, Chris Staley, Liz Quackenbush, and Klein Rieds. My biggest influences are Anish Kapoor and contemporary furniture and accessory designs.


What does “being creative” mean to you?

Creativity in my mind is the ability to play, taking risks, and not being afraid to fail.


What kind of creative patterns, routine or rituals do you have?

I am a creature of habit.  I rely on my process to guide me and help me play. Chis Staley always used to say that “process saves us from the poverty of our intentions” and I full heartily believe that.  I fall into my routine within my studio, and I find comfort in that routine.  Once I am comfortable, I start taking risks and start playing – and that’s when the fun starts.  I find that this usually happens late at night after a full day.  In regards to routines, I only wear sandals in the studio and ALWAYS have music playing in the studio which often leads to dancing as nothing makes me more confident than dancing.


What else are you interested in outside of your studio practice?

Growing up as an amateur magician since adolescence I have always been fascinated by illusions and love when the eye is tricked and the mind is boggled. I have identified three crucial aspects to creating a successful illusion; to make the viewer question their assumptions, to construct a context around how the viewer perceives what is happening, and to generate a moment where belief is suspended. Like a parlor magician in a tuxedo or an illusionist on stage with a bedazzled cape with flashy lights, within my studio work, I set a stage and construct contexts around my forms. While they often tend to lean towards the dressy tuxedo side, my forms are often displayed in ways that provoke further inquiry regarding their performance and the anticipated environments where they are intended to reside.


Please tell us more about your artwork:

I use the universality and familiarity of the ceramic vessel as a means to approach the work, however I frequently attempt to alter the viewer’s preconceived notions of the vessel by disrupting and challenging expected functionality or by creating a conscious function. Just as a magician performing a magic trick, I ask the viewer to reinterpret the familiar and question their assumptions through forms that present multiple inquiries regarding their use. I want the viewer to examine various aspects of the vessel’s utility and question would I use this; when would I use this; how would I use this, and for what occasions? I strive to evoke ideas of functionality in my forms that frequently can be put to multiple uses, with some ambiguity as to which use is preferred. While not meant for everyday use, but rather special presentation and show, many of my works can be used functionally or simply maintain elegance as sculptural works.


A Conversation with Jessica Brandl, 2017 NCECA Emerging Artist

A Conversation with Jessica Brandl, 2017 NCECA Emerging Artist

Jessica Brandl, one NCECA’s 2017 Emerging Artists has had a busy time since delivering an outstanding presentation on the final day of the conference in Portland, Oregon. Over the summer, she relocated from Philadelphia, where she had been teaching at the Tyler School or Art at Temple University, to Canada, where she is presently teaching at the Alberta College of Art and Design. In October, her work, Humunculus, was honored as the 1st place vessel award in the Zanesville Prize Exhibition. About the impact of NCECA’s Emerging Artist recognition on her life and work, Jessica shared the following:

Jessica Brandl at work

Since emerging at this year’s NCECA Conference, I feel a great relief, a quiet internalization of having addressed my peer group and presented my story. As a direct result of this public presentation I have been invited to demonstrate and speak at numerous schools and community art centers, and the added visibility has encouraged greater support and connoisseurship of both my work and research. The formal recognition by the NCECA board and committee provides value to my academic and studio endeavors, and the opportunity to present supported my assertion that I am a devoted member of the NCECA community willing to work and contribute to the creative grow of ceramic art and research to come.  However, the most important impact of this award came to me as an unexpected private transformation. In preparation for the presentation and show, I found myself looking deep within, searching for the most accurate way to describe what I do. I found the clarity and focus I needed through my feelings for ceramics and personal history rather than objects and practice alone. By retracing my own journey in clay, I was confronted with my strengths and weaknesses and realized that I had to speak candidly about this history in order to be most accurate about where my work comes from. Accepting vulnerability and having the fortitude to express this has been the most profound impact of having been an NCECA emerging artist. Thank you for allowing this public platform, and thank you for listening.

Jessica Brandl, Vessel B

Limited to 12-minutes at the conference, Brandl was kind enough to respond to some questions I recently posed to her via email correspondence. Her generosity of time and thoughtful response offer an opportunity to dig deeper into some of the decisions and motivations Brandl is exploring through her creative practice.


 JG: Why do you find the vessel such a compelling framework for sharing your stories?

JB: I admire the vessel as a visual framework in all of its historical iterations, but the most potent attraction to this context has to do with my personal history and how it satisfies my sense of balance. The vessel is a fascinating object, the void interior defines the exterior, it can physically contain something but it can also hold images and subsequently display ideas and narrative as symbolic language. A vessel is a container, but its interpretation permits a multifaceted understanding of utility as literal, metaphor or both.

Jessica Brandl, Vessel C

My attraction is grounded in the overt utility that a vessel suggests; it permits a connection to my Midwestern upbringing that established the premise that an object should be useful. It was the identification with labor and its value, which gave craft and craftsmanship high praise in my childhood home. What I now identify as high art, was viewed with suspicion in its seemly functionlessness and reference to decadence and collected wealth. The logic of childhood was flawed; however, my desire to mediate past and present perceptions through an object locates me at the contextual humility of vessels and pots.

Jessica Brandl, Ruin A

The narrative vessels I construct are beyond practical utility in most ways but my adherence to the void interior and vestigial function permits me to use the language. The linguistic ties are as important as the literal context and form. While many viewers understand what a vessel is, the appearance of novel content situated within the context of a familiar utilitarian form can be a disruptive experience. By calling what I make a vessel, I have framed the comparative conversation. Vessels and pottery preserve a formal levity, which permits me to address culturally averse subject matter.

Jessica Brandl, plate with birds


JG: Could you share a little about how you see your work connected to that of other artists working with narrative content within and beyond those working in clay? Who and what are you looking at and gaining inspiration through?

JB: I see my work as another iteration of a long and continuous human tradition of narration and communication. The telling of an epic or in my case an un-epic, with a cast of characters conveying something other and universal seems to be a part of human nature.  Artists that work with clay and clay-like materials speak the most directly to me. I examine how they have managed to communicate and what those technical strategies are; lastly, I like to ask why they are clay and not something else.

Jessica Brandl, Ruin B

I have always been fascinated by the raw clay bison formed on the floor of a cave in France some 14,000 years ago, those figures exist right alongside representative drawings of animals, abstracted dots, and incised geometric patterns. An important part of my personal narrative investigates why I insist on clay. Looking at other humans that use clay I am able to gain a better perspective through comparison.

Jessica Brandl, Vessel A

Therefore, I am inspired by human experience, specifically as it is represented in mythology, literature, science, history, ecology, phycology and culture. I compress the visual richness of the centuries into my own ceramic vessels, forming a distillation of historic and personal symbolic language.  Any visual or narrative similarities that my work possesses are the result of communal proximity informing my conscious and unconscious decisions. I do not worry as much as I once did about copying or nuance, I have a better understanding of myself as a unique person from a specific time and culture.  Themes, material, and methodology are the stuff of generating narrative and symbolic language. Each individual is different, but as members of the same species quite similar; circumstances and luck take care of the rest.

Jessica Brandl, Fintch


The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Art is immensely grateful to the Windgate Charitable Foundation for their support of NCECA’s Emerging Artists program from 2013-2017. Additional blog entries will appear on other 2017 recipients of the award before our 2018 cohort will be announced in the month leading up to the conference in Pittsburgh. 


Below, watch the video of Brandl’s 2017 conference presentation at the Emerging Artists Session on Saturday morning in Portland:

Green Task Force Conference Recap + Interview with Amy Joy Hosterman

Green Task Force Conference Recap + Interview with Amy Joy Hosterman

Written by Harry Levenstein – IG:@harrison_lev

The smell of sustainability was in the air this year at NCECA Portland! With topical discussions on ceramics and climate change, reducing our carbon footprint as makers, renewable energy options in our studios, and even firing kilns with repurposed vegetable oil! At the Green Task Force booth, Robert Harrison signed copies of his “book that every studio should have,” Sustainable Ceramics. University of Oregon had their ram press operating at full throttle, giving hands-on demos of their project of repurposing clay and glaze slop to make functional paver bricks. I even attended a few shows around the city with their themes set on environmental awareness. It seems that many makers are keeping sustain on the brain and that is exactly what we like to see.

A highlight of the conference for me, was making the acquaintance of a sustainably driven artist who runs a near-wilderness artist residency on the UP (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan.

Yes, you heard me correctly… An artist residency. Near the wilderness. Focusing on sustainability. Epic.

Amy Joy Hosterman, a ceramic sculptor from Minnesota, approached me in the NCECA Resource Hall with an “I get stuff done” kind of look in her eye. She proceeded to enlighten me about the Visitor Center Artist Camp in Ewen, MI, the near-wilderness residency which she and her colleagues have been building over the last decade. Amy is a Co-Founder, currently serves as Co-Director, and teaches local-clay workshops at the compound.

Stoked about their project and philosophies, we interviewed Amy to find out some more.

It’s about working together, being resourceful, and developing an art making practice that’s as do-it-yourself and low-impact as possible.

Q: How do you define sustainability?

Amy: A practice that is sustainable is one that is flexible, and adaptable to evolving environments and situations. Sustainability is not an absolute term, when looked at practically. Something is only sustainable as long as the energy exists to power it, so the infinite expansion of an industry based on nonrenewable-resources is never sustainable. Sustainability is about adapting our practices to our changing environments, repurposing waste-materials, and using what is available locally.

Q: Would you tell us a little bit about your current project?

Amy: This has been a longterm project of myself, Margaret Coleman, and Joshua Hosterman, in addition to many other artists, craftspeople, and local residents. It’s been an evolution throughout the last ten years, so I’d like to tell you the story of how it has grown into itself.

It began with the opportunity to reclaim an old Forestry Service A-frame cabin that was going to be demolished. A handful of artists gathered in the Upper Peninsula, disassembled it, and moved the pieces to our site in Ewen. The next year we had around a dozen artists there to rebuild the A-frame, creating our first structure for what we decided should be a place for artists to camp, work together, and make art in the wilderness.

Repurposed A-frame and barn studio space.

As our artist camp developed, we partnered with a local barn-builder, Mel Seeger, an amazingly talented craftsperson and retired logger. Mel built an amazing barn for us at the Visitor Center, with wood he milled himself. This is our indoor studio workspace, and it was the key piece we needed to begin to host artists for residencies and workshops.

Q: How about your residency and workshops?

Amy: We host artists each summer for a Sustainable Practices Symposium. This includes workshops in digging, sculpting, and firing the local clay, casting recycled aluminum with molds made of locally-sourced sand and environmentally-friendly binders, as well as woodworking and building using reclaimed and locally-sourced materials. It’s about working together, being resourceful, and developing an art making practice that’s as do-it-yourself and low-impact as possible.

Our clay workshops started out in 2014 by building worktables, framing pieces of window screen for sieving slip, and wrapping boards with canvas for work surfaces. We crush and slake the clay, mix the slip in buckets with a paint-mixer from the hardware store, and use homemade plaster bats for stiffening it. We have treadle wheels for wheel-throwing, and hand-building tools collected from the kitchen sections at thrift stores.


Q: In terms of art making, what facilities and equipment do you have to offer?

Amy: We have our studio workspace in the barn, all the clay you can dig/process, buckets, screens, mixers, etc, for clay slip processing, two treadle potter’s wheels, plaster clay-drying bats, a large work table and canvas-covered boards for hand-building, barrels and pits for primitive-style firings, portable propane-fueled kiln for low-fire glaze and raku firing and all the necessary safety gear, various basic throwing and sculpting tools, and some low-fire glazes. During our Session One Building Workshop, we will be constructing a new drying shelter for storing and processing all our clay, drying our work, and for firing the portable raku kiln in inclement weather. We have also acquired the University of Minnesota “baby kiln,” a 13cu ft outdoor hard brick raku kiln, and are currently fundraising for propane burners and kiln furniture.

Q: What is important about what you are doing?

Amy: Hands-on experience is very valuable for anyone interested in learning more about any process. The science of the ceramics process can be far removed from the artist’s work, if one chooses to only use commercially formulated clay and glazes. I believe that it is very important to keep this knowledge of the process alive. So many things now are done for us. They’re mechanized and produced in such a way that is so far from handcraft, that the process is abstracted for most people. It is also a very different thing to read about or study something, than it is to do it yourself, with your own hands. There is no substitute for the experience of problem-solving your own specific situation. Personally observing the transformation of natural materials as they react to physical and chemical manipulations greatly enhances one’s understanding of the ceramics medium, as well as of our environment’s natural systems. First-hand education brings empowerment, and inspires further investigation.

Q: When should we apply for the residencies/workshops?

Amy: We have extended our deadline for applications for this summer’s VCAC residencies, so applications are now being accepted through June 25th.

Hot Raku kiln at night.

VCAC has been created by artists, for artists with a strong dedication and investment in environmentally-concious processes and community-building. “Many other local residents have helped us a great deal as well. Whether it was lending their tractor or forklift, donating materials or funds, participating in our public events, or sharing their expertise, the local community around Ewen, Michigan has played a big role in our ability to make the Visitor Center Artist Camp a reality.”

Personally, two of my favorite things in life are being in the wilderness, and making things with clay. It seems as though VCAC provides the opportunity for a holistic synthesis of both all the while being surrounded by like-minded and inspired company.

Head over to www.visitorcenterartistcamp.org to learn more about pricing, logistics, and financial aid opportunities for applicants. The deadline is June 25th , so go there today!

And finally, I’d like to thank Amy for the time she took to thoughtfully answer our questions, and for the admirable work she and her colleagues are doing with this project. Cheers, Amy!

Harry Levenstein

IG: @harrison_lev

Eat and Drink around the Oregon Convention Center

Eat and Drink around the Oregon Convention Center

Welcome to Portland! As the top “food city” in America according to the Washington Post, you can eat quite well here, even on a very modest budget. Even during the conference day, you have multiple options for local, quality food and drink. Given the thousands of restaurants, cafes, food carts and pubs in the city, though, we’re going to limit our recommendations to places within a quick walk of the Oregon Convention Center (OCC). For recommendations outside that area, please see Resources below.

Eating In the Convention Center

The OCC now has multiple food and coffee options inside the convention center itself, so if you really don’t want to experience Oregon rain, you never have to exit the show. Menus and hours are detailed on the OCC website; note that the hours of each restaurant vary by day based on expected show traffic. While these eateries are slightly less economical or interesting than options outside the convention center, they keep their prices modest. None of them are open past 4pm.

Your first stop inside the OCC is likely to be one of the two Portland Roasting coffee bars. As well as serving locally roasted coffee and espresso drinks, both locations offer pastries in the morning and shrink-wrapped sandwiches at lunch. Similar take-out lunch options are available from The Orbit Room. Want a hot, sit-down lunch? Try The Dragon Boat Grill or Cucina Rosso … but go early, since there will be thousands of other potters looking for lunch. On Thursday and Friday, the pan-Asian Stir Bistro will also be open for lunch.

Food Near The Convention Center

If the lunch lines are too long inside the OCC, or you simply want more local, interesting fare, grab your umbrella and head outside. While still sparsely occupied, there are a lot more places to eat near the OCC than there were a few years ago.

You don’t have to eat the “continental” breakfast at your hotel. There are several options you can stop by for a quick pastry, or a full breakfast, on your way to NCECA in the morning. J Cafe, located on the walk from the DoubleTree Hotel, has excellent espresso and tasty breakfast and lunch panini. Citizen Baker, across the street from the OCC, serves pastry, sandwiches and coffee all day long. And while My Father’s Place, South of the OCC, is known as a dive bar, they also serve diner-style eggy breakfasts every morning.

For lunch, why not Burgerville? Yes, it’s undeniably fast food, but it’s fast food with a gourmet twist: salads with Oregon blue cheese, Tillamook cheddar cheeseburgers, wild-caught halibut sandwiches, and best of all, milkshakes with local, seasonal ingredients (currently chocolate-hazelnut). If you want something a bit more healthful, try Table 6, a local vegetarian-friendly cafe. Since Table 6 is popular with the local office workers, it can pay to order ahead on their website.


Let’s face it, if Portland is known for anything, it’s beer. With more than 80 breweries in the city (not counting elsewhere in Oregon), you can drink local beer on tap with every meal and never the same one twice. Because of local and state law, most beer halls also serve food, although it can vary from perfunctory to gourmet; check reviews to be sure.

While most of the drinking establishments you’ll frequent will be downtown or elsewhere, there are a few options close by the OCC. The Altabira City Tavern is the restaurant and beer bar in the newly-opened Hotel Eastlund. Go there for a snazzy (but spendy) small-plates lunch or dinner, as well as any of 16 local beers on tap. If the Altabira is too crowded or too rich for your tastes, the Spirit of 77 sports bar has both local sports and 11 rotating taps (the food is not recommended).

Oregon is also known for wine, particularly pinot noir. Sadly, though, there isn’t a good place for wine within a quick walk of the convention center.  Try The Portland Wine Bar and Wine Tasting Room downtown.

A Little Further Away

If you have a bit more time to find breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the Broadway district is only about 20 minutes walk from the OCC. There you’ll find popular places like Milo’s City Cafe, Frank’s Noodle House, Cadillac Cafe, and a vegan bar and grill called Black Water. You’ll find that Portland is very accommodating to special diets; whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, halal or something else, there is a restaurant for you — probably more than one!

Downtown and the Pearl District are only a 10-minute MAX ride away from the OCC, making them an option for lunch as well as evening activities. If you want to eat like a real Portlander, head over to the 9th and Alder Food Carts, where inexpensive takeout food from 30 different countries is available. If it’s raining, the Pine Street Market offers food-cart-type foods but with a roof overhead. There are also numerous standard restaurants. For a treat, try the Portland City Grill for a skyscraper view of the city, and don’t miss Cupcake Jones in the Pearl for a little something sweet.

East Burnside is directly South of the OCC, and has many of Portland’s new and hot restaurants and bars, such as Katchka, Screen Door, and Le Pigeon. North is the North Mississippi and Alberta neighborhoods, including many affordable local restaurants like Eat, Petite Provence, Bunk Sandwiches and Pine State Biscuits.

Attendees from small cities or rural areas should keep in mind that Portland is a city, and as such popular restaurants will fill up, even on a weeknight. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially for parties of more than four. Note that some popular eateries don’t take reservations, and some are cash-only. For example, if you plan to go to Pok Pok, go very early (5pm) or be ready to wait for an hour or more. Also, parking downtown is limited and requires payment before 7pm. Tips are expected.

Enjoy your time in Portland, and eat well!


Student Critiques – Sign Up Now!

Student Critiques – Sign Up Now!

Student Crit Room

Click the image above to sign-up now!

I hope you are just as excited as I am about this year’s conference in Portland! I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to most – the great conference programing, all the amazing exhibitions, seeing old friends, or the chance to visit Portland itself!

I am however, especially excited about the opportunity for students to critique with professional artists and educators from around the country.  The Student Critique Room gives students at all levels an opportunity to discuss images of their work, gain a new perspective, and prepare for graduate school, job applications, gallery representation and more.

Student Critiques will be held Thursday March 23, & Friday March 24, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm in room in room C124 (Level 1) of the Portland Conference Center. Critiques will be 25 minutes long, with a 5-minute break between each session.

The sign-up form is now live and can be found HERE. Sign-up is on a first come/first served basis, so we encourage you to sign up now! This year we are also introducing drop-in slots, which will be available on a first come, first served basis each day.

IMG_7387-this one-blog-smallPlease come to the conference with your images already prepared and saved to a flash drive.  All critiques will be of digital images; please do not bring actual artwork. Laptops will be provided, but NCECA does not provide Internet access in the Student Critique Room.

If you have any questions about the Student Critique Room, please contact: naominceca@gmail.com.

NCECA Student Directors-at-Large

Naomi Clement, naominceca@gmail.com
Shalya Marsh, shalyamarshnceca@gmail.com

Portland Advice: Transportation

Portland Advice: Transportation

Arriving in Portland

Visitors flying in will arrive at PDX Airport, consistently rated the best airport in the USA (and for good reason). It has a wide array of locally-owned, reasonably-priced food options, so plan to take meals there if you happen to arrive at lunch or dinner. It also has a distillery shop (yes, really). Outside security, there’s also a branch of Real Mother Goose Art Gallery, Powell’s Books, and more food.

From the airport, your best way into downtown or the convention center is the MAX Red Line. Follow the signs to “Trimet/MAX” in order to get to the Red Line. It’s the only train line there, and it terminates at the airport, so you don’t have any decisions to make … except how to pay. While NCECA will be providing you with a Trimet pass in your registration packet, you’ll need to pay for the trip from the airport yourself. Do this either using the vending machines on the platform, or download and install the Trimet app on your phone, but definitely do not board the train without having paid. The train trip takes 30 to 40 minutes to get to the Oregon Convention Center (OCC), although you may want to get off at a different stop depending on where you’re staying.

If you’re staying somewhere away from the MAX line, or if you arrive very late at night or early in the morning when the trains are less frequent, you might want to take a taxi, Lyft or Uber. There’s a taxi queue on ground transportation platform 2 on the baggage level, and Lyft and Uber cars arrive at the far left end of platform 1 on the same floor.

If you’re driving in, please note that Portland is surrounded by freeway congestion points both North and South. From 3pm to 7pm, it’s generally better to wait out the traffic if you can; you can get stuck in the town of Wilsonville for an hour otherwise. Do check Google Maps or Waze for traffic reports, and don’t be afraid to exit the freeway early and take Highway 99 or city streets if it’s jammed up. Remember to check with your hotel on charges for parking; at some of the OCC hotels, they can be significant (up to $25/day).


For visitors flying in, I recommend against renting a car except for out-of-town trips (such as to wineries). You will want a vehicle for those, but the best approach is to rent a car only on the days you need it. During the days you’re at NCECA, a car will just be a burden.

Importantly, parking at the OCC is somewhat scarce, often filling up early in the morning, and costs $10 per day. If you’re driving to the OCC because you’re hauling gear, plan to get there early before it fills up. The overflow parking is in the Rose Quarter, which is about half a mile away. Otherwise, take public transportation to the OCC even if you’re driving to Portland.

If you’re staying somewhere far away from the OCC, keep in mind that freeway traffic in Portland during rush hours (7-9am and 3-7pm) can be surprisingly bad. Either avoid driving during those hours, or plan for an extra half-hour travel time.

Public Transportation

Portland’s public transit agency, Trimet, has three parts: MAX rail, streetcars, and buses. The OCC is quite well-served by Trimet, so there’s no real reason to look for anything else.  Trains to the OCC are both frequent and fast. Most importantly, Trimet is clean, friendly, and reliable. Everyone in Portland uses it at least some of the time.

The MAX has four different colored lines (Red, Green, Blue and Yellow) and takes you from the airport to the OCC and downtown, as well as out to many of the suburbs and neighborhoods such as Gresham, Hollywood, or Beaverton. The three Portland Streetcar lines take you around downtown, to Portland State University, and from the OCC to Southeast Portland, where many of the best restaurant options are.

Getting to and from the OCC by bus can be pretty darn convenient, especially since the OCC is barely one block from the Rose Quarter Transit Center, the main inner city transit hub. Bus stops closest to the OCC include those for lines 8, 77, and 6. Lines 8 and 77 have stops just one block north of the convention center, at the intersections of NE Multnomah Blvd and NE 2nd and NE 3rd. The 6 bus stops at the northeastern corner of the OCC, on MLK Jr Blvd. MLK runs one-way headed south along this stretch, so stops for the northbound 6 are one block east on NE Grand Ave. Bus lines which intersect with the 6 include 11, 75, 72, 24, 17, 12, 19, 20, and 15. Bus lines 4, 8, 35, 44, 77, and 85 stop at the Rose Quarter, about a block west of the OCC, along with all MAX lines.

Other bus lines that may prove useful include the 12, 19, and 20 which run east/west along Burnside/Couch, five+ blocks south of the OCC and the 15 which runs east/west slightly farther south. The 20 is the only bus which will get you to Oregon College of Art and Craft. If you want to take the 20 out to OCAC, make sure to board a bus that says “Beaverton Transit Center.” Those that say “To Portland & NW 23rd/Tichner,” won’t get you all the way to OCAC.

Trimet has a great Trip Planner, where you’ll also find service alerts and a transit tracker (where the heck is that bus?!). During business hours most buses run every 15-20 minutes, but later in the evening or on the weekend frequency may be reduced big time, so plan ahead. Google Maps’ trip planner can be helpful to discover which bus lines service the area you are in, but I highly recommend checking TriMet for real-time arrivals and schedules. I have been burned by the Google one too many times!

Trimet uses a “proof of purchase” system, which means that you can board any train but need to have a pass on you; if not, you can be cited by a fare inspector and pay a $175 fine. Buses are pay/show at the door instead. Single rides are $2.50. You will receive a 1-week Trimet pass with your NCECA registration package, so you should only need to buy a pass to get from the airport. If you extend your stay, or need passes for family members, you can either get them from the vending machines on some MAX platforms, or you can use the Trimet phone app. Of these, I recommend the app as the most convenient. You’ll need other apps for finding routes and train arrival times, though; I use Trimet Tracker.

Walking and Biking

Portland is also a tremendously walkable and bikeable town; in fact, it’s the most bikeable town in the USA. Walking or biking to downtown from the OCC across the bridge is very doable (one to two miles, depending on where you’re going). There’s a special bike/pedestrian path under the Steel Bridge, which is the closest one to the OCC, and gives you a very scenic view of the Willamette river and the city in good weather.

If you can, I’d recommend bringing a bike; the OCC has ample bike parking, as does most of the city. For visitors who are flying in, there are the “orange bikes” from Biketown at the OCC which are available for short-term rentals. These are generally a better option than renting bikes by the week, unless you’re planning on a bike trip out of town. They cost $2.50 per trip, or $12 for a full day.

Walkers and bikers should beware that it rains frequently here. If it’s not raining, though, walking or biking is often the best way to get to restaurants and bars in the Pearl, around the Saturday Market, or on Broadway.


The city is also well-covered by both regular taxis and new taxi services (Lyft, Uber). If you don’t feel like waiting for a bus or train, you can get just about anywhere you’d want to go for $10 to $30. Main taxi companies are Radio Cab (has phone app), and Portland Taxi (no app). There are sometimes cabs waiting right outside the OCC.

Public transportation information written by Sarah Chenoweth Davis.