Opera a la Cart: Architecture students design mobile performance venue for Portland Opera
Author: School of Architecture
Posted: July 22, 2016

PSU School of Architecture and the Portland Opera have teamed up to create a brand-new, innovative way to reach out to new opera audiences in the Portland metro area: Opera a la Cart. This new mobile performance venue for the Portland Opera brings opera directly to community events and gathering spots during the summer of 2016.

Inspired by Portland’s celebrated food-cart culture, faculty member Todd Ferry, with students in the School of Architecture and its Center for Public Interest Design, took a standard box truck provided by the Portland Opera, combined it with the idea of Portland's popular food carts, and designed this elegant moveable performance cart, which the opera company is using to deliver pop-up performances in communities all over the city.

"We were excited to collaborate with the Opera on this project, because it allowed us to explore how design could support a local cultural organization while expanding arts programming in communities throughout Portland -- a goal that aligns with the Center for Public Interest Design's mission to investigate ways that design can serve traditionally underserved communities," reported Todd Ferry.

The project team, led by CPID Student Fellows and Master of Architecture students Willy Chandler, Alejandra Ruiz, and Jenna Wasser, made a series of provocative, functional modifications to both the interior and exterior of a formerly ordinary Grumman Olson truck. The modifications allow the company to bring the magic of opera directly to communities that might not otherwise experience this timeless art form. The architectural alterations include a fold-out stage and overhead shelter, elegant vertical columns that suggest a proscenium arch and storage for set pieces. The venue also includes an interactive interior wall made from reclaimed materials that will allow new opera lovers to play and learn more about this art form as programming develops in the future.

"It was a fantastic learning experience for the students, who had the opportunity to both construct the interior space and work closely with local fabricators Figure Plan on their execution of the transforming stage elements," said Ferry.

A “menu” of operatic specials du jour is offered for each performance held across the Portland metro area. Audience members are invited to order up bite-size arias, duets, and ensemble pieces sung by charismatic singers from Portland Opera's chorus, Resident Artists program, and guest artists.

The appearance schedule for Opera a la Cart is:

July 23rd: 10 am – 1 pm at Division/Clinton Street Fair 
July 24th: 11 am - 4 pm at Sunday Parkways at Khunamokwst Park 
July 30th: 12 pm – 3 pm at Director Park
August 4th: 6 pm – 8 pm at First Thursdays in the Ecotrust Parking Lot on NW 10th & Johnson 
August 13th: Time TBD at Providence Wellness Fair
August 20th: 12 pm – 4 pm at Multnomah Days

Additional dates will be posted at the Portland Opera's web site as they are scheduled.

Opera a la Cart was sponsored by generous funding provided by Oregon Cultural Trust, Opera America - Building Opera Audiences, Macy’s, and The Oregon Community Foundation.

Photo credit: Jonathan Ley