By Jack Rubinger

The pig in the blue sports car spoke to me from a small canvas located in a spacious art studio at the Tabor Heights Community Education Resource Center (CERC) in SE Portland. He said, “Don’t judge me. Art can be whimsical.”

This didn’t really happen, but Trish Dawson laughed appreciatively when she showed me this and other paintings at the community art studio housed in a rambling 1960s church in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood where she’s establishing a non-profit community center.

Trish Dawson will paint upside down to show that art is for everyone — sacrificing perspective and neatness to show her students that anyone can and should do art and that art is for the community.

Dawson explained that she wants to draw the community into the building through art, music, yoga, classes, meetings, receptions, parties.

Inspired by and similar to TaborSpace, which the SE Examiner featured in 2016, Dawson has an exciting challenge ahead of her: filling the cavernous space with people of all ages.

“I would love to connect with the folks from Revive Community Commons to see what we can do to revive, rejuvenate and revitalize the space we’re in,” said Dawson, a world traveler and writer by trade who is originally from France.

She’s already established Le Artiest, which has found a home within the church. Here, she leads adult and kid classes, painting parties, and corporate parties.

Dawson describes it as a great place to host a private party, work on your own artwork or join one of the many step-by-step painting classes.

“Our staff artists provide enthusiasm, and step-by step instructions in a fun, and relaxing atmosphere for children and adults,” said Dawson. “Folks can come in for a couple of hours, let their hair down, get lost in the moment and enjoy themselves. Everything they need to paint is provided including the canvas, brushes, paint, and aprons.”

“Guests provide their inspiration and individuality. Each painting will be different even though everyone is being taught the same theme. That is the beauty of art and being unique,” she said.

The community center has all the ingredients needed for success, including three huge kitchens, tons of meeting rooms, a sanctuary, outdoor gardens and lots of natural light.

In Portland, one thing often leads to another. Connections are made. Ideas are suggested and acted upon. Inspiration comes from many places, but there’s a certain type of person who is not afraid to take action to push an idea into reality. That’s Dawson.

Currently, the community center includes a meditation garden with a fountain and seating, as well as a labyrinth for reflection, and a community garden plot. The lower wings have been opened to host many kinds of activities. At this time the YMCA teaches there during the day and the ARC teaches cooking to the community. There are many meetings for AA, and men’s groups. The Chrysanthemum and Fuchsia societies hold their annual flower fairs at the community center. Portland may have hundreds of old churches like this one which are sitting practically empty for hours when services aren’t being conducted.

Community centers like TaborSpace and CERC compete with libraries, food coops, and yoga studios to draw people in. It’s also tough to bring people together when so many are glued to their cell phones and large screen televisions.

“We’re working on transformation,” said Dawson. “The possibilities are huge, but it’s going to take time, attention, focus and lots of enthusiasm.”

Tabor Community Education Resource Center (Tabor CERC) is a 501-c3 located at 6161 SE Stark, 503.232.8500.