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Sunday, April 22, 2012 - Page updated at 06:30 p.m.

Going beyond downtown Portland for cultural sights

By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times arts writer

Not all of Portland's visual-art attractions are in the downtown core, but they're still easily reachable by foot or mass transit. If you're up for crossing a bridge over the Willamette River or heading toward the hills on the western horizon, you'll be rewarded. Here are three venues to seek out:

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry:) OMSI, like Seattle's Pacific Science Center, is aimed more at kids than adults. But the newly opened National Geographic Gallery should appeal to young and old alike. Its first show, "Ocean Soul: Photographs by Brian Skerry" (through July 10), is a dazzler.

Skerry has logged 10,000 hours underwater in locales that include Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. His images of sea angels, Humboldt squid and other creatures are an optimal blend of environmental consciousness-raising and colorful composition. And if you happen to be in Portland next weekend, don't miss OMSI's "The Art of the Brick" (through April 29). These Lego sculptures by Nathan Sawaya are a must-see, creating surreal visions of psyches under pressure: heads splitting apart, bodies dissolving in an imaginative variety of ways. They're the last thing you'd expect from children's toy materials. (1945 S.E. Water Ave., 503-797-4000 or www.omsi.edu)

The Architectural Heritage Center: On the east side of the Willamette, across from downtown's Waterfront Park, the AHC opened in 2005 in West's Block, a building dating from 1883. It focuses on building-preservation through a variety of programs and exhibits. Currently, "A Glaze of Glory" (a survey of vintage art-tile guest-curated by Seattle collector Ron Endlich) and "Glass Blast" (an exhibit of vintage glass doorknobs) are on display. (701 S.E. Grand Ave., 503-231-7264 or www.visitahc.org)

Oregon Jewish Museum: Tucked away in the Alphabet District of northwest Portland, this exhibit space/research center focuses on the Jewish community in Oregon from 1850 to the present day. In the art gallery, "Transport — Works by Henk Pander and Esther Podemski" (through May 20) offers contrasting takes to World War II memory. Pander, drawing from childhood memories of Nazi-occupied Holland, has a striking, fluid touch in his watercolor and ink-wash pictures — "Burying the Silver," "The Hideout" — and is a little more stilted in his oil-on-linen reworking of the same subject matter. Podemski pushes her images in a more abstract direction as she addresses the realities of the nightmare world her Polish-Jewish father escaped. "Night Sky Steam" and the three-panel "From a Moving Train" are especially evocative. (1953 N.W. Kearney St., 503-226-3600 or www.ojm.org)

A final note: Portland's Eastside arts venues, very sensibly, do a First Friday at the beginning of every month to avoid conflict with the downtown core's First Thursday (www.padaoregon.org). Go to www.firstfridayguide.com to get a ton of information on First Friday exhibits across the Willamette.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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