An artist in motion

"I'm a pretty wild old lady!"

There you have it. The unbridled self-assessment of artist, curator, teacher and general mover and shaker Donna Lindeman Porter.

Porter, who was a member of the Kirkland Cultural Council for three years, is currently showing her work at the Kirkland Arts Center's "Altared" exhibit through May 3. In addition, she has curated and is participating in the "Art: Renew, Recycle, Recreate!" show at Kirkland City Hall. Her work also is being displayed in a "Computers and Calligraphy" exhibit at EastShore Gallery in Bellevue. And, perhaps the icing on the cake - at least for the moment - is a display of her work at SeaTac Airport that begins this month and lasts through September.

If you're out of breath reading this, having a conversation with her is equally and simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. Porter makes it unequivocally clear that she is incredibly passionate about everything - and at this stage in her life in her late 60s - is happy to be alive, prolific and productive.

"My art is being noticed. I'm so happy I could just cry," she says. "I don't know where my path is going, but it's a very successful, recognized, passionate life I have now."

Grew up in the projects

Her success and drive today mark a stark contrast to her roots in the projects of Los Angeles. Her mother was unable to care for her consistently, so her upbringing was split between LA and her grandmother's farm in Richmond Beach, Wash. "I lived on a street of Norwegians with my beloved Norwegian grandmother," she says. "I had a wonderful life there with her and my dogs."

Eventually Kirkland became her home. She married young, had four children and "worked full-time with those kids when it wasn't the thing to do," she says. "But I always took a class in painting."

Worked in sales

She says she worked in public works for King County for a long time, suddenly realizing it wasn't challenging enough. "I couldn't even apply for a janitor's job because it was a guy's job," she says. Eventually Porter found success in music industry sales, then segued into selling machinery and tools and a stint in the beauty industry. During this time she lost her 14-year-old son to cancer, which was followed by seven more cancer-related deaths during a three-year period.

At this point she decided that "life was too short" and that she "had to do what I believed in." She got her bachelor's in fine arts as well as a teaching certificate. She then decided to go for the gusto and was accepted to the University of Washington in two five-year master's programs: fine arts and public administration. She finished the fine arts degree in only three years and decided to drop the public administration studies late in the game "because I was just fried."

Surrounded by art

From this point forward, the art world has been her work place and playground, working at the Pacific Science Center as an artist and eventually, artistic director. There she became engaged in "meaningful projects for battered women, kids in projects and gangs."

She did programs for schools at Seattle Center that were, in her words, "profound," even though she earned far less than in her sales jobs. While developing projects at the Seattle Center, she lobbied for grants; her favorite project incorporated opera, ballet and theater on the Center grounds. "It was wonderful," she says, "but I finally burned out from the boards and politics."

About seven years ago she did a show at the Seattle Children's Theater that had her on stage, painting a 17-foot by 10-foot mural, twice a day, six days a week. "It was fantastic!" she remembers, "While the play unfolded, so did the mural. The play was painted, it was acted, it was signed for the deaf." She describes this as "another meaningful project" for which she got a lot of press. This led her to along a path as an artist-in-residence at schools, something which she continues to do.

Today, she is teaching, traveling and giving lectures on world tours, getting to go to places she's only dreamed of. She has private students in her studio, teaches at Bellevue Community College and curates shows for the Bellevue Art museum and corporate lobbies.

Vision for Kirkland

She has a vision bringing art to Kirkland which was inspired by the Vancouver (Canada) Biennial - a huge international art exhibit featuring 13 countries. She is trying to develop a professional collaboration where, in the beginning of 2007, the art can be brought to Kirkland and possibly shared with Redmond and Bellevue. She's thinking of incorporating the exhibit - which features a 45-foot tall sculpture - into the local schools' curriculum as well.

"It would be so nice to collaborate," she says. "It could happen so easily."

"I'm still painting, still sculpting, learning new media. I'm obsessed with it. I have three grandkids, I ski, I travel. I'm so happy when I wake up in the morning. My time is getting shorter and I have so much to do still."

For more information, see or contact her at[[In-content Ad]]