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The atmosphere of art

When life is getting to be overly stressful, sometimes it’s helpful to just get away for a little while. If a relaxing vacation on a tropical island, for example, is beyond your means (and for most college students, it is), there are closer and cheaper ways to find some peace.

Art galleries and museums are numerous in the Portland area. These quiet, nicely lit buildings are a great place to spend some time, even if you cannot tell the difference between the latest avant-garde piece and a “wet paint” sign.

There are even a couple of free galleries on campus that are conveniently located and offer rotating exhibitions by local and national artists.

The Autzen Gallery, found on the second floor of Neuberger Hall, is currently displaying artist Mylan Rakich’s “Wood & Steel” series, a collection of various combinations of (surprise, surprise) wood and steel sculptures that could possibly represent the clash between nature and industrialism. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Students looking for a serene place to sit down and unwind should check out the White Gallery, located on the second floor of Smith Memorial Union. The White Gallery is not really a room so much as a long hallway with rows of comfortable chairs in the center. Currently, Chris Hagerty’s black and white “Landscapes” are on display.

The Littmann Gallery (Smith Union, Room 250) displays a wide, ever-changing range of talent. Notice your fellow students rushing back and forth to class through the window as you unhurriedly absorb the work of Annah Smedberg Eivers, whose paintings are “influenced by Scandinavian history and myth, as well as biological forms and life experiences,” or the works of Portland native Charles Siegfried, whose pictures are an interesting collage of cut-out photographs against bold paint strokes. The Littmann Gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

Another really great thing about art galleries is the fact that many of them are absolutely cell-phone-free zones. For those people tired of the shrill sounds of “The William Tell Overture” followed by a loud, one-sided and sometimes extremely personal conversation, this is a major selling point.

“I don’t understand why we can’t leave them on,” one observer said as she reluctantly turned her cell phone off. “No one will be able to reach me.”

That’s exactly the point.