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West-side pair put the art in apartment

Art students spice up their beloved patio oasis with sculpture

Above the din of West Burnside Street and in the shadow of a car dealership sign, students Seann and Alyssa Brackin have created an artistic living space complete with its own outside oasis.

Because of their limited budget, the pair needed a living space that also could function as a studio where they could paint and create performance art. The Brackins attend the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Northwest Portland's Pearl District.

The apartment they've occupied for the past two years meets their living and creative needs: great light, plenty of windows and a patio to keep them in touch with the outside world.

In addition to a tiny kitchen and bathroom, there is a large room broken up with a wide French door frame. The couple use one half of the space as a bedroom, while the other part functions as an art studio and living room. There is no furniture in this space, save for a drawing table with shelves that Seann rigged up and collaged.

The walls are painted a soft white Ñ best for hanging and viewing art Ñ and dinner guests sit on a tapestry on the floor. Brightly colored paintings that the couple traded for with fellow artists adorn any free space on the walls.

The Brackins' pride and joy is the tiny patio that looks out over Burnside. Plants and grasses crowd together in pots the couple fired themselves. Original sculptures of abstract figures and shapes pop up among the greenery, and artwork often hangs on the brick wall.

'We've gotten responses from the neighbors across the street who are excited to see art hanging outside,' Seann says.

Another favorite fixture is the apartment's claw-foot bathtub. The couple had dreamed of such a luxury, and it turned out to be the added bonus of renting in a building constructed in 1911.

The downtown location allows both artists to bike to school and to easily get to their various jobs: Seann works in the gift shop at the Portland Art Museum, and Alyssa is a window designer. Both also work as security guards.

'We were persistent in looking for what we wanted,' Seann says, 'but we also know we were lucky.'

Contact Tina Satter at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Digs is an occasional series on Portlanders and their homes. Do you have an interesting dwelling? If so, contact Portland Life editor Dave Kern at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .