In Portland, Anne Hughes has made a career out of meeting interesting people.
She entertained Ursula Le Guin for Wednesday breakfasts, took Kurt Vonnegut to the airport in her silver Dodge Dart, and opened a famed coffee shop inside Powell’s City of Books, where she would sit and converse with anybody who came in.
Hughes would walk around the corner from her little Southeast Portland house to the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge decades later and strike up a conversation with the bar’s guests.
During group therapy sessions, she’d hold court with other dementia patients and their families, conversing happily as if she were back in the 1970s, hosting a salon with politicians, artists, and writers.
Hughes, a lifetime campaigner and arts lover, died on Aug. 26 after suffering from dementia for years. She was 76 years old at the time.
Her passing occurred just weeks before Portland’s first Anne Hughes Day, which will be held yearly on her birthday, Sept. 21, to honour her civic efforts.
Her son Joe Hughes told The Oregonian/OregonLive, “She just had a uniquely amazing intellect.” “Her main objective in life was to create venues where individuals might develop relationships that they might not have made otherwise.”
Hughes was born Marguerite Anne McBride in Washington, D.C., and as a child went to La Grande, then Portland. Throughout her time at Portland State University, she became involved in activism by assisting with the Valley Migrant League, a nonprofit that provided education and social assistance to seasonal migrant labourers in Oregon during the 1960s and 1970s.
She met her late husband, John Hughes, at Portland State University, and they had two sons, Joe and Mike Hughes.
Hughes founded her first art gallery in 1976 and a second in 1979 while also curating exhibitions at several venues.
She once took Judy Chicago’s work into the gallery of a local art institution that she helped curate. Chicago has recently made history by becoming the first city to exhibit feminist art in a mainstream museum.
The museum director was enraged at Chicago’s work, which included controversial imagery and concepts for the time. The piece was removed.
Joe Hughes remarked, “They flipped out.” “Mom and Judy were quite enraged.”
According to Joe Hughes, the two women sent the director a furious telegram and “browbeat” him into putting the piece back up the next day.
Hughes’ galleries were short-lived, shutting down in the late 1970s. Despite a divorce and a brief period in California, where she worked for a cable business and as a stockbroker, she remained rooted in Portland’s artistic circles.