For the spring 2018 primary election, RACC distributed a questionnaire to all candidates running for Portland City Council; Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington County Boards of Commissioners; and Metro Council. Each candidate was asked five questions on March 13 or 14, and given the opportunity to respond by March 30 when this story was first published. RACC will continue to publish responses from candidates even after the deadline has passed.
Here are the responses provided by Juan Carlos Gonzalez, running for Metro Council, District 4. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in the Portland metro region?
JCG: My role as Director of Development and Communications at Centro Cultural has given me the special opportunity to work on the forefront of how arts and culture serves everyones needs in our region. I have specifically advocated for, designed and materialized, art programs and services that reflect communities of color. In 2017 we led a partnership with the City of Hillsboro to launch “El Grito” – a hispanic heritage month event honoring Latin American independence – drawing over 3,000 guests to an event full of music, dance and cultural activities. We received a RACC grant in 2016 for our Children’s Day Festival, an event I coordinated for 4,000 youth in the west end of the Metro region. Currently, we’re working with Tualatin Riverkeepers to design stormwater murals in Hillsboro and Tigard that reflect both the Latino and Arabic cultures in those respective communities. Just this year we received a significant grant from the State of Oregon to launch a ballet folklorico program in Cornelius for youth of color, with a grant proposal that I designed to incorporate family learning and place-making.
I will continue to support Arts and Culture ferociously as Metro Councilor, especially when considering the racial equity lens our arts and culture programs need to embrace.
RACC: Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life. Yet there are a number of pressing needs in our communities that often compete with arts and culture for attention and investment. How would YOU describe the importance of arts and culture in our community, and what should Metro be doing to support this sector?
JCG: Quite plainly, the Arts build a sense of place and belonging. These modes of expression channel our stories – of struggle, perseverance, love and hope – and connect narratives and ideas to physical places and objects. I believe we must invest in the Arts alongside transportation, housing and parks because it adds richness to the places we call home.
I often think of Winston Churchill’s explanation of why to fund the arts amidst World War, when patriots criticized the government for investing in arts instead of full military expansion and he responded (more or less) “[then] what are we fighting for?”.
In the midst of a housing and transportation crisis it is inevitable that a choir of dissidents will sing a similar tune. As Metro Councilor I will fight to support arts and culture investments both in grant portfolios like Community Placemaking grants, but also more intentional arts and public arts priorities as part of our broader investments. I will specifically advocate for an added racial equity lens to lift the artistic talent of local communities of color, and ensure those stories are told – to wed our experiences with the places we call home, and make Oregon ours.
RACC: The region’s affordability is a serious concern for everyone in our community. What are your plans for making housing and creative spaces more affordable for artists, nonprofit arts organizations and arts-related businesses?
JCG: Our affordable housing crisis is regional, and merits a regional approach. I fully support Metro’s affordable housing bond proposal this November. My campaign’s ethos is that we must un-silo the complex of issues of our generation, and look at braided approaches. Therefore, if we invest in housing we must ensure that the housing is dense and well connected on main transportation corridors, and has access to high quality public transportation services, world class schools, and a wide range of services from arts and culture to recreation in the outdoors.
As Metro Councilor I will champion affordable housing for my District, and the region, in order to ensure that creative minds full of potential are able to call this place home – now and into the future.
RACC: How can RACC and Metro do a better job of providing arts experiences for underrepresented populations, including rural communities, people of color, people with disabilities and underserved neighborhoods?
JCG: Centro Cultural’s model is an excellent example of how regional government and funders can lift the voices, talents, and artistic experiences of communities of color. It doesn’t only take significant investment to scale up capacity and expertise for a community based organization, but also a proliferation of relationships, trust and understanding. There are systemic barriers that get in the way of local artists receiving funding for projects, presenting their art with equitable opportunity, and even having discretionary dollars to purchase materials.
My strategy is to go directly to where community already gathers. There is no need for Metro or RACC to re-invent the wheel of community engagement or community relationships. There are places that have historically meaningful and authentic relationships. We must go to where those places are, invest in them, and do everything in our power to life those voices and perspectives.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for Metro that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
JCG: Our region is at the crux of a recycling crisis, as international markets for plastic jeopardize our ability to process plastics and therefore our entire waste system. I have quite a few ideas with how we can modernize our region’s garbage and recycling system, but at the heart is this idea that we must create a local waste economy that can process materials right here. Not only does that create a new layer of industry, jobs and businesses, but also helps us pump back in the right types of plastics into our economy. Plastics we know we can process responsibly.
The intersection between the arts and this new waste system is an opportunity for creative and innovative re-use of recycled materials. I believe we should create an economy that incentivizes a re-use of materials before they event enter the waste system, to benefit our communities.