100 Days: Executive Director Madison Cario reflecting back and looking ahead

Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead


Hello. April 25 marked my first 100 days. Phew! As promised when stepping into this role, I’m pausing after this 100 day mark to share some of what I’ve learned and answer ‘What’s Next?’

Clockwise from right to left: RACC PDX City Hall in support of Trans Day of Visibility; City of Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Madison Cario and Multnomah County’ Commissioner Susheela Jayapal; White Bird Dance and Phó Van Fresh; and Art + Coffee meet up.

I’ve so enjoyed that most days were spent outside of my RACC office as I explored the city to meet with people in person (and yes, thanks to the community invitations and coordination of my team, I managed to meet well over 100 creatives in person as pledged when I arrived). Folks gathered at RACC’s Monday morning Art+Coffee meet ups, working lunches hosted by board members, and meetings with elected officials and community partners. I’ve witnessed moving performances, exhibits, forums, celebrations, and fundraisers. I invited you to suggest restaurants, urban trails, public art, and galleries, to tell me about your experiences in the Portland arts and creative community, and to invite me to events. And you did just that. This Google map shows some of where your invitations led me. There’s still more exploring to be done, including visits to Clackamas and Washington Counties, where I am headed in May.

Throughout these interactions with you, I’ve gained valuable insight into what can be better celebrated within our region as well as aspects of our community that are concerning. I am incredibly grateful for everyone who entrusted me with time, perspective, and emotional labor. So… here we go. After 100 days into my role here is what I’m prioritizing as next.


What is Next for RACC?

While we have taken action externally to center equity in funding and programs, I’m publicly prioritizing RACC’s internal work. Some details. Even before I arrived in Portlandfor more than a decade, in fact RACC staff and board have been advocating and creating pathways to improve equity in all our services and programs including grantmaking, public art, and arts education. Soon after I arrived, RACC announced substantial changes to our grantmaking; an effort to address historical and systematic inequities. While we will continue focusing on equity externally, concerns have been expressed within RACC which illustrate the fact that we also have some important internal equity work that needs our attention.We have been promoting equity work externally without digging deep enough into it ourselves. I am committed to this work and to communicating our learnings and progress with the community at large.

Foundational actions towards this include:

Create a unifying equity vision and plan. This spring and summer, RACC will create and implement an organization-wide equity plan. It will be a living document built to both measure our progress and to set clear goals for the future.

Add the A to DEI.  (Access, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) We are ready to partner with the City and the disability community to ensure that Access is a key part of all future Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work within the arts community. It’s time to celebrate the generative power of disability and ensure that all residents across the region have access to culture, creativity and the arts.its Disabled citizens make up 25% of the U.S. population, and yet this group remains invisible or shut out throughout many communities. 


For decades, RACC has been fortunate enough to receive the majority of its funding through the City of Portland. Over this period of time, the city and the arts and culture communities have changed and expanded, and we need to find new resources and new ways to support this growth.

Foundational action towards this include:

Futures Planning. This spring, we will embark upon a comprehensive strategic planning process, using a futures planning framework. Driven by the questions: What does the future of Portland and its citizenry look like, and how might RACC serve this future? What are the needs, trends and personas of the future of people? Futures Planning will help us examine what is possible. We are approaching this work with a refined equity lens and will be soliciting community input throughout the process. Please let me know it you’d like to join us in these important conversations.


What is Next for You?

Across the region I continually heard the need for people to be connected to resources beyond financial support. In the future, I imagine that you will come to RACC to learn about and be connected to resources. In my mind, I see RACC as a modern-day switchboard and resource center where people can gather together to share and learn from each other.


II. CONTRIBUTE TO Portland Stories
Show up and Share. There is a critical need for visionary cultural planning in Portland. The city is changing rapidly, artists and arts organizations are being displaced, and historically underserved communities are often overlooked by traditional systems of support. The first step towards developing a comprehensive culture plan is to take an inventory of our current arts, culture, and creative assets. To connect and thrive, we need to be able to see each other —literally—and get a better sense of what we already have within the region (otherwise referred to as a cultural asset map). In order to do this, we need you, your voice, your stories, and your knowledge about what we have, where it is, and, of course, what we need to sustain and grow this brilliant and diverse community. I invite you to participate in our upcoming cultural asset mapping efforts this summer. Stay tuned for more information!


An Invitation
These past few months have been enlightening and illuminating. This is because of YOU. Please keep connecting with me and with RACC. I am always open to ideas, reflections, and plans. Email me at mcario@racc.org or interact with me on Instagram as I continue my journeys around our area.

And come to an event! Here’s some great ones.

  • My next Art+Coffee  will be on May 6 from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Taborspace Coffee, 5441 SE Belmont St, Portland OR 97215.
  • RACC’s next Art&Power conversation on Gender & Sexuality is May 23rd.


I am grateful for the past 100+ days and looking forward to important work and new adventures for RACC and our region.


Madison Cario

Executive Director