Munta Mpwo paints new mural at Open Signal

The artwork is the sixth to be commissioned as part of the “Fresh Paint” temporary murals program, in partnership with the Regional Arts & Culture Council


Portland, Ore. — A new mural is going up on the exterior wall of Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center on NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at Graham Street in Portland. Titled bboys make some noise, artist Munta Eric Mbungu Mpwo’s mural will remain on display through April 2020.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mpwo is now based in Portland. He cites comic books, breakdancing and hip hop as their sources of inspiration.

“I’m a breakdancer and have been doing it for about 20 years,” Mpwo says. “I have connected with many different cultures and backgrounds through dance. To help motivate the next generation, I would like to dedicate [this mural] to all dancers to show what the power of dance can bring to the soul.”

This is the sixth temporary mural created in the last two and a half years as part of the Fresh Paint program, a partnership between Open Signal and the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). The goal of the program is to provide emerging artists of color the opportunity to paint a mural in a high-traffic setting for the first time, helping artists learn new ways of creating art in public spaces, and to build their portfolio.

For a time-lapse video with the painting of the previous Fresh Paint mural—Let’s Talk by artists Maria Rodriguez, Bizar Gomez and Anke Gladnick—please visit https://youtu.be/Zfkv0hizF90. The next artist to be featured in this program will be Limei Lai in April 2020.


Artist Munta Mpwo started painting Open Signal’s new mural facing NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. on October 2, 2019. Painting is scheduled to resume on Saturday, October 5.


Response: Jo Ann Hardesty

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.

Here are the responses provided by Jo Ann Hardesty, running for Portland City Council, position 3. All responses are reprinted verbatim.



RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Portland?

JAH: As chair of the Community Grants Committee for the East Portland Action plan I have advocated for funding support for:

  1. Portland Slavic Festival, 2015, 2016, 2017
  2. JAM Multicultural Festival, hosted by APANO Aug 2017
  3. Jim Pepper Festival 2015, 2016, 2017

Additionally, I am a 12+ year volunteer at the Waterfront Blues Festival, volunteering with KBOO on behalf of the Oregon Food Bank). This past year, as the beneficiary of the event changed I felt obliged to not participate.

On a more personal note, in a past life I was married to a local jazz musician, which exposed me to our local music scene. What struck me most during this time was how incredibly under appreciated world renowned artists were that lived here.  I’m proud that i had the pleasure to know Leroy Vinegar (Bassist), Janice Scroggins (pianist), Linda Hornbuckle (vocalist) who unfortunately have all passed. I’m a huge fan of live music and for fun make it a point to check out old friends like Nancy King, Norman Sylvester, Mel Brown and other local musicians.  In addition I have been a season seat holder at Portland Center Stage and attended the Montavilla Jazz Festival this year and was ask to provide a few words of welcome, which was an honor.

Because of these experiences, I support my friends on the PDX Jazz board who are working to make blues and jazz available to young children/students to pass on this important legacy so it doesn’t die with current musicians.  As President of the NAACP, I worked in coalition with our members and leaders to help create a Black Legacy Project event that highlighted and featured their creations for sale. We also provided awards to several artists in recognition of the challenges faced by artists in Portland such as high rent, dislocation, lack of visibility and marketing assistance.


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 Portland 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 Portland be doing to support this sector?

JAH: Artists and arts organizations are vital to a world class city.  Currently we spend 54% of flexible funding on policing services. I believe you know a lot about a city in how they spend discretionary funding.  There is an enormous inequity in how we invest in cultural programs. For example, the Rose Festival has a building on the waterfront for $1 a year yet most arts organizations led by people of color have to put on multi-day cultural festivals on with no assistance from the City of Portland.  I look forward to working with Commissioner Eudaly to ensure we are equitably investing in artists and arts organizations that represent the mosaic of talent in Portland.


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?

Arts organizations, artists, and small business owners all are facing the repercussions of gentrification.  We must ensure we maintain affordable artist space and expand access throughout the city. We also need to work to ensure that those spaces remain affordable for the long term. I will work with my colleagues to ensure we don’t miss the opportunity to address this need as a priority along with housing.


RACC: The city’s Arts Tax is disliked by some, while 62% of voters approved it. Thanks to the Arts Tax, every K-5 student in the City of Portland now as an art, music or dance teacher, and dozens of nonprofit arts organizations are expanding access to the arts by providing free and low-cost arts experiences for Portland residents. What changes to the Arts Tax, if any, would you want Portland City Council to consider?

JAH: I’m very concern that some retires are exempt from paying this tax while persons with income at $10,000 are forced to pay this tax.  There are many low-income community members who are experiencing this regressive tax at a time they are challenged with keeping a roof over their head.  We must change state law to allow us to tax those who can most afford it. Having said that i look forward to auditing this process to ensure that those least able to pay for arts education are in fact the true beneficiaries of the funding.


RACC: What are some of your other priorities for the City of Portland that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?

I believe in intersectionality and know that the artistic community, in addition to specific concerns, are also concerns with broad issues impacting our society at large. What I hear most often talking to community members, is fear of being priced out of the neighborhoods people are currently connected to and believe our housing crisis does touch all of us. Additionally, I am very motivated to help address climate change through the Portland Clean Energy Fund as well as ensuring our democracy by bringing campaign finance reform to the city with the implementation of campaign finance reforms hopefully approved by the voters this Fall.

Lastly, I am very interested in learning more from you on how you think the City Council can assist arts organizations and artists more effectively.  I need to hear directly from you, what is working, what are the challenges of your community and what solutions to you believe would address the issues most important to you.


Executive Director Search Update for July 30, 2018

The search committee continues to meet weekly. (Committee members include Helen Daltoso, Ozzie Gonzalez, Jeff Hawthorne, Angela Hult, Salvador Mayoral IV, Linda McGeady, Alejandro Queral and Steve Rosenbaum.) Here is the latest update:


Process Changes:

  • Our search firm, Koya Leadership Partners, has expanded the areas and communication vehicles they are targeting for the job posting and search process.
  • Koya is confirming that applicants and their partners and families are able to relocate to Portland before presenting individuals to the committee for consideration.
  • Many applicants are asking questions about the arts tax and the audit, so we are sending Koya weekly updates to help them stay apprised of RACC-related issues and activities. This enables Koya to share RACC’s recent successes while answering questions about the audit and other issues of interest.
  • A second round of video interviews is being added to the interview process, enabling the committee to ask additional, specific questions before determining which candidates to bring to Portland for finalist interviews.


Interviews: Round One:

  • The committee interviewed four individuals via video conference on July 17 at the RACC office. The group spent one hour with each individual, followed by a 30-minute debriefing session with the team at Koya.
  • Overall the interviews went well, and while all four interviewees were from outside of Oregon, each person had varying degrees of knowledge regarding our local arts ecosystem. The search committee and Koya agree that the candidates are strong, and we are pleased to see that the word continues to get out — in a very positive way — about the opportunity.
  • A second set of three or four individuals will be interviewed via video conference on August 6.


Next Steps:

  • Following the August 6 interviews, the committee will determine which individuals to advance to the second round of video interviews.
  • Upon completion of the second round of video interviews, the committee will identify which candidates to advance to the finalist round, a series of in-person interviews and meetings in Portland.
  • While details are still being determined, the intention is to mirror the approach used in the previous search, providing board, community members and others with an opportunity to meet the finalists.


We are grateful to community members who have reached out with advice and encouragement in this effort. Your collective support is greatly appreciated. We will continue to keep you updated on the process, and in the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions. The search committee can be reached at EDsearch@racc.org



Search Update for June 29

RACC search committee members Linda McGeady, Steve Rosenbaum and Ozzie Gonzalez, and interim executive director Jeff Hawthorne, recently accepted invitations to meet with constituents interested in the status of RACC’s search process, including 20 leaders of local arts organizations and 5 representatives from AWE – Arts Workers for Equity.

RACC representatives heard questions in these meetings about the board-only composition of RACC’s search committee; encouragement to do a better job of communicating what is going on and why; and concerns about leadership in the arts in this challenging and exciting environment. We also heard words of encouragement and support, and we are very grateful for those.

Informed by these and other discussions over the past month, the search committee recommended adding two staff members as voting members, and Jeff Hawthorne as an ex officio, non-voting member. Staff chose Helen Daltoso and Salvador Mayoral as their representatives, and the committee nominated Linda McGeady and Angela Hult as committee co-chairs for the new fiscal year. The board enthusiastically approved all of these changes on June 28, so the new composition of the search committee is:

  • Linda McGeady (board), co-chair
  • Angela Hult (board), co-chair
  • Helen Daltoso (staff)
  • Ozzie Gonzalez (board)
  • Jeff Hawthorne, ex officio
  • Salvador Mayoral IV (staff)
  • Alejandro Queral (board)
  • Steve Rosenbaum (board)

The search committee will continue to assess its composition and evaluate its processes on an ongoing basis. We remain committed to including more than 20 additional community members in the final vetting of candidates, and will continue to do everything possible to eliminate unconscious bias from decisions that are made.

The search committee also wants to clarify that extending the search does not add significant expenses to the budget. $67,000 has been budgeted to date, including the costs associated with our executive search firm, Koya Leadership Partners. Koya is still under contract to deliver a candidate at no additional expense, but RACC may incur some additional, relatively nominal expenses in bringing out-of-town finalists to Portland.

The search committee will continue to post updates on racc.org, and the job description is posted here (HTML) and here (PDF). Candidates should apply directly to Koya, but you can also contact the search committee by emailing EDSearch@racc.org.



June 8, 2018 update from the Search Committee:

The new RACC Search Committee has met twice, and meets every Tuesday morning.

The job description has been updated and reposted to reflect a slight increase in the salary range. Our recruiter, Koya Leadership Partners, has also increased the number of sites where we are posting the opportunity.

We expect to review several new candidates this summer, and will then reconvene approximately 40 community members as part of a confidential interview process.  

Frances Portillo has left the Search Committee and Angela Hult has been added to the committee. The Search Committee roster now includes:

To apply or to recommend a candidate, please contact Koya directly at mbonoan@koyapartners.com or submit your resume here. We would also greatly appreciate your help sharing the updated job opportunity with your networks: https://koyapartners.com/search/racc-executive-director-21.

In other news:

We’ve received some questions and comments about the new search committee, and wanted to provide some background information that will set the context of where we are today.

RACC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that receives both public and private funding. The public funding is governed by multiple contracts and oversight bodies (including: The City of Portland, Metro, and Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties). RACC’s independent, voluntary Board of Directors is responsible for setting RACC’s vision, approving RACC’s budget and providing fiduciary governance, including hiring, oversight and support of the executive director.

Because  RACC relies largely on public funding, we have a heightened obligation to be inclusive, representative, equitable and transparent in our decision-making processes, above and beyond what is expected of most nonprofits.

We do our best to answer all questions regarding our search, except when to do so would compromise the confidentiality of committee deliberations or candidate privacy. Most candidates in the process request that their applications remain confidential.

A common question is: Given RACC’s commitment to transparency and community involvement, why is the search committee now limited to five board members?  

Given the need to continue and complete the search expeditiously (and with minimal budget overruns), the Board agreed in April of 2018 that a committee of five people was the ideal size to have an accelerated but comprehensive, equitable and deliberative process.

In appointing five board members to this new Search Committee, the board focused on individuals who:

  • Bring a range of thought, skills, experience and networks of support
  • Understand RACC’s current situation (people, budget, opportunities, risks, etc.)
  • Are independent with no financial interest in the outcome      
  • Leverage the work of the prior search committee (2 prior members, 3 new ones)
  • Are fully dedicated to RACC’s mission
  • Will keep an open mind and solicit input from  the community
  • Have a history or likelihood of working well together
  • Have the time and willingness to serve

The Board’s new Search Committee is continuing the search and will recommend one or more candidates to the Board. As with the previous search round, the finalists will be offered confidentiality and the Search Committee’s recommendations to the Board will be non-binding.

A continued commitment to equity and community involvement:

Our Search Committee is committed to utilizing RACC’s equity lens and listening to the community. Throughout this search, we remind ourselves who is impacted and whose voices are missing from the decision-making table, and how to address those gaps. We acknowledge that we all have biases, and we work to disclose and eliminate them.

Our committee is being candid with itself and with the community. We need to face, and then quickly overcome, tough challenges. We need to make decisions quickly, but not too quickly – a small and cohesive committee is more able to be nimble and responsive.

In addition to the committee, more than 40 community members (including some from board and staff) will participate in the evaluation process, and their feedback will help the Search Committee to decide on a recommendation for the RACC board.

Here is the list of previous RACC search panel participants from semi-finalist panels. We will invite these previous participants back, and will be reaching out to people who expressed interest but were unable to attend. A limited number of additional panel spots may be available. Please email the search committee if you are interested EDsearch@racc.org.

We value the community’s input on how we can do better, and we thank those who have proactively shared their concerns, suggestions or support.

As part of continuing and enhancing community input, the Search Committee will:

  • Use substantially the same job description and hiring criteria that were informed by a community survey and numerous stakeholder meetings;
  • With the interim executive director, host meetings with various groups that have offered feedback;
  • Continue to invite Portland City Council and their staff to participate in the confidential evaluation of semi-finalists;
  • Continue to invite RACC board and staff to participate in the confidential evaluation of semi-finalists;
  • Continue to invite community members to participate in the confidential evaluation of semi-finalists (contact the Search Committee to volunteer)
  • Hold workshops with RACC staff to improve alignment of RACC’s values,  and to co-create interview questions and evaluations;
  • Continue listening and responding to the phone calls, letters and emails we receive.


To apply or to recommend a candidate, please contact Koya directly at mbonoan@koyapartners.com, or submit your resume here. We would also greatly appreciate your help sharing the updated job opportunity with your networks: https://koyapartners.com/search/racc-executive-director-21/ .  



Portland Auditor: Clearer Goals, Strong Leadership, Better Results


On May 22, 2018, RACC participated in a Portland City Council work session with Portland Auditor Mary Hull Caballero and her staff as they presented their findings from a 9-month performance audit of the organization.  This is the first ever audit of RACC, and was requested last summer by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Nick Fish. The audit presented an opportunity to examine the relationship between RACC and the City as we negotiate a new five-year service agreement with the City.

While the audit was intended to assess RACC’s performance, the report findings indicated the assessment was difficult because the City does not have clear goals for arts and culture. To improve arts and culture services, the audit suggests clarifying the City’s goals and RACC’s strategy to address these goals. As a result, the auditor delivered five specific recommendations as part of their report:

  1. The Arts Commissioner and the Mayor should work with the Arts Council, City leaders, City agencies involved with arts and- culture, and community stakeholders to: (a) Assess the state of arts and culture in Portland; (b) Identify needs; (c) Develop clear goals, vision, and strategy for arts and culture for City Council adoption.
  2. The Arts Council should conduct a strategic planning process to clarify the organization’s mission, goals and vision for arts and culture. Update bylaws to reflect governing agreements.
  3. City Council should review the intergovernmental agreement with the Arts Council, and in conjunction with other jurisdictions party to it, recommend changes that reflect the appropriate level of board representation and funding from each jurisdiction.
  4. The Arts Commissioner, Mayor, and the Arts Council’s Executive Director should update the contract, consistent with the City’s goals for arts and culture.
  5. The Arts Commissioner and Mayor should appoint a contract administration professional to: (a) Monitor compliance with the contract; (b) Provide technical assistance on performance measurement and reporting to the Arts Council; (c) Review the annual budget submitted by the Arts Council; (d) Develop a consistent mechanism to track all City funding to the Arts Council; (e) Develop procedures for the Art Council’s reporting so that there is consistency over time.


An important clarification:

One statistic reported by the Auditor has created confusion on City Council, and has been mischaracterized by the press. The auditor calculated RACC’s internal expenses, including “salaries, staff training and rent,” as 33% of our overall budget of $11.2 million, but failed to provide any context for that number, leaving the impression that RACC’s internal expenses are excessively high. Working with the auditor’s staff and perusing public records at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/72512 , we were able to determine that RACC’s “internal expenses” are, in fact, very low compared to the city’s own bureaus. Portland Parks and Recreation has internal expenses of 40%, the Water Bureau is 51%, Equity and Human Rights is 84%, the Auditor is 85% and Fire is 86% — just to name a few. We believe that internal investments, including personnel, are essential to move the city’s agenda forward, but it is important for people to understand that “internal expenses” are not the same as “management and overhead” expenses.

RACC’s independent financial audit confirms that 15% of our budget is spent on management, overhead and fundraising, while 85% of RACC’s budget goes toward program delivery. This includes RACC’s grant awards and public art commissions, of course, but also community engagement staff who actively connect people in underrepresented communities to our services and other arts experiences in town; arts education coaches who train classroom teachers to integrate the arts into their curriculum; and public art maintenance technicians who keep the city’s public art collection in tip-top shape.


Moving forward:

Notwithstanding the City Auditor’s misleading calculations, RACC supports the recommendations in the Auditor’s report. As reflected in interim executive director Jeff Hawthorne’s recent op-ed piece, we look forward to helping the City identify clear goals for arts and culture. In the meantime, RACC continues to strengthen our leadership role within the arts and culture arena.

  • RACC has awarded more than 5,000 grants totaling $44 million in the past 23 years.
  • Our nationally-recognized Public Art Program manages a widely-celebrated public art collection of more than 2,000 artworks for the City of Portland and Multnomah County, and grows artist capacity through programs and resources
  • Through our workplace giving campaigns, we have raised more than $8 million for local arts organizations
  • RACC organizes networking events, forums, and workshops for thousands of artists every year
  • Under our Arts Education programs, RACC builds capacity for teaching artists, educators, and curriculum developers to integrate arts into the K-8 subjects in the region, serving more than 27,000 students a year.
  • For the past three years, RACC has been keenly focused on identifying barriers in arts access and pathways to better serve underrepresented communities. Our 2015 Equity Statement articulates the organization’s equity philosophy and frames how we operate, and we have conducted focus groups to understand barriers to access. More recently, our 2017-18 Community Engagement Plan lays out our strategies to equitably expand outreach, collaboration, and resource distribution efforts. Additionally, we have been developing new programming that fills in gaps in arts participation by artists from marginalized communities, with our Art & Power conversation series as an example.

For more information on these and other RACC program accomplishments, visit RACC’s online annual report for 2017.

We look forward to collaborating with the Mayor, the Arts Commissioner and City staff to implement these recommendations and better support culture, creativity, innovation and the arts in our community.


Search Update for May 18, 2018

The RACC board and search committee have fielded several questions in the last few weeks regarding the board’s decision to continue RACC’s search for a new Executive Director. We are grateful to community members for their keen interest in this process, and for asking questions and sharing their points of view.

The RACC board stands by its process and decision to continue the search. More than 40 people – including board, staff and other community members – participated in the vetting of our last round of candidates, which unfortunately did not deliver the end result we hoped for. We are certainly disheartened that when offered the position, the finalist we chose was not able to accept. And although we are committed to transparency throughout this process, we cannot discuss the specific reasons for selecting or not selecting any candidate. If this was an elected position and not a Board appointment, a full public discussion of each candidates’ strengths and weaknesses would be appropriate. As it is, all the candidates asked us to sign non-disclosure agreements so that their current jobs would not be at risk, as is very common when recruiting at the executive level.

Despite this setback, we remain dedicated to hiring an outstanding Executive Director and believe we are following and contributing to best practices for search processes, including:

  • Having a diverse board and search committee;
  • Extensive use of community reviewers;
  • Anti-bias training and equity sessions for the search committee;
  • Careful crafting of the job profile and interview questions to emphasize diversity, equity, inclusion and transparency;
  • Standardization of candidate evaluations;
  • Regular public updates;
  • And above all, a truly deliberative process.  

The search committee has been pared down to five RACC board members (Ozzie Gonzalez, Linda McGeady, Frances Portillo, Alejandro Queral and Steve Rosenbaum) and they will continue to engage the broader group of 40 community members and RACC staff representatives to vet additional candidates as the search continues. We remain open to further comments and critique about our process; the search committee email address is EDsearch@RACC.org.