RACC Blog

How Will I Know if it’s Really Native (and other Whitney Houston B-sides)

by Anthony Hudson
Art & Power panelist

The next time a white Portlander proudly and publicly identifies as a “Native Portlander” or a “Native Oregonian,” ask them what Tribe – and then watch their brain paint itself into a corner. These “Native Portlanders” are the same Native Portlanders that say to me, “I was wondering where you were from, I would have guessed Italian,” when they learn I’m the real kind of Native (or “Indian,” if you’re actually one of us, or at least one of my family members). And then they raise me with my own question: “What tribe?” Usually I tell them, “Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, but most of my family’s from Siletz, and my brothers are from Warm Springs.” This is always greeted with the same glazed-over expression, because most white people have only heard of the Cherokee or maybe the Navajo. So lately I’ve learned to respond with something they can understand: “Spirit Mountain Casino!”

These kinds of interactions aren’t the best-case-scenarios I’ve experienced as a mixed Native Portlander and artist, but they represent the majority of them. Since I’m half German as well as half Native (which always leads to an awkward joke about having one foot in a canoe and another in a U-boat), most conversations with wishful learners are centered around revelations of my Nativeness. “Can you believe it? I almost thought he – or she? – or they were one of us,” I can read behind their eyes. I’m queer so I’m used to coming out. It’s fine. I just never anticipated I would have to do so much of it, or that it would one day extend to my Nativeness and my art and how audiences talk about it and whether or not they should buy tickets.

My friend Jackie – Jacqueline Keeler, who spoke on RACC’s Art & Power: Centering the Voices of Native Artists panel with Rose High Bear and me – pointed out that the majority of Native art is not bought by Native people; it’s bought by white people. It’s placed in museums and collections and guest houses, relocated and culturally reassigned just like its creators. But to appeal and sell as Native art, it has to perform successfully as such; it has to look like it. This only makes sense when considering the majority of Americans can only picture us as the Wild West myths they grew up with – just look at me and my ceaseless coming out of closets and teepees. After all, how do you know it’s Native unless it looks like it?

Photo by Gia Goodrich

As a queer mixed Native Portlander and artist, my work – including my videos littering YouTube, my writing, my performances as Carla Rossi and my Queer Horror screening series – was always Native. My storytelling is non-traditional (and I mean not traditional to my Tribe, not non-traditional like video or drag as opposed to traditional white arts like ballet or piano, but I guess that applies too). But, as my dad once told me, it’s traditional to me. I’ve had to fight to have my work recognized as work and not just comedy or just drag or just queer or just-just-just. It’s amazing if you can even get someone to consider drag under the art umbrella since it’s so often seen as lowbrow entertainment for gay people, or reality TV at best.

And yet when I created my Looking for Tiger Lily project about growing up Indian in a white suburb – my first autobiographical performance featuring me as me and not just a drag clown parodying white people – then my work really started to get noticed as such. People weren’t so afraid to start calling me an artist, either. Part of it, I hope, is because of the strength of the work; but I can’t help but feel like part of it is also because a progressive white audience can go and feel accomplished for the day after hearing me confess my shame and self-hate and cultural reconditioning. They can share in a vulnerable moment and feel like they’re part of the solution, that they’re doing the work. Better yet there’s cowboys and Indians, Peter Pan, and animated trees in Looking for Tiger Lily, so now my work – if not my self – finally looks Native too, and the label sticks that much easier.

Racism is a double-edged sword. Right now Native artists and writers and performers and queers and other identity markers are lucky that, in the arts world at least, we’re facing the fashionable, equitable edge of that blade. I’m grateful for the engagement and the initiatives and the conversations and the work. I am. But the whole time I’m here working and writing and educating and engaging, I’ll also be watching, waiting, for that double-edged sword to turn.

Art & Power is a conversation series organized by RACC focused on uplifting experiences of historically marginalized communities in the arts to engage in safe and intentional dialogue. These conversations are free and open to the public. Art & Power will resume in February of 2019. Until then, you can read about our past conversations and you can email Humberto Marquez Mendez at hmarquezmendez@racc.org if you have any questions.

ANTHONY HUDSON (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, performer, and filmmaker perhaps best known as Portland’s premier drag clown CARLA ROSSI, an immortal trickster whose attempts at realness almost always result in fantastic failure. Anthony & Carla host and program QUEER HORROR – the only exclusively LGBTQ horror screening series in the country – bimonthly at the historic Hollywood Theatre, where Anthony also serves a role as the Community Programmer. In 2018, Anthony was named a National Artist Fellow in Artistic Innovation by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and among the inaugural cohort of the Western Arts Alliance’s Native Launchpad program to advance Indigenous performance. Anthony’s new play STILL LOOKING FOR TIGER LILY is in development through Artists Repertory Theatre’s On the Workbench program with a production on the horizon thanks to the generous support of a 2018 Creative Heights award from the Oregon Community Foundation; in the mean time, Anthony’s first evening-length show as Carla Rossi since 2014, CLOWN DOWN: FAILED TO MOUNT, will premiere at PNCA in Spring 2019 and is funded in part by Anthony’s third Artist Focus Project Grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Find out more at TheCarlaRossi.com.


Get to Know Incoming Executive Director Madison Cario

What an exciting month it’s been since we announced Madison Cario as the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s incoming Executive Director come January 2019! Madison is joining us from Atlanta, Georgia, where they served as the inaugural Director of the Office of the Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

While Madison will be making their way to meet with the arts and culture community once they begin their post in January, we asked them a few questions about their experience, what they’re looking forward to, and more. Read on and get to know a little more about our incoming Executive Director:

As you transition from your role as Director of the Office of the Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT), what are some takeaways you feel will guide you in your new leadership role at RACC?

I’ve always been a good listener and synthesizer of ideas, but at GT, with so many truly different ways of speaking – about the creative process, and about collaboration, I had to learn to listen differently. I had to learn, in some cases, to dream differently. I am excited to apply these fairly recently acquired skills to a new environment. I’m excited to see what challenges await and what learning will take shape.

I learned what matters most is not that I myself can articulate the vision (that is important), but when everyone within an organization can articulate the purpose and plan for the organization (once it is established), then we are cooking with gas!!!

Also, every voice matters, every language and nuance is important. At GT I learned how to start by asking people what they loved and from there we found a common bond to work together.

What you most looking forward to at RACC? How do you envision spending your first 6 months?

Listening, provoking, and listening to what the provocations generate.

What do you feel are the most pressing challenges the art and culture sector needs to address today related to diversity, equity, and inclusion?  Do you feel there are questions we need to be asking that we haven’t asked already, and actions we need to take that have yet to be taken?

I believe we need to communicate and honor complexity and transparency in this conversation. We need to understand how to contextualize issues of equity and inclusion. We need to look beyond numbers and representation when using the term ‘diversity’. We need to stop telling singular stories and feel that we are providing platforms for ‘minority voices.’

I believe what is missing is the interconnectedness and relationality of differing perspectives and lived-experiences. To uncover and acknowledge implicit bias is important – but needs work in the arts, and in every system, is the step after recognition. What is needed is the collective action: the development of new systems, testing of those new systems, feedback loops, next-round testing, implementation, assessment, redesign, and deep and care-filled processes that are co-created through the lenses of equity, diversity and inclusion. These are not static or two-dimensional concepts – they are constellations within constellations.

And I like to ponder the question, once we have all the boxes checked, then what?

What’s exciting, strange, or familiar as you make your move to Portland? Is there anything particular that you’re looking forward to doing as you become a resident of the Pacific Northwest?

What is exciting? A new city, terrain, community, and the ocean (well, at least closer than Georgia). Also, sporting a new silhouette for me, and a long rain duster instead of a sunbrella!

Re Strange – Define strange.

What is familiar? Years ago I fell in love with the west coast when I lived in San Francisco for 7 years and I am thrilled to be back – it feels like a home coming of sorts. I love being outdoors, walking everywhere and of course learning more about the Pacific Coast and all the fantastic art, food and people that call Portland home.

Folks are really intrigued with your experience bringing the arts and technology sectors together. Can you talk more about that? What has been the most fun or interesting thing about working at these intersections?

When it works, it’s magic. We bridged worlds perceived to be radically different together. The interesting thing about working at these intersections is I’ve developed a constellation mapping way of connecting things that seemingly perhaps do not go together but have, at their essence, a common purpose or interest.

I also witnessed how quickly ideas can take shape when you work at the center of various creative processes simultaneously.

What was your perception of arts and culture growing up and how has it evolved?

It wasn’t for people ‘like me’. I got that message over and over again. My perception evolved greatly when I started making performances and identifying as an artist. As an arts leader I am both a champion and critic of arts and culture. I care about arts and culture deeply, enough to critique and push for evolution of the field as well. My perception about the value and identity of insider/outsider has especially evolved.

If you could time travel, what message would you leave your younger self?

This life can be everything you want and nothing you could have imagined… simply place one foot in front of the other, you will find the way.

You can sing!

What’s a question you wished someone would ask you?

How can I help you?

Why is it essential to continue your work nationally in terms of keynote speaking, leading workshops, etc?

Madison’s first day at RACC is January 14, 2019. More information about opportunities and events to meet and speak with them will come as we get closer to their arrival in Portland!


December 2018 Night Lights: Three Moons/Tres Lunas/3つの月

Our outdoor public art event series, Night Lights, will feature Roland Dahwen and Stephanie Adams-Santos in December! Happening on December 6 at 5pm, Dahwen and Adams-Santos will present Three Moons/Tres Lunas/3つの月, a two-channel video installation and altar, dedicated to, and made alongside, our elders.

In conjunction with the video and text projections, the artists will build several temporary altars. Mixing personal and familial artifacts, religious symbols, and offerings, these altars will enshrine the space as more-than-art: as an actual devotional and spiritually imbued act of honoring our elders.

Only two more Night Lights events remain after December: Megan McKissack in February of 2019 and Midnight Variety Hour in March.

All works will take place at the north wall of the Regional Arts & Culture Council office at 411 NW Park Ave, Portland OR (on the corner of NW Glisan St and NW Park Ave). The remaining schedule of events for Night Lights is as follows:

December 6, 5pm
Roland Dahwen and Stephanie Adams-Santos
Three Moons/Tres Lunas/3つの月
Event info

February 7, 5:30pm
Megan McKissack
Untitled

March 7, 6pm
Midnight Variety Hour
Night Lights Edition

Night Lights is a monthly public art event that celebrates the intersection of digital technology, art, and place. Happening outdoors on the First Thursdays of fall and winter months, this multimedia art series presents local artists’ new works, combining large-scale video projection with other art forms such as movement and sound. Works are projected for several hours starting at dusk on the north wall of Regional Arts and Culture Council’s office at 411 NW Park Ave, Portland, OR.


The Regional Arts & Culture Council Announces New Executive Director

Arts leader and innovator Madison Cario will join the staff in January

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Portland, ORE. – Following extensive community-wide feedback and a comprehensive national search, the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) announces today that Madison Cario will become its new Executive Director in January, 2019. Cario brings more than 20 years of experience working as an artist, presenter, producer and arts leader. Cario is currently the inaugural Director of the Office of the Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where they are renowned for their strategic and entrepreneurial approach to innovation, collaboration, and creation in arts and culture.

“Madison Cario is the right leader for RACC at a time when Portland and the region are ripe for incisive action and an inspiring vision for the arts,” said RACC board chair Linda McGeady in making the announcement today. “They bring excitement and energy to the position along with a longstanding commitment to equity and access that aligns perfectly with RACC’s aspirations. We are thrilled to begin this new leg of our voyage with Madison at the helm.”

Cario is a connector, curator, artist, writer, Marine Corps veteran, and more. Growing up, the arts and creativity were not a part of their life until their mid-20s, when they were invited to attend a contemporary dance performance at the Mandell Theater in Philadelphia. Cario says the experience sparked a radical change in their life and professional trajectory.

Cario has led historic changes on the campus of Georgia Tech and in the community of Atlanta. At RACC, they will lead the organization in its efforts to make creative culture and the arts accessible to all 1.8 million residents of the Portland tri-county region.

“I am thrilled to join the incredibly talented team at RACC, especially during a time of great change,” said Cario. “I believe that everyone deserves an invitation to experience the transformational power and amazing energy of art and creative culture. The arts are essential and have the power to enrich the overall quality of life for every resident; this is not only my personal belief, but also core to RACC’s mission and vision. Together, with the community, we will build pathways, bridges, networks—whatever it takes—to strengthen, grow, and sustain a brilliantly diverse and equitable arts and culture community.”

At Georgia Tech, Cario has developed unique programs and experiences exploring the intersection of science, technology, engineering, and the arts. Driven by an intentional approach to equity—inviting in and making room for a diverse range of artists, creatives, and makers—Cario has worked to activate the midtown Atlanta campus with public art, engage the campus and community with deep and broad arts experiences, and produce collaborative work created by artists and Georgia Tech faculty, staff and students. Cario received the 2017 Creative Loafing People to Watch Award, Georgia Tech 2016 Staff Entrepreneurship Award, Faces of Inclusive Excellence Awards in 2017 and 2018, and the Georgia Tech 2015 Diversity Champion Award.

“Equity, diversity, inclusion and access are incredibly important, as well as our commitment to invitation, celebration, brilliance, and beauty,” said Cario. “These are ongoing processes, there will never be an end. No two people are the same: their needs, wants, identities, and communities contain beautiful intricacies. We must create dialogue with artists and creatives to support the people along with the project, and agree to hold space for the complexity of community.”

Prior to Georgia Tech, Cario held senior-level positions in the nonprofit sector including the East Bay Conservation Corps in Oakland, Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia, and the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. They have been an advisor to the National Dance Project, the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), the MAP Fund and numerous other national and local funding organizations, and served on advisory boards for Public Broadcasting Atlanta, Alliance Theater, and T. Lang Dance, among others.

“Congratulations to RACC for completing a successful national search,” said Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “I’m excited for Madison Cario to join RACC as their new Executive Director, bringing years of experience of building bridges across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. As Portland’s Arts Commissioner, I look forward to working closely with Madison to preserve affordable arts spaces, advance equity in grant making, strengthen public funding and expand access to the arts – particularly for artists and audiences with disabilities.”

More than 200 people participated in RACC’s search process by completing an online survey or participating in interviews to inform the job description following the retirement of Eloise Damrosch in June 2017. Koya Leadership Partners recruited strong candidates both locally and nationally, and 25 community members met a total of seven candidates in April and September this year. The search committee was co-chaired by board members Linda McGeady and Angela Hult, and the RACC board approved the committee’s final recommendation in October. More information on RACC’s search process is available online at racc.org/executive-director-search-update/.

Cario’s first day at RACC will be January 14. Jeff Hawthorne, RACC’s Director of Community Engagement, will continue to serve as Executive Director in the interim.

“I look forward to working with Madison and my colleagues on City Council to increase funding for RACC and to explore innovative new ways for supporting our local arts community,” said Commissioner Nick Fish.

Cario holds an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Rhetoric and Communication from Temple University.

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The Regional Arts & Culture Council is a local arts agency serving 1.8 million residents in the Portland, Oregon metro region including Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. RACC provides grants and technical assistance for artists and nonprofit organizations, with more than 5,000 grants totaling $44 million in the past two decades. RACC also manages a widely-celebrated public art collection of more than 2,200 artworks for the City of Portland and Multnomah County; conducts employee giving campaigns that have raised more than $8.5 million for local arts organizations since 2007; organizes networking events, forums and workshops; and integrates the arts into the broader curriculum for K-8 students through The Right Brain Initiative, serving more than 27,000 students a year. Online at www.racc.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Hawthorne, Interim Executive Director: jhawthorne@racc.org | 503.823.5258


Worrying is Just Another Form of Storytelling

How Kathleen Lane is working with youth to understand anxiety as a universal human experience

by Lokyee Au, Communications Manager

It’s estimated that we create anywhere between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. These tens of thousands of thoughts running through our head every day have the ability to reinforce, dictate, or alter our actions, our decisions, and all our subsequent thoughts. For those of us who worry (and let’s be honest – we all worry), that’s 50,000 to 70,000 opportunities for worrisome ideas, feelings, and stories to be produced by our brains. Worry and anxiety are not things everyone is comfortable talking about, whether it’s with friends, family, or complete strangers. As adults traverse through the stigmas or shame around anxiety, stress, and worry (subsequently fueling the significant boom for the wellness and health industry), what about young students who have those tens of thousands of thoughts? Who do they share them with? And how?

Writer Kathleen Lane developed Create More, Fear Less for students to navigate some of those anxious waters. Borne out of a confluence of events and experiences – publishing a book about an anxious 10-year-old, managing her own experiences with worrying, and meeting students who deal with anxious feelings, this RACC-funded project brought Lane to middle schools over the past two years to create a place for students to share their thoughts and feelings with one another, while partaking in hands-on art activities that encourage them to express and work through those feelings.

So how do you get kids to share deep, personal feelings with their peers and adults? Each workshop begins with ‘worry stones’, where everyone, including Lane, writes their worries onto a stone and take turns sharing. These stones are then placed into a bag, a physical reminder that students are separate from – and have power over – their worries – they get to decide when and how much time to spend with them. It’s also a reminder that carrying our worries (stones) around all day can get heavy. Comfort is key in setting the tone and expectations for the group: anyone can pass, and can draw on their stones if they don’t want to write out their worries. The important thing is that students see they’re not alone in their feelings, and that they can unload some of the weight of those worries.

Through workshops, and now an interactive website, Lane introduces kids to various art and writing activities that aim to normalize the feelings and worries themselves, as well as the act of expressing their anxieties. Some activities include using metaphor to capture the feeling, creating a “worry survival kit”, drawing and dialoguing with a “worry monster”, and more. With these activities, Lane says, “It’s not about pushing feelings away, it’s about working with your feelings—it’s human to worry, it’s okay, and you can get through it. And also, thank you for being a sensitive soul because we need more of those in the world.”

Although described as a project of using art for anxious youth to express themselves, Lane’s approach and practice remind us that it’s more than that. She encourages students to see the power in their feelings and anxieties – Our great storytellers, thinkers, and problem-solvers often start with some form of worry, and that is important to celebrate. “I want to help kids see that not only can art and writing be powerful tools for expressing anxiety, but anxiety can be a powerful source of imagination, wisdom, and healing. You have anxiety, you have your fears, now what are you going to do with them?”

And while students certainly need more than a creative workshop to navigate these feelings, the project has created new paths for students and adults to understand, communicate, manage, and embrace them. In the two years since Create More, Fear Less began, the project has already taken hold in other spaces, and Lane has been in outreach mode to share it far and wide. Her hope is this project serves as a resource for as many students, teachers, and counselors as possible, and that the projects and activities create a cultural shift in how we view and deal with anxiety.

Create More, Fear Less was funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). Learn more about RACC’s Grants Program here. You can find more about this RACC project grant by visiting the project website and more about Kathleen Lane on her website.


New mural materializing now on NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard

Local artists channel Día de Muertos in next installment of Fresh Paint, a temporary murals program

October 17, 2018 — PORTLAND, OR – Passersby can now see the newest work-in-progress from Fresh Paint, a temporary murals program, on the exterior wall of Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center on NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at Graham Street.

Created by artists Andrea de la Vega and Damien Dawahare, the mural depicts the Mexican tradition of building the ofrenda, or ‘offering,’ during Día de Muertos—a practice intended to welcome the deceased to the altar.

“Through our own greater cultural explorations, we discovered a ritual of connection that is all about telling stories and remembering and honoring the past,” the artists wrote in their mural proposal. “The imagery is lighthearted and shares a story of coming and going. The color palette is warm and vibrant, depicting a life after death through friendly and familiar tones.”

The mural will be completed on October 22, 2018, staying on display until March 31, 2019.

Fresh Paint is a partnership between Open Signal and the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC). Now in its second year, Fresh Paint is a professional development program that provides emerging artists of color the opportunity to paint a mural in a high-traffic setting for the first time. The goal is for each artist to learn new ways of creating art in a public space, as well as to build their portfolio.

Fresh Paint will feature two additional murals in 2019. Future muralists include Maria Rodriguez, Bizar Gomez & Anke Gladnick (April 2019 – October 2019), Munta (Eric) Mpwo and Limei Lai (October 2019 – October 2020).

 

About the Artists

ANDREA DE LA VEGA was born in Querétaro, Mexico and grew up in Las Vegas, NV. Her mother encouraged her creativity at an early age and she pursued a degree in Interior Design at UNLV. Her work in interior design is rooted in storytelling and she believes design can have a positive impact on the human daily experience. With her artwork, she is drawn to nature and the female form. She paints in acrylic and watercolor.

DAMIEN DAWAHARE is an artist and designer from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is currently working and studying at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Damien’s work ranges from traditional printmaking techniques to 3D modeling and interactive design. He utilizes line and color in order to interpret light and space.

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About Open Signal

Open Signal is a media arts center making media production possible for anyone and everyone in Portland, Oregon. Launched in 2017, the center builds upon the 35-year legacy of Portland Community Media to create a resource totally unique in the Pacific Northwest. Open Signal offers media workshops, a public equipment library, artist residencies and five cable channels programmed with locally produced content. Open Signal delivers media programming with a commitment to creativity, technology and social change. Learn more at opensignalpdx.org.

About the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC)
The Regional Arts and Culture Council provides grants for artists, arts organizations, and artistic projects in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties; manages an internationally acclaimed public art program; raises money and awareness for the arts; convenes forums, networking events and other community gatherings; provides workshops and other forms of technical assistance for artists; and oversees a program to integrate arts and culture into the standard curriculum in public schools through The Right Brain Initiative. RACC values a diversity of artistic and cultural experiences and is working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity, and the arts. Learn more at racc.org.

Media Contact
Yousef Hatlani, Marketing Manager, Open Signal  |  yousef [at] opensignalpdx.org  |  (503) 536-7622
Lokyee Au, Communications Manager, Regional Arts & Culture Council  |  lau [at] racc.org  |  (503) 823-5426


November 2018 Night Lights: Windows 11

Night Lights, RACC’s outdoor public art event series continues with local artists Roesing Ape and Beth Whelan. Following a successful kickoff to the series with Laura Median’s Flying in October, the next Night Lights event will take place on November 1st at 6PM. Titled Windows 11, Ape and Whelan’s work involves a minimalist dance piece inside an architectural projection of the building itself. This interactive piece will use both prerecorded and live dance.

For December, Roland Dahwen and Stephanie Adams-Santos will present Three Moons/Tres Lunas/3つの月, a two-channel video installation and altar, dedicated to, and made alongside, our elders. In conjunction with the video and text projections, the artists will build several temporary altars. Mixing personal and familial artifacts, religious symbols, and offerings, these altars will enshrine the space as more-than-art: as an actual devotional and spiritually imbued act of honoring our elders.

All works will take place at the north wall of the Regional Arts & Culture Council office at 411 NW Park Ave, Portland OR (on the corner of NW Glisan St and NW Park Ave). The schedule of events for Night Lights is as follows:

November 1, 6pm
Beth Whelan and Roesing Ape
Windows 11

December 6, 5pm
Roland Dahwen and Stephanie Adams-Santos
Three Moons/Tres Lunas/3つの月

February 7, 5:30pm
Megan McKissack
Untitled

March 7, 6pm
Midnight Variety Hour
Night Lights Edition

 

 

Beth Whelan is a movement based artist with training in modern, ballet, improvisation, and choreography. Her work is based upon creating shapes within the body that fluidly disperse and rearrange in synchronicity with the breath. 

 

 

Roesing Ape is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on the deconstruction of cognitive frameworks in sound, language, and sight. This results in a mostly unmarketable catalog of site specific video, improvised soundscapes, and nonlinear performance pieces.


Portland State of the Arts: 2018

As Portland continues to change, we asked artists, arts administrators, and creatives to share their thoughts on the “state of the arts” here in the city to illuminate the ways arts and culture intersect with our lives as Portlanders and get a glimpse of the cultural landscape through their eyes. Their words serve as a critical companion to RACC’s annual State of the Arts report to Portland City Council, which can be found here. We asked, What is their experience? What makes them anxious? What makes them hopeful? What issues do they and/or their communities face as the city continues to change? What is their vision for the future?

Here are their stories in their words:

 

Fluid State(s)

by Roya Amirsoleymani

To be asked to address the “state of the arts” in Portland is a welcome invitation, and at the same time an arguably flawed frame of reference and impossible task. No single individual can be in comprehensive or equal relationship to the breadth of formal and informal organizations, institutions, cultures, and communities that produce, engage in, and contribute to arts and culture in our region. Nevertheless, articulating one’s perspective on the present and future of our arts ecosystem is a valuable exercise in remembering why we do what we do, and in evaluating what’s working, what isn’t, and where we go from here. In turn, those of us active at the cross-section of arts and other social spheres–including education, policy and advocacy, neighborhood involvement, community organizing, and justice movements–have a stake in art’s inextricable connections to civic life, and part of our job is to advocate for the value of arts and culture to the public and to those with influence over the distribution of shared resources.

Continue reading >>

 


Portland Falls Short When Investing in Artists of Color

by Celeste Noche

Almost five years ago, I moved to Portland because it was renown for its creative community (and it’s cute af, but that’s neither here nor there). I wanted to brave a career in photography, and after years of failing to connect with other artists in San Francisco, I thought Portland would be a better way to go about it. On my visits thus far, everyone had been so welcoming and nice. Seeing alternative art and flourishes of creativity throughout the city made it feel smaller in a more intimate, inspiring way. Maybe Portland could be a place to grow and learn within a community of artists.

Two years later, I found myself with endless acquaintances but no friends or mentors within the arts. I learned that while everyone was nice, not everyone was open. The creative communities I’d touched upon were limited to friendly greetings and nothing deeper— tight-knit also meant tight-lipped.

Continue Reading >>

 


Notes on Surviving in Portland

by Paul Susi

I am a Portland native, the son of immigrants and a person of color. I am the Co-Chair of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition; I am the Artistic and Executive Director of Portland Actors Ensemble / Shakespeare in the Parks; I am a Conversation Project Facilitator for Oregon Humanities; I serve as the Transition Support Manager for Transition Projects, with responsibility for the seasonal winter shelters that we operate on a temporary basis. And I am an independent theater artist in my own right, devising and producing my own work as well as performing in the work of others.

I mention all of this because, to be candid, this is the kind of multi-tasking, variegated career that an artist of my generation and ability must engage in, simply to survive in this community now. Portland is an immensely inspiring and nurturing cultural environment, in many key ways. But as we all know, we are beset with challenging social, economic and political obstacles that limit the viability of this arts ecosystem.

Continue Reading >>

 


Portland’s Creative Culture Depends on its Artists Thriving

by Roshani Thakore

As a student in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Program focused on art in the public spheres, the accessibility to the various arts communities within Portland has been extremely welcoming and exciting since I landed here in July 2017 after 18 years in New York City. The most invigorating, inspiring, and complex work that I’ve been able to experience and see is from the artists who have been creatively pushing issues of race, class, sex, sexuality, indigenous rights, immigration and migration through their work within this city. These artists in Portland are actively shaping the cultural landscape and they need support and investment. They are our neighbors, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, cousins, friends that are surviving on a day-to-day basis in a city with a very recent history of policies and actions shaped by white supremacy and systemic oppression.

Continue Reading >>


Notes on Surviving in Portland

by Paul Susi

I am a Portland native, the son of immigrants and a person of color. I am the Co-Chair of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition; I am the Artistic and Executive Director of Portland Actors Ensemble / Shakespeare in the Parks; I am a Conversation Project Facilitator for Oregon Humanities; I serve as the Transition Support Manager for Transition Projects, with responsibility for the seasonal winter shelters that we operate on a temporary basis. And I am an independent theater artist in my own right, devising and producing my own work as well as performing in the work of others.

I mention all of this because, to be candid, this is the kind of multi-tasking, variegated career that an artist of my generation and ability must engage in, simply to survive in this community now. Portland is an immensely inspiring and nurturing cultural environment, in many key ways. But as we all know, we are beset with challenging social, economic and political obstacles that limit the viability of this arts ecosystem.

We have gentrified not only the core neighborhoods that once nurtured artists, but even the very cultural resources and institutions that catalyzed those changes. Artists and arts organizations that were leaders a generation ago, are now ossified, diminished, lacking in vision or hobbled by institutional pressures. The cultural leadership of Portland responds to our historical struggles with diversity and equity, by showcasing token leaders or works, without any lasting or meaningful contextual discussions or ongoing relationships. We begin the work, but we mistake these beginnings to be adequate compensations for the generations’ worth of systemic oppression and ignorance that we’ve inherited.

So many Boards of Directors, so many Executive Directors or other leaders, reflect in their identities or their programming decisions, the same myopic, short-sighted and anodyne sensibilities that got us here in the first place. We continue to reward or accommodate established hierarchies at the expense of newcomers and new perspectives. (Says the guy who leads a Shakespeare-in-the-Parks company.)

I have never experienced a “Golden Age” of Portland cultural life. Every year, every era of my career, I’ve engaged in conversations with peers, audiences, donors, patrons, and other stakeholders, and those conversations have always identified the same obstacles: lack of institutional support; lack of a robust donor / patron culture; lack of affordable arts performance and studio spaces; lack of public funding; an inadequate print media / arts criticism community; a tattered and desperate arts education environment, too unstable and too vulnerable to other priorities to compete for limited time and funding; grant and foundation support that is difficult to obtain, onerous to administer and ultimately an inadequate resource that hasn’t kept up with escalating costs. Political and corporate leaders are reluctant to engage with the arts communities because they misunderstand our purposes, or they simply use the community-building rhetoric to sustain their own priorities.

My peers and I are not without responsibility in this. We’ve responded by devolving into ever more mercenary, fragmented and ephemeral sensibilities. We produce work that exists in a vacuum, often more solipsistic and self-referential, rather than connected to a cohesive discipline or body of work. So much of our creative energy is expended in simply self- producing—applying for grants, seeking out donors, cultivating audiences, generating publicity materials and relationships, wrangling rehearsal / studio / performance spaces—that oftentimes this work devours the majority of the time and resources budgeted to begin with, mortgaging the actual creativity we’d originally set out to achieve.

We are so busy sprinting from crisis to crisis, that we have no opportunity to put down roots, to consider the infrastructure of our community, to make intentional and sustained efforts that truly last. Policymakers and funders operate from strata of privilege that radically underestimate and misconstrue the experiences of artists now. For example, only now, after opening my 4th temporary homeless shelter for Transition Projects, am I able to access affordable health care, for the first time in over 17 years. At the same time, if I earn more than $30,000 per year, due to tax-credit-funded income restrictions, I am in danger of losing my housing.  Confusing as that is, nevertheless, I am a 37-year-old, cis-gendered, heterosexual male person of color, occupying several positions of visibility and responsibility, and so I am what passes for an artist with privilege in this community. When I have a conversation with policymakers or funders, very seldom do I encounter anyone who can relate to these privilege circumstances. Their eyes glaze over when I attempt to explain, with any specificity, the challenges facing myself, my peers, or my organizations. By the same token, audiences and donors express bewilderment, and offer their best intentions, but do not have the capacity for more in-depth conversations.

We all have agency in these issues. None of what I have described is new, nor will any single policy initiative or community organization address this comprehensively. Doubtless much of my circumstance is my own responsibility, the result of artistic and professional choices I’ve made and the merits of my own work. Nevertheless, I do believe that more candid, transparent relationships between policymakers, leaders, and other stakeholders, and the artists and audiences whom we serve, would help with these issues. We need to actively ensure that our leadership and power-sharing positions are filled with folks that are truly representative of the diversity of perspective and experience that we possess in this community.

For example, boards of directors should be staffed not just with major donors and corporate representatives, but also people of color, LGTBQIA, different socio-economic and educational backgrounds, and others, with specific and detailed board position responsibilities that empower these advocates to carry the same authority and influence as their more-privileged colleagues.

We can also work to de-mystify the decision-making processes that fund the arts in this community. We should be discussing artist compensation, and the interplay between how we value artist’s time and labor, and why ticket prices or funding sources won’t sufficiently support the arts ecology as it’s currently structured. We should be discussing these issues openly, and across the different arts disciplines.

In all events, please know that I do appreciate and see the work that you and our collective forebears have done to bring us to where we are today. There is much that I’m proud of, and much that contributed to bring me to these positions of privilege that I now occupy. I’m honored to be of the same community as all of you.

 

This article was written as part of our State of the Arts series, where we asked artists, arts administrators, and creatives to share their thoughts on the “state of the arts” in Portland. What is their experience? What makes them anxious? What makes them hopeful? What issues do they and/or their communities face as the city continues to change? What is their vision for the future? Read more 2018 State of the Arts articles here

Paul Susi is an educator, activist, arts administrator and a performing artist based in Portland, OR. He has appeared onstage with Boom Arts, Profile Theater, Shaking the Tree, Push Leg, Anon It Moves, String House Productions, Action/Adventure Theater, Los Portenos, Cerimon House, NW Classical Theater Collaborative, and Portland Actors Ensemble / Shakespeare in the Parks. Paul has appeared regionally and internationally with Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Vermont Stage Company, Island Stage Left (San Juan Islands, WA), Boom Arts/Teatro SOLO (Argentina), and Stacja Szamocin (Poland).

Paul serves as the Co-Chair of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, the grass-roots re-granting arm of the Oregon Cultural Trust. He is a Conversation Project Facilitator for Oregon Humanities, where his Conversation Projects, “This Place” and “Does Higher Education Matter?”, have connected with communities from Astoria to Grant’s Pass.

Paul serves as the Executive and Artistic Director of Portland Actors Ensemble / Shakespeare in the Parks, Portland’s oldest continuously performing professional theater company, founded in 1970. He serves as a Manager for Transition Projects’ emergency homeless shelters in downtown Portland, and is a former Program Leader and Assistant Site Supervisor for the Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School, where he goes by the camp name “Badger.”

He is currently touring a solo performance, “An Iliad,” directed by Patrick Walsh and with live original music by Anna Fritz, to 15 prisons and other facilities throughout this state.


Portland’s Creative Culture Depends on its Artists Thriving

by Roshani Thakore

As a student in a Master’s of Fine Arts Program focused on art in the public spheres, the accessibility to the various arts communities within Portland has been extremely welcoming and exciting since I landed here a year ago after 18 years in New York City. The most invigorating, inspiring, and complex work that I’ve been able to experience and see is from the artists who have been creatively pushing issues of race, class, sex, sexuality, indigenous rights, immigration and migration through their work within this city. These artists in Portland are actively shaping the cultural landscape and they need to be heard, supported and invested in. They are our neighbors, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, cousins, friends that are surviving on a day-to-day basis in a city with a very recent history of policies and actions shaped by white supremacy and systemic oppression. Opportunities like My People’s Market, the Inaugural South Asian American Arts Festival, 2018 Art & Power Conversation Series, and APANO’s East Portland Arts and literary Festival (EPALF) offer important public platforms for artists of color to contribute to the nuance of perspectives and experiences within this city.

Institutionally, I have been impressed with the active community engagement leaders Humberto Marquez Mendez at the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) and Roya Amirsolyemani at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) for their thoughtful programming and for their practice of putting artists first. For example, the exhibition Latinidades at the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber organized by Marquez Mendez centered the working Latinx artists in Portland and opened up a space for one of the communities facing challenges of representation, inclusion, and ownership within in the city. Additionally, I found the expansive programming centering the voices of people of color, LGBTQ, and Indigenous artists, locally and nationally, at this year’s Time Based Arts Festival (TBA) to also be extremely valuable.

Along with these platforms, the position of Creative Laureate, currently held by Subashini Ganesan, makes visible the ways working artists and the city intersect, and opens up the possibilities for advocating for artists and art workers. I could imagine other positions within city government as Public Artists in Residence where artists are proposing and leading creative solutions to civic challenges, similar to the recent model in New York City developed by the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Tom Finkelpearl.

In our current state, what concerns me, as an individual investing in my practice through further education is the future instability for artists practicing in Portland and the inability for the city to keep their creative capital. Job and housing security seem bleak considering the limited stable opportunities in academia. In seeing more and more housing development and new construction, I continue to ask to myself who these are homes for? Will Portland become another tech city displacing the working class and the working poor? Are there influences in city planning that could actually encompass social support and care for the people living and working in the city equivalent to the progressive ideals that materialized with the urban growth boundary? I am hopeful with the fact that Portland artists are raising a social consciousness, but I worry that the movements aren’t occurring as quickly as the opaque conversations and actions of those who are in power and who have been in power for generations as they continue to plough ahead.

We all know that Portland is rapidly growing. In that growth, I envision a Portland where the cultural fabric represents and supports Portland artists living in a just way. I envision mentorship programs led by and for artists of color and immigrant artists, affordable housing for artists and families, access to funding sources in multiple languages, active support in application processes for arts funding, transparency on decision-making processes in arts funding, active accountability processes for those in power, artist-in-residence positions in city agencies, and more. It seems that some progress is being made, but there is still much work to be done. I appreciate the platform to be able to envision the future of a city that I just moved to a year ago, but there are talented artists I have met in this short amount of time that have already been pushed out. If Portland wants to  thrive, its leaders need to step back, listen, and implement the needs and wants of the artists on the ground that have been barely surviving. Portland: show up for your artists; show up for communities of color; show up for the communities that have been displaced. Let them know a new era is coming where Portland is where they will thrive.

 

This article was written as part of our State of the Arts series, where we asked artists, arts administrators, and creatives to share their thoughts on the “state of the arts” in Portland. What is their experience? What makes them anxious? What makes them hopeful? What issues do they and/or their communities face as the city continues to change? What is their vision for the future? Read more 2018 State of the Arts articles here

Roshani Thakore is interested in using collaboration with artists and non-artists to examine, redefine, and envision new identities and environments through relationships, inquiries, and experiments. She uses tools such as drawing, painting, photography, video, movement, walks, storytelling, protests, dance, design, and more. She is completing her time as the Jade District Artist in Residence through the APANO and Division Midway Alliance Creative Placemaking Projects Grant with her project 82nd + Beyond: A Living Archive, and collaborated with Anke Schüttler and the Free Mind Collective for the project Answers Without Words, funded by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Precipice Fund. Through the PSU Art and Social Practice MFA program, she is the lead artist at the CRCI Comedy School, a project within the walls of a minimum-security men’s prison located in North Portland partially funded by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Additionally, she is exploring the South Asian experience in Portland through its restaurant kitchens and is developing a mural with the owners of Big Elephant Kitchen on North Williams through the support of the Robert and Mercedes Eicholz Fund.

 


Portland Falls Short When Investing in Artists of Color

by Celeste Noche

Almost five years ago, I moved to Portland because it was renown for its creative community (and it’s cute af, but that’s neither here nor there). I wanted to brave a career in photography, and after years of failing to connect with other artists in San Francisco, I thought Portland would be a better way to go about it. On my visits thus far, everyone had been so welcoming and nice. Seeing alternative art and flourishes of creativity throughout the city made it feel smaller in a more intimate, inspiring way. Maybe Portland could be a place to grow and learn within a community of artists.

Two years later, I found myself with endless acquaintances but no friends or mentors within the arts. I learned that while everyone was nice, not everyone was open. The creative communities I’d touched upon were limited to friendly greetings and nothing deeper— tight-knit also meant tight-lipped.

The isolation I felt in navigating this career was compounded as a person of color— not only was I sending cold emails looking for any connections, I was also usually the only person of color at the events I went to. I was isolated both on and offline, until I happened upon an online group dedicated to artists of color.

The immediate acceptance and support was astounding. Perhaps the community is strong because we need each other so much, but the contrasts within this community and outside were striking. Where small, white-owned businesses were eager to collaborate on pro bono or “for exposure” projects, this POC community regularly discussed the necessity of compensating artists for their work. Where local shops were quick to capitalize off “#feminist” and “the future is female” merchandise, this POC community was hosting fundraisers to support groups that benefit marginalized communities and artists with chronic illnesses. Where other artists were secretive about their contacts and workflows, this POC community shared their leads and resources, hosted regular meetups and workshops, and stressed the importance of showing up physically and/or with monetary support— the key to sustaining safe spaces for artists of color.

Today I wonder how Portland can still be known for its creativity and progressive ideals when there has been such limited support and investment in these communities. Beyond the secretive, tight-lipped competition I experienced during my first few years, I wonder about the monetary and accountability investment to guarantee that diverse art has a future here.

The current climate means that we’re narrowing gaps on representation, but representation is just the beginning. Now that people of color are the token melanin on magazine covers and brown bodies in ad campaigns, Portland needs to go deeper in supporting artists of color financially.

Systemically, institutions are overdue to follow through on the values they claim to guide them. In a recent event sponsored by multiple Portland-based organizations whose websites state their commitment to arts accessibility (RACC included), this event boasted Asian-inspired themes, required $100+ tickets to attend, and included no people of color as featured artists or organizers. When community members expressed their concern about the lack of POC and the inaccessible pricing, the organizers deleted their comments then blocked the people who left them. This situation exemplifies the systemic dismissal and inequity for the marginalized to not only participate in the arts, but Portland’s continued habit of silencing the people they’re profiting from.

It wasn’t just the cost of the tickets, or that the organizers erased the voices of people of color, but that a very specific demographic of artists are continually given the platform and funding to engage in the arts without accountability. When will artists of color receive the same funding, the same platform, the same opportunities as those profiting from their culture? This event and the situation that unfolded is the perpetuation of classism, racism, and the idea that the arts are only a safe space for a select few. Furthermore, its proof that organizations who declare their commitments to “diversity” and “inclusivity” are not thorough in ensuring these values are reflected in the artists and art they sponsor.

For everyday Portlanders, investing in artists of color means buying their art and not just sharing it. This means hiring outside of your social circle and making opportunities accessible and equitable for artists of all backgrounds. This means paying the models/poster people for your campaigns and hiring artists of color to create the work. This means paying artists for magazine features and speaking events, because sharing our experiences is still grossly underpaid labor. Investing in artists of color isn’t simply giving them your money (though that’s a huge part); it’s also knowing where your financial support goes. Who else is benefiting from your spending, and are those people doing their part to ensure safe and equitable spaces for other artists of color? We are long overdue for Portland— institutionally and personally— to follow through on their performative speeches. It’s time to dedicate both our time and money to support marginalized artists and organizations because without these investments, we fail to invest in the best version of Portland.

 

This article was written as part of our State of the Arts series, where we asked artists, arts administrators, and creatives to share their thoughts on the “state of the arts” in Portland. What is their experience? What makes them anxious? What makes them hopeful? What issues do they and/or their communities face as the city continues to change? What is their vision for the future? Read more 2018 State of the Arts articles here

Celeste Noche is a Filipino American food, travel, and portrait photographer (and sometimes writer). She advocates for diversity and inclusivity, seeking to share stories of underrepresented communities. She is a regular contributor to Street Roots and a 2018 RACC-grant recipient for Portland in Color, a series dedicated to highlighting artists of color in Portland.


Fluid State(s)

by Roya Amirsoleymani

To be asked to address the “state of the arts” in Portland is a welcome invitation, and at the same time an arguably flawed frame of reference and impossible task. No single individual can be in comprehensive or equal relationship to the breadth of formal and informal organizations, institutions, cultures, and communities that produce, engage in, and contribute to arts and culture in our region. Nevertheless, articulating one’s perspective on the present and future of our arts ecosystem is a valuable exercise in remembering why we do what we do, and in evaluating what’s working, what isn’t, and where we go from here. In turn, those of us active at the cross-section of arts and other social spheres–including education, policy and advocacy, neighborhood involvement, community organizing, and justice movements–have a stake in art’s inextricable connections to civic life, and part of our job is to advocate for the value of arts and culture to the public and to those with influence over the distribution of shared resources.

It goes without saying that Portland’s rapid growth and skyrocketing cost of living pose an unprecedented challenge for the city, its residents, and its electeds–an ideological challenge, in that it forces us to take a position, make a stand, declare and demonstrate what matters to us socially, politically, economically, and in perpetuity. At a time when the security of so many communities in our city is precarious or vulnerable, it would be easy to dismiss the arts and culture as an add-on, supplemental rather an integral to community well-being. Indeed, we are frequently paid lip service through proclamations of support with no public funding to back them.

Yet these days, complaining about a lack of investment in arts and culture feels desperate, tiresome, like a broken record for those both repeating and receiving it–not because it isn’t warranted, but rather because it might finally be time for new arguments, tactics, and outlooks.

Thus, rather than calling, asking, or appealing for sustained or increased arts and culture support as a form of validation, I am instead going to remind myself and all of us that culture and creative expression cannot be “provided” by a city or arts council as a human service. Arts and culture precede government. They are inherent to communal living. The people make culture, the people are the culture, and the people will continue to produce art, its spaces, and its methods of distribution in the absence of national cultural policy or substantial public funding. And yet, the democratization of arts access, the capacity of arts and culture to support and advance other civic goals, and the extent to which arts and culture thrive do depend upon healthy and robust public recognition and resources, something we still lack in Portland.

Artists and creative communities are remarkably responsive and resilient. They have created their own interdependent structures of support, survival and mutual care despite being perpetually undereconomized and faced with both internal and external systemic injustices and invisibilities, including deeply ingrained inequities within the established “art world” itself that mimic and mirror those calculatedly upheld by social systems at large. In short, artists and most arts nonprofits and cultural spaces have learned how to persist despite a lack of public resources–especially those by, for, and of historically marginalized communities, who have long had their own strategies for support and survival counter to the mainstream.

As someone whose professional practice, commitments, and interests span artistic disciplines as well as legacy, alternative, and grassroots realms of the sector, I do a lot of code-switching. I work closely with a diverse spectrum of artists, peer organizations, community partners, Black and Brown youth, students and faculty in higher education, and advocates for racial equity in the arts. This intersectional movement in the field both demands and provides a multifaceted perspective on our arts and culture landscape, one that reveals its depth, breadth, and immaterial richness, as well as its deep exclusions, inequities, and homogeneities. From this viewpoint, I am confident that Portland is experiencing the most vibrant, dynamic, responsive, relevant and vital “state of the arts” of our time as Black and Brown, Indigenous, queer and trans, non-binary, Disabled, poor, womxn and femme, immigrant, and youth artists, audiences and communities–who have always been active–claim and create alternative economies and spaces for cultural production and presentation. It is devastating to think of a future Portland that neglects the expansiveness of arts and culture in our city, and equally heartening to imagine a city that begins to commit to it.

 

This article was written as part of our State of the Arts series, where we asked artists, arts administrators, and creatives to share their thoughts on the “state of the arts” in Portland. What is their experience? What makes them anxious? What makes them hopeful? What issues do they and/or their communities face as the city continues to change? What is their vision for the future? Read more 2018 State of the Arts articles here

Roya Amirsoleymani is an arts administrator, educator, and Artistic Director & Curator of Public Engagement with the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA). At PICA, she concentrates on critical, contextual, discursive, educational, community-based and socially engaged programming in connection with, and independent of, exhibitions and performances, as well as access, equity, and inclusion for contemporary and experimental art and its institutions. She is a founding member of Arts Workers for Equity (AWE), which works to advance racial equity in the local arts and culture sector. She is also a faculty member in the Art & Social Practice MFA Program at Portland State University. She has been invited to speak at multiple conferences in the arts and culture field nationally and locally, and has participated in numerous national, regional, and local grant panel and award selection committees. Roya holds a B.A. in Contemporary Visual Culture & Gender Studies (Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, Redlands, CA) and a Masters’s in Arts Management (University of Oregon). She is most inspired by the inquiries and possibilities that arise when artists, audiences, activists, and academics come together to critically and collaboratively explore our current cultural moment.


Executive Director Search Update for October 8, 2018

Finalists’ visits were completed between Sept 10th and 21st, when candidates met with RACC board, staff and community members and elected officials.  Search committee members then carried out an extensive review of materials –  including reference reports compiled by search firm Koya Partners and assessment surveys completed by everyone who met with the finalists – in preparation for a deliberation on Thursday 10/4 using a neutral facilitator.

The search committee will present its report and recommendation to the RACC board at a special meeting on October 9th. The board will then discuss the report and vote on the recommendation.

RACC will announce the appointment after an employment contract is signed, which may be a week or more after the offer is made.

We look forward to introducing RACC’s new Executive Director to the community very soon!

Angela Hult & Linda McGeady, search committee co-chairs


New Faces at RACC

Fall is a time of transition, and while for some it signals a movement into winter dormancy, for us at the Regional Arts & Culture Council, this transition signals a time of cultivation and growth. In the past few months, we welcomed a crew of new faces to RACC, and already they are making connections, creating pathways, and building ground with artists, teachers, arts organizations, students, and many others in the creative community.

Join us in welcoming this talented group of folks, and say hello!

Mariam Higgins

Mariam’s motto is ‘practice what you teach’, it keeps her honest and empathetic. As an Arts Integration Specialist she adores the challenge and joy of making Arts connections, in everything! A medical illustrator, working artist, former school board member and parent volunteer, veteran classroom teacher and professor, Mariam is a lifelong learner of the arts and sciences. She believes that integrating Arts inclusively is a vital necessity to honor culture, encourage critical thinking, develop resilience, and hone an appreciation of beauty. Taking risks, experimenting, observing deeply, problem-solving, while simply making is a priceless experience that encourages the development of much-needed communicators who are well-balanced, creative, innovative citizens. Access and exposure to the Arts is authentic and relevant equity work, another passion of Mariam’s.

When she’s not cracking up with students, drawing with adults, or editing for run-on sentences, she’s looking for adventure. Mariam thrives being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, foraging, skiing, or playing Bananagrams with friends. When you see her, please share one of your favorite podcasts, artists, or architects!

What do you do at RACC?                         

I get to work with educators and artists to develop sustainable, creative ways to integrates arts into teaching, year long. I assist in ensuring each student has regular exposure to make, move, and express themselves – deepening their understanding and expanding their imaginations.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Hey Jude

What’s a secret talent you have, or little-known fact about you?

Parallel parking skillz, stage-diving aficionado, and kayaktivist

How is art a part of your life?

As a trained professional medical illustrator, departing from hyper-realism and painting and drawing abstractly the last five years has rocked my world.  It has helped me grow, and express. It excites me wildly to expand by ‘breaking’ rather than ‘fixing’.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture is _____________”

necessary to know and appreciate our world.  They encourage seeing, listening, and thinking, and righteously replenishes our souls.


Shannon McClure

Shannon McClure is enthusiastic about working with The Right Brain Initiative and the RACC team. They began their love for art integration as a K-12 art teacher, classroom teacher, and most recently assistant principal in Portland Public schools. Their commitment to racial equity and LGBTQIA+ youth advocacy has led Shannon to specifically develop leadership skills in organizational climate and policy. Shannon has a background as a curator and visual artist as well, most recently focusing on clay as a medium in their home studio. They are also a proud parent of a Jefferson High School student who has been raised with Right Brain experiences in North Portland. Adventures outdoors are a favorite hobby, and Shannon can be found on the trails rain or shine (…or more rain)!  Shannon looks forward to creating equitable pathways to experiential learning for youth, school staff, and the greater community

What do you do at RACC?

As one of three Art Integration Specialists, I am specifically focused on supporting classroom teachers in developing skills that foster experiential learning via the arts. The process of learning from an experience is proven to be more impactful than academic study alone, particularly for students of color, English Language Learners, and neuro-diverse youth.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I prefer playing my backpacker guitar over Karaoke. “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by Bettye Swann is my favorite cover on my Martin.

What’s a secret talent you have, or little-known fact about you?

I grew up on a farm and my favorite chore was “mucking the stalls” and “curry combing” my horse. Y’all city folk might have to google that!

How is art a part of your life?

I was one of those kids that was constantly moving, creating, and learning through my soul and senses rather than just my intellect. This is still true for me, and has driven me to dedicate my life as a youth advocate and educator. Being a QTPOC artist has influenced my approach to education and parenting, and, in turn, being an educator and parent has influenced my artistic practice.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture have _____________”

been commodified through colonialism, falsely leading contemporary society to believe that “The Arts” is reserved for the privileged, wealthy, or simply for enrichment only. Yet, the arts have always been an integral piece of indigenous learning and cultural preservation. Learning through the arts, experiential and placed-based, connects the learner to the human experience and reminds us of the significance of culture in every aspect of life


Ashley Renfrew

Ashley is an advocate for arts integration and believes it is a tool for students to empower their own learning. With a background in both art and science, she brings knowledge of project based learning, studio habits of mind, design thinking, and classroom documentation to this new position. Last year Ashley was on the Right Brain team at Young Audiences supporting residencies, and prior to that she was a middle school science teacher. Ashley received a BS in Art Education from Penn State University and is currently working on her Master in Curriculum and Instruction at Portland State University. The last few summers Ashley has worked at OMSI teaching animation classes, weaving science and art making together for youth. You can find her in her off hours eating snacks, knitting blankets, or climbing rocks.

What do you do at RACC?                                                                     

Working as an arts integration specialist we get to spend most of our days out in our community’s schools. We are looking at a holistic approach to arts integration and helping teachers think about how arts learning strategies could be used in their classrooms on a routine basis to make the arts more accessible. We also get to connect local artists with schools to do arts integrative residencies.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Anything that doesn’t have words.

What’s a secret talent you have, or little-known fact about you?

My first job out of school was as a physics teacher and I really enjoy folding origami out of gum wrappers.

How is art a part of your life?

My background and true love is in functional pottery but I try and engage in some form of making every day.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture are  _____________”

a way to celebrate the beauty and hardship in ourselves and others.


Estela Robinson

Estela comes to RACC as the new Office Coordinator after spending 7 years at Milagro as Production Manager. Estela has a long history in the arts, even going so far as to study acting at Cornish College of the Arts.  She went on to participate in a directing program at Vassar but ultimately discovered her love for arts administration. Part of her duties at Milagro included creative engagement workshops which kept her passion for crafting at peak frenzy and hopes to similarly infect her friends at RACC with her zeal for it.

What do you do at RACC?                                                                     

As the Office Coordinator, I’m the first face you see upon entering RACC’s offices. I greet guests and answer questions the public may have about the organization, as well as offer general support for staff in all departments.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I have never done karaoke.

What’s a secret talent you have, or little-known fact about you?

I have never done karaoke.

How is art a part of your life?

I love crafting. I love supporting creativity however I can.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture are  _____________”

So fun and enriching


Ian Sterry

Ian has worked for many years as a science communicator and STEM educator and loves exploring the world through science. He has traveled all across Oregon and the Pacific Northwest sharing science and engaging communities. However after 10+ years on the road he decided a change was needed. Ian is now excited to be serving his other love, the arts!

He is a New Jersey native but after living in the PNW since age 8 he considers Oregon his home. Ian grew up in a family full of performers, signers, poets, writers and musicians. Between his family life and being a self-described “band geek” in high school  Ian feels blessed to have been raised and educated with the arts front and center in his life. They have brought him much joy, insight and inspiration and he believes everyone deserves the same!

When not at work you can find him exploring our amazing state via cycling, hiking and backpacking, out at live music events dancing and celebrating or curled up at home lost in a science fiction novel.

What do you do at RACC?

As the Workplace Giving Associate I support RACC’s fundraising efforts within local workplaces, represent RACC at public and private events, help inform our advocacy efforts in the community and steward relationships with donors through in person and online engagement.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Everybody Wants to Rule the World-Tears for Fears or 50 Way to Leave Your Lover-Paul Simon.

What’s a secret talent you have, or little-known fact about you?

I still have my wisdom teeth but they haven’t made me smarter, yet….

How is art (in whatever form it takes) a part of your life?

I grew up in a family where music, poetry, storytelling and performance were part of daily life. It continues to be so for me through a ravenous appetite for music and literature. I also dabble with percussion as a self-taught amateur drummer.

Complete the sentence: ““Arts and culture is ________”

Everywhere and for everyone!

 

Get to know the other RACC staff and board by visiting our staff page


Executive Director Search Update for September 24, 2018

From September 10-21, three finalists for RACC’s Executive Director position (all from out of town) visited Portland. Each candidate spent two days meeting with the search committee, RACC staff, board members, and elected officials. In addition, each finalist participated in two 90-min community salons, allowing for in-depth conversations and discussions with approximately 20 community representatives. All three candidates requested confidentiality unless and until they are offered the position, so all community members who participated in the process were asked to sign confidentiality agreements. Commissioner Eudaly and Commissioner Fish met with each candidate individually as well.

Everyone who participated in the process was asked to complete a confidential survey assessing the strengths of each candidate, and participants who met all three candidates will also be given an opportunity to rank the candidates this week. All of this feedback will be factored into the search committee’s deliberations when they meet the week of October 1-5, and the search committee will present its recommendation to the RACC board shortly thereafter.

Throughout this process, we have been grateful for the many hours contributed by our search committee members; for the community’s strong interest in the position; for their participation in our extended process; and for the exciting conversations we’ve been having with our community and our candidates themselves.

We look forward to updating Portland City Council and the community when RACC presents its State of the Arts report on October 11 at Portland City Hall. In the meantime, we continue to welcome your comments and questions regarding the search. Please contact EDsearch@racc.org.


Essex Park Gets New ‘Mindfulness’ Mural

If you’re around the Foster Powell Neighborhood in Portland, you may have caught a new mural going up at Essex Park on SE 76th and Center St. during the weekend of September 22 and 23. Artist team Rather Severe (Travis Czekalski and Jon Stommel) is heading the mural painting, with design and painting help provided by the Foster Powell Neighborhood Association and Marysville School students.

After some public safety issues in the past, neighbors of Essex Park came together to find ways to “re-establish positive and uplifting energy and encourage more positive and healthy interactions between community members who use the park space”. They started a GoFundMe campaign earlier this year, reaching their original goal, and later received matching funds from RACC to support the project.

Rather Severe artist standing in front of the side of the public restroom building. The wall has been primed and shapes are laid out for painting.

Mural in progress. Photo courtesy of Essex Park Mindful Mural Project

While the original plan was for the mural to be painted on one wall of the public restroom building, the financial success of the campaign meant enough funds were available to paint all four walls. The design consists of a vibrant Sun on the front facing wall, Moon on the back wall, and imaginative landscapes with characters in between. The landscape design elements move consistently in a clockwise, upward spiraling motion, symbolizing growth, movement, and uplifting energy. The characters in the mural aim to communicate and encourage the idea of mindfulness, the practice of meditative drawing, feelings of interconnection, and the concept of an ever present and infinite ‘now’.

For those interested in the progress and status of the mural, you can follow the project Facebook page. You can see the mural-in-progress or the finished design by next week at Essex Park (7730 SE Center St, Portland, OR 97206)

Learn about other public art projects happening around town or RACC’s Public Art program here


Meet the artists showcasing their work for 2018-19 Night Lights!

Night Lights, RACC’s outdoor public art event series, is back for five months with local artists/collectives projecting their digital media works onto RACC’s building for several hours starting at dusk. Now in its fourth year, Night Lights is a unique event series that celebrates and highlights the intersections of digital technology, art, and place.

Laura Medina, the first artist to kick off Night Lights on October 4th this year, will be presenting work that bodies the exact intersections Night Lights aims to celebrate. Medina’s projected work, titled Flying, will use different animation methods to convey movement and change of setting to discuss migration as a human right. The location of the projection, as Medina notes, is across the street from Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), formerly a US Citizenship and Immigration Services and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement building. For Medina, we cannot ignore the proximity of the projection to what used to be a distinctly hostile environment, and re-contextualizing this space into an environment that fosters and nourishes acts of solidarity is key.

Following Medina, Roesing Ape and Beth Whelan will show their work on November 1st. Titled Windows 11, their work involves a minimalist dance piece inside an architectural projection of the building itself. This interactive piece will use both prerecorded and live dance.

All works will take place at the north wall of the Regional Arts & Culture Council office at 411 NW Park Ave, Portland OR (on the corner of NW Glisan St and NW Park Ave). The schedule of events for Night Lights is as follows:

Still image from Laura Medina's work, Flying.

Still image from Laura Medina’s work, Flying.

October 4, 6:45pm
Laura Medina
Flying

November 1, 6pm
Roesing Ape and Beth Whelan
Windows 11

December 6, 5pm
Roland Dahwen and Stephanie Adams-Santos
Three Moons/Tres Lunas/3つの月

February 7, 5:30pm
Megan McKissack
Untitled

March 7, 6pm
Midnight Variety Hour
Night Lights Edition

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Night Lights is a monthly public art event that celebrates the intersection of digital technology, art, and place. Happening outdoors on the First Thursdays of fall and winter months, this multimedia art series presents local artists’ new works, combining large-scale video projection with other art forms such as movement and sound. Works are projected for several hours starting at dusk on the north wall of Regional Arts and Culture Council’s office at 411 NW Park Ave, Portland, OR.

Laura Camila Medina is an interdisciplinary artist born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in Orlando, Florida. She bases her practice around uprooting and migration as a response to personal, cultural, and historical research. Medina is constantly inspired by her memories of home, her mother’s arepas, and her father’s soundtracks. Her work has shown at the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture, PLANETA New York, and through the Nat Turner Project. She earned a BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and is currently based in Portland, OR.

Beth Whelan is a movement based artist with training in modern, ballet, improvisation, and choreography. Her work is based upon creating shapes within the body that fluidly disperse and rearrange in synchronicity with the breath. 

Roesing Ape is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on the deconstruction of cognitive frameworks in sound, language, and sight. This results in a mostly unmarketable catalog of site specific video, improvised soundscapes, and nonlinear performance pieces.


Chloe Eudaly tapped to be Portland’s new Arts Commissioner

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has shuffled some of the City of Portland’s bureau and liaison assignments, and on September 4 Commissioner Chloe Eudaly will become the RACC liaison and arts commissioner.

A strong advocate for culture and creativity, Commissioner Eudaly is no stranger to the arts. She has owned and operated an independent bookstore featuring dozens of emerging and established authors, zinesters, comic book creators and printmakers; and she received a RACC professional development grant in 1997 to attend the 4th annual Alternative Press Expo in San Jose. She also helped establish the Independent Publishing Resource Center and has supported numerous arts nonprofits over the years, including co-chairing RACC’s Battle of the Bands fundraiser in 2017. Earlier this year, Commissioner Eudaly worked closely with Commissioner Fish on the City’s Arts Affordability Plan, which was adopted by City Council in February.

Commissioner Eudaly’s policy advisor for arts and culture issues is Pollyanne Faith Birge, known to many in the arts community because of role with former Portland Mayor Sam Adams. In that role, Pollyanne conceived and launched Art Spark as a networking opportunity for local artists (since adopted by RACC), and was instrumental in the development of Act for Art, a creative action plan for the Portland metro region published in 2009. While in Commissioner Eudaly’s office, Pollyanne has supported a number of RACC initiatives including the RACC executive director search committee.  She can be reached at 503.823.3056 or by email at pollyanne.birge@portlandoregon.gov.

RACC is very much looking forward to working with Commissioner Eudaly and her talented staff. We are grateful for the past and continued support of Commissioner Nick Fish, who will take on a new assignment with Portland Parks and Recreation, opening up new opportunities to explore the powerful and unique intersection of arts and parks. Asena Lawrence remains Commissioner Fish’s policy advisor on arts and culture issues.

 

Photo of Chloe Eudaly at Battle of the Bands, by Erica Ann Photography.


RACC board elects new members and officers

On July 1, Linda McGeady became RACC’s new board chair, succeeding Mike Golub who will serve as Chair Emeritus until June 30, 2019. McGeady is originally from Belfast, Ireland, and became a US Citizen 18 years ago; being involved in Portland’s arts community has been an important part of her life here.  She serves on the Art Committee of the Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, and is active in The International School alumni community. She also serves on the board of The Circus Project.

“I am honored to be RACC’s new board chair. I consider RACC to be – among many other things – an engine of civic engagement and an outstanding resource for the community. I look forward to working even more closely with the talented staff, including – soon – a new Executive Director, and with all of our dedicated board members who give their time and expertise to ensure that the arts not only thrive but help every sector in the region be more creative and more successful.”

Joining McGeady and Golub on the Executive Committee in FY2018-19 are Vice Chair Osvaldo “Ozzie” Gonzalez, Treasurer Eileen L. Day, Secretary Angela Hult, Eve Connell, Katherine Durham,  Parker Lee and Frances Portillo.

The RACC board also elected Amy Kutzkey to the board. Kutzkey is a certified public accountant and shareholder at Perkins & Co.  

All board and staff profiles are available online at racc.org/about/staff-board.

 

Linda McGeady Photo credit: Dodge and Burn Studios


Executive Director Search Update for August 22, 2018

The search for RACC’s next executive director is progressing nicely. (Committee members include Helen Daltoso, Ozzie Gonzalez, Jeff Hawthorne, Angela Hult, Salvador Mayoral IV, Linda McGeady, Alejandro Queral and Steve Rosenbaum.) Here’s the latest:

Implicit Bias Training:

The search committee participated in a four-hour implicit bias training led by RACC board member and professional facilitator. This is an important part of the process because most people experience some degree of unconscious bias that influences our behavior and our decisions. The effects of that bias can be countered by acknowledging its existence and utilizing response strategies. The board member works with groups and organizations throughout the world and we were fortunate to benefit from the gift of her time and expertise.

Interviews:

The search committee interviewed seven individuals over two days (July 17 and August 6) via video conference at the RACC office. The group spent one hour with each individual, followed by debriefs with our search firm, Koya Leadership Partners.

Four candidates were advanced to a second round of video interviews on August 13 at the RACC office. All four candidates were from out of state. Each person was interviewed for one hour, followed by a one hour debrief with Koya.

The committee has chosen three finalists to bring to Portland for a final round of conversations. The search committee is working with the candidates to finalize the timeframe, with a target of mid- to late September. The Portland visits will include meetings with the board, staff, representatives from Portland’s arts community and elected officials.

Next Steps:

The search committee is working to finalize the dates and structure for the Portland interviews.

The team is evaluating tools for efficiently gathering feedback about the candidates from those who have an opportunity to meet with each individual.

Many thanks to search committee members for spending a tremendous amount of time on this process. We are excited about this next stage in the process and look forward to sharing additional details with you.

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