RACC Blog

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

 


 


Latinidades: Redefining Art Spaces to Support Latinx Creatives

How do a regional arts and culture organization and a Latinx economic and community development organization intersect? Months ago, RACC and the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber (HMC) first met to discuss partnering and what that would look like. Together, we asked this question, and the answer was right there: our commitment to the creative and entrepreneurial Latinx community.

We turned this commitment tangible through Latinidades: An Art Show Celebrating Latinx Artists, a first-of-its kind First Thursday art show that opened on August 2nd. Mercedes Orozco, Director of UNA Gallery, led the show curation. Once a contemporary art space, UNA Gallery is now a non-localized visibility project that supports the creativity of people of color (POC), queer, femme, and gender non-conforming artists through exhibit curation and events throughout Portland.

Show attendee viewing the feature artist artwork in the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber

Together, we transformed the HMC office into an art gallery with an opening reception that welcomed over 60 community members. The range of artwork and artist experience, thanks to Mercedes’ curatorial direction, is truly the soul of Latinidades. Just like the Latinx identity,  these artists’ work are not homogenous – and Latinidades is just a taste of what the creative Latinx community looks like.

 

 

Eleven local Portland Latinx artists were featured in the exhibit, ranging from sculptors, painters, to printmakers:

Daniela del Mar and Camila Araya of Letra Chueca Press standing and speaking to Latinidades attendees

Latinidades attendees listening to Latinx artists featured introduce themselves and their work

The night was filled with live music, appetizers from Latinx vendors, and vodka tasting sponsored by Parlae vodka, a local Latinx vodka distillery. By night’s end, 5 pieces of artwork were sold, and we’re expecting several more as the show remains up on the Chamber’s walls.

As organizations with the resources not often afforded to artists of color, we understand the importance of finding ways to make those resources or opportunities more widely available, more often. These all matter, since it is shows and exhibit opportunities like Latinidades that have the potential to propel artists into bigger and more opportunities. Ultimately, the warm reception for Latinidades serves as both a reminder and encouragement for more creative, non-traditional collaborations to address the needs of many communities often left out of the traditional arts scene.

Latinidades attendees walk down the HMC office hall to view featured artworkFor those who missed the opening reception, we invite you to stop by the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber office (333 SW 5th Avenue Suite 100, Portland, OR 97204) Monday thru Friday between 9am – 5pm. The works will be up until September 30th, 2018. As for future collaborative shows, RACC will continue finding opportunities to create spaces for the many communities facing similar challenges of representation and inclusion, and we hope you will join us as these take place.


Portland arts organizations receive special, one-time funding investment due to the City’s collection of past-due arts tax dollars

PORTLAND, ORE — The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) has awarded a total of $2,464,000 to 52 arts organizations throughout the City of Portland thanks to the city’s efforts in collecting several years’ worth of past-due Art Education and Access Fund (AEAF) dollars, often referred to as the “arts tax.” This special one-time allocation of unanticipated arts tax revenue is in addition to the annual general operating support these organizations receive.

This spring, the city’s collection of back-taxes resulted in more than $3 million of unanticipated revenues. RACC’s Grants Review Committee and Executive Committee discussed appropriate allocations, applying an equity framework to city code that regulates how RACC distributes arts tax proceeds. The final amounts were approved by the RACC Board of Directors on June 27. In addition to providing $2,464,000 for General Operating Support organizations, RACC is also allocating:

  • $300,000 to RACC’s Project Grant program to fund proposals in the Arts Equity & Access category throughout Fiscal Year 2018-19
  • $275,000 to RACC’s Equity Investments program, which provides supplemental funds to General Operating Support organizations for equity programming and organizational development
  • $250,000 to RACC’s Capacity Building program for Culturally Specific Organizations
  • $100,000 to RACC’s arts education coordination work, including professional development opportunities for arts specialists and a new arts education inventory and mapping project

“We commend the city for collecting millions in overdue arts tax payments, and we are thrilled to be providing this one-time extra boost to a wide variety of arts organizations in our community,” says Jeff Hawthorne, RACC’s Interim Executive Director. “Portland’s vibrant nonprofit arts organizations rely on public and private support to inspire and engage us all, and the arts tax continues making their programs more accessible to everyone.”

Since it was first approved by voters in 2012, the Art Education and Access Fund has generated over $50 million to support arts education and accessible arts and culture programs throughout the city. While collection amounts still fluctuate, the general revenue raise has improved since 2012. An independent citizen oversight committee ensures funding expenditures, progress, and outcomes follow city code. After covering administrative costs and distributing net revenues to public schools to pay for certified art and music teachers, the City of Portland distributes remaining revenue to RACC for arts organization funding.

Allocation amounts

Artist Repertory Theatre              64,500
August Wilson Red Door Project              18,500
Blue Sky Gallery              14,000
Bodyvox              64,500
Cappella Romana, Inc.              18,500
The Circus Project              42,000
Chamber Music Northwest              64,500
Children’s Healing Art Project              18,500
CoHo Productions              18,500
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center              18,500
Echo Theater Company              33,000
Ethos Music Center              42,000
Friends of Chamber Music              33,000
Hand 2 Mouth              14,000
Hollywood Theatre              64,500
Imago Theatre              18,500
Independent Publishing Resource Center              14,000
Literary Arts, Inc.              64,500
Live Wire! Radio              33,000
Metropolitan Youth Symphony              33,000
Miracle Theatre Group              42,000
My Voice Music              18,500
Northwest Children’s Theatre              64,500
Northwest Dance Project              64,500
NW Documentary Arts & Media              14,000
Oregon Ballet Theatre            126,000
Oregon BRAVO Youth Orchestra              33,000
Oregon Children’s Theatre              64,500
Oregon Symphony Association           200,000
PDX Jazz              42,000
Pendulum Aerial Arts              14,000
PHAME Academy              42,000
Playwrite, Inc.              14,000
Polaris Dance Theatre              18,500
Portland Art Museum/Northwest Film Center            200,000
The Portland Ballet              42,000
Portland Baroque Orchestra              42,000
Portland Center Stage            126,000
Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra              18,500
Portland Gay Men’s Chorus              33,000
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art              64,500
Portland Opera            126,000
Portland Piano International              33,000
Portland Playhouse              42,000
Portland Youth Philharmonic              42,000
Profile Theatre Project              33,000
Third Angle New Music Ensemble              14,000
Third Rail Repertory Theatre              33,000
Triangle Theatre              18,500
White Bird              64,500
Write Around Portland              18,500
Young Audiences of Oregon              64,500

# # #

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) 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 through Work for Art; convenes forums, networking events and other community gatherings; provides workshops and other forms of technical assistance for artists; and works 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. For more information visit racc.org.

MEDIA CONTACT:

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


Special one-time allocation of Arts Education and Access Fund

RACC is distributing $3,389,000 in a special disbursement of recently accrued Arts Education and Access Funds (AEAF), also known as arts tax funds. These funds will be disbursed in line with RACC’s contract with the City of Portland and will be allocated as follows:

  • $2,464,000 in special one-time allocations to General Operating Support (GOS) partner organizations.
  • $300,000 to RACC’s Project Grant program to fund proposals in the Arts Equity & Access category.
  • $275,000 to RACC’s Equity Investments program, which provides supplemental funds to General Operating Support organizations for equity programming and organizational development.
  • $250,000 to RACC’s Capacity Building program for Culturally Specific Organizations, which provides funding and technical assistance to organizations led by historically underserved communities.
  • $100,000 to RACC’s arts education coordination work, including staffing and a new arts education inventory and mapping project.

Keep reading to get more information on why this is happening, get your questions answered, and see the full list of allocations.

Why is this happening?

RACC receives its primary allocation of AEAF funds from the City of Portland in January of each year. This primary allocation is followed by a series of unpredictable allocations throughout the spring that primarily contain revenue from past tax years. This spring, as a result of the City’s ramped up collection efforts, RACC received an unusually large and unexpected allocation of back taxes totaling $3.3 million. The RACC Board of Directors has adopted a new policy allowing RACC to hold some AEAF revenue in reserve, up to one year of anticipated expenses, as mitigation for future AEAF volatility. All additional funds will be distributed annually, through a one-time special allocation if needed. As a result RACC will be distributing an extra $3,289,000 through several different grant programs throughout FY19, as well as $100,000 for Arts Education coordination work at RACC.

When will this happen?

Most General Operating Support partners will receive a payment for their AEAF Special Allocation in August. Organizations with outstanding reporting obligations will receive their payments when those obligations are met.

We’re making changes to our grants program that will affect GOS organizations. Please click here to read the changes.

 


FAQs

How has RACC accumulated so much Arts Tax revenue?
Because of past volatility with the Arts Tax, RACC has been conservative in how it budgeted Arts Tax allocations over the last two years. Meanwhile, the city has been aggressive in collecting overdue taxes over the past year. The combination of these two factors resulted in RACC receiving $3.3 million more than anticipated in Arts Tax revenue from the City of Portland this spring.

Why is RACC holding Arts Tax money in reserve?
RACC holds some AEAF funds in reserve for a several reasons. In order to ensure that RACC could meet the pledges we have made to GOS partners in 2016, it was important that we saved any excess funding from some years as mitigation for revenue shortfalls in other years. Fortunately, collections have exceeded expectations in each of the last two years.

RACC will continue to hold one year’s worth of AEAF funding in reserve in case there are significant changes to AEAF funding in the coming year. For example, City Council is considering increasing the AEAF’s poverty exemption level, which would reduce RACC annual revenues by $1 million or more. In addition, now that the city has collected most back-due taxes, it is unlikely that RACC will receive as much, if any, unanticipated revenue next year.

RACC is committed to providing stable and predictable funding for the community and our GOS partners. Maintaining a healthy reserve allows us and our grantees to weather changes in the funding we receive without immediately reducing funding levels for our partners.

Does RACC anticipate special allocations like this in the future?
No. We do not anticipate that special allocations will be a regular occurrence, and partner organizations should not plan to receive additional funds in the future. However, if collections do continue to exceed expectations, RACC has policies to ensure those funds are distributed promptly to the community.

How were the award amounts for GOS partners determined?
Partner organizations were grouped into seven tiers base on their FY2017 eligible income, which is a calculation of revenue from ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible programming provided in RACC’s service area. All of the organizations within each tier will receive the same award amount. The award amounts range from $14,000 to $200,000.

Do GOS partners need to do anything to receive these funds?
If your organization has completed all outstanding reporting requirements you will automatically receive a payment in August. A handful of organizations who have not yet completed FY2017 reporting requirements, or submitted reports late, will receive their payments once their report is approved. Not sure if you have outstanding reporting requirements? Contact your Grants Officer and we can let you know!

How will RACC use the funds for Arts Education coordination?
AEAF legislation allows RACC to retain 3% of Arts Tax revenues for staffing and materials that advance RACC’s ability to support art and music teachers that are funded by the Arts Tax, and coordinate arts education activities in public schools. These funds will support more professional development for certified arts specialists, and the mapping of arts and culture resources that are available to all Portland students.

What do the funds allocated to the Capacity Building program support?
RACC’s Capacity Building program provides multi-year financial support and technical assistance to arts organizations led by under-served communities. Currently four organizations  are receiving support — Kukatonon, Instituto de Cultura y Arte In Xochitl In Cuicatl, PassinArt, and Portland Taiko. The additional arts tax funds will allow us to support five additional organizations over the next several years.

What is the Equity Investments program? How can my organization apply?
The Equity Investments program provides additional funding to General Operating Support partner organizations for initiatives which advance their commitment to equity in the arts, with a focus on racial equity. The program provides one-time and multi-year grants ranging from $5,000 to $75,000. Including the funds from the special allocation, a total of $425,000 will be awarded in spring 2019. General Operating Support partners will receive notification when applications become available this fall.

We’re making changes to our grants program that will affect GOS organizations. Click here to get your frequently asked questions answered.

Who to contact with more questions

Jeff Hawthorne, Interim Executive Director| jhawthorne@racc.org | 503.832.5258


List of allocations

Artist Repertory Theatre              64,500
August Wilson Red Door Project              18,500
Blue Sky Gallery              14,000
Bodyvox              64,500
Cappella Romana, Inc.              18,500
The Circus Project              42,000
Chamber Music Northwest              64,500
Children’s Healing Art Project              18,500
CoHo Productions              18,500
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center              18,500
Echo Theater Company              33,000
Ethos Music Center              42,000
Friends of Chamber Music              33,000
Hand 2 Mouth              14,000
Hollywood Theatre              64,500
Imago Theatre              18,500
Independent Publishing Resource Center              14,000
Literary Arts, Inc.              64,500
Live Wire! Radio              33,000
Metropolitan Youth Symphony              33,000
Miracle Theatre Group              42,000
My Voice Music              18,500
Northwest Children’s Theatre              64,500
Northwest Dance Project              64,500
NW Documentary Arts & Media              14,000
Oregon Ballet Theatre            126,000
Oregon BRAVO Youth Orchestra              33,000
Oregon Children’s Theatre              64,500
Oregon Symphony Association           200,000
PDX Jazz              42,000
Pendulum Aerial Arts              14,000
PHAME Academy              42,000
Playwrite, Inc.              14,000
Polaris Dance Theatre              18,500
Portland Art Museum/Northwest Film Center            200,000
The Portland Ballet              42,000
Portland Baroque Orchestra              42,000
Portland Center Stage            126,000
Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra              18,500
Portland Gay Men’s Chorus              33,000
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art              64,500
Portland Opera            126,000
Portland Piano International              33,000
Portland Playhouse              42,000
Portland Youth Philharmonic              42,000
Profile Theatre Project              33,000
Third Angle New Music Ensemble              14,000
Third Rail Repertory Theatre              33,000
Triangle Theatre              18,500
White Bird              64,500
Write Around Portland              18,500
Young Audiences of Oregon              64,500

Reflections, Lessons, and Projections

by Jeff Hawthorne
Interim Executive Director

June is coming to an end, and so too is RACC’s 2017-2018 fiscal year. Now is a good moment, before a new fiscal year begins on July 1, to ruminate on RACC’s past and present, and what that means for our future.

A year ago this week, we celebrated the accomplishments of our retiring executive director, and prepared to launch a national search for her replacement. Even as this transition phase continues, RACC has shown that it is leader-full, confidently moving forward as the search goes on. Throughout this shift, I have been impressed time and again with the board’s profound dedication to the organization, and the staff’s drive to lead innovations that make our work more effective, accessible, and impactful than ever before.

Some of the staff-led accomplishments of the past year that I’m particularly proud of include:

  • Our grantmaking program launched two new initiatives: a Capacity Building Program for culturally specific organizations, and additional Equity Investments for General Operating Support organizations that are making real progress diversifying their staff, board, and audiences.
  • RACC revamped the Art of Leadership program to better align with the needs of small and midsize arts and culture organizations, resulting in the program’s highest attendance ever – with 63 graduates this past spring.
  • We continue to facilitate public art projects, including three collaborations with Portland Parks this past year – two of which were in East Portland. Big projects are also getting underway at the Multnomah County Health Department and with the renovation of the Portland Building… stay tuned!
  • Our Fresh Paint temporary mural program invited its first three muralists of color to paint Open Signal’s wall facing the highly visible Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and we collaborated with Prosper Portland to install murals by Eatcho and Arvie Smith at the new Natural Grocers store on NE Alberta St depicting Northeast Portland’s African American history, present, and future – check out the video.
  • RACC’s arts integration program, The Right Brain Initiative, continues to expand but with a new focus on serving schools where the achievement gaps are greatest – specifically schools where 30 percent or more of the population are students of color, English language learners, low-income and/or in neighborhoods with limited arts resources nearby.
  • RACC continues working to build better relationships with marginalized communities, and our community engagement team has been listening to shape RACC’s program delivery model as a result. This past year, staff launched the Art & Power conversation series that centers the experiences of artists from historically marginalized communities with topics ranging from cultural appropriation to the healing power of the arts.

We’ve also had learning moments. As an organization advocating for and supporting artists, we take continuous feedback and improvement seriously. This past year, we’ve done some new things or made changes based on feedback we received from community members, artists, and arts institutions. Some highlights include: conducting a survey with all General Operating Support organizations and restructuring how organizations are funded; adding more project grant application cycles per year to address artists’ needs; modifying our executive director search process based on community feedback; and developing policies and programs aligned with our equity lens.

RACC is stronger and more committed than ever as we continue working to enrich our communities through arts and culture. In a region that is ever-changing and growing, we keep the community’s arts and cultural needs first and foremost in our mind as we move through changes of our own.

Going forward, we have work to do to build deeper relationships with our government partners, and will be rolling out a new grantmaking framework for General Operating Support organizations in the months ahead. We are also in the process of revamping our fundraising programs in response to funding cuts, and pledge to reinvigorate RACC’s role in building a strong arts and culture advocacy network.

This September, RACC will present its annual State of the Arts report to Portland City Council. Some of our report will focus on these accomplishments, but it is also incumbent upon us to remind City Council of the real and persistent challenges we face as artists and arts workers. I’d love to hear about your success stories from the past year, and your perception of what’s working and what’s not. Please help us inventory the unmet needs that you experience or observe in our local arts community by dropping me a line at jhawthorne@racc.org with your thoughts.

From myself and all of us at the Regional Arts & Culture Council, thank you for supporting our work and holding RACC and our government partners accountable for more equitable investments in our community of artists, arts educators, and nonprofit organizations. We look forward to building even more with you in the year ahead.


Welcome New RACC Staff

School’s out and summer’s here! While you’re getting ready to attend the countless arts and cultural events happening these warmer months, we’ve got some new faces at RACC we’d like to introduce you to. Meet the newest RACC staff: Jae, Lokyee, and Yessica:

Jae Yeun Choi

Jae received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught poetry at Reed College, Portland State University, and the University of Iowa. Her poems have been published in The Volta, A Plume Annual, Tin House, The Iowa Review, and Flying Object’s It’s My Decision series and in exhibitions at 356 S. Mission, 3 Days Awake Gallery, PMoMA, and Good Press Glasgow. Jae thinks of herself as an old hermit, but loves to hit up pretty much any road that ends at a lake, volcano, or hoodoo.

What do you do at RACC?                         

I program artists’ workshops and develop resources aimed at supporting artists in our community with foundational tools and skill-building. I also administer a grant program specific to advancing an artist’s creative practice or business–the Professional Development grant gives up to $2,000 of support to cover costs like travel or registrations costs for artist residencies, workshops, or professional consulting services.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

In karaoke bars, I’m more of a back-up dancer than a singer. But I used to rent karaoke rooms by myself in Little Tokyo to the point of having a punch card, and I’d have a solid time with Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, and Rihanna.

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

I’m a super intuitive person, I think I can predict the future sometimes.

How is art a part of your life?

I feel happy that almost element of my day has been totally affected or effected by artists. I’m a poet in my practice and within my communities, but ultimately I don’t believe that art is all that separable from life, regardless of what you do for work or fun. I’m interested in grappling with the question of who is coming up with those definitions or restrictions, and I love when those definitions get messier and are forced to evolve because they can’t be contained. Rules for me are the most helpful tool in giving me something to spring away from.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture are  _____________”

I fully believe that “arts and culture” is a patterning, a way for one person to address their least diminished self, then look at another person and see their least diminished self looking back.


Photo of Yessica AvilaYessica Avila

Yessica is a Los Angeles native from Huntington Park. She graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona where she received a BFA in Graphic Design. After graduating in 2012, she began her advocacy work as a volunteer for the local chapter, the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition.

Yessica’s family and personal story as first generation immigrants from Mexico is the motivation for her advocacy work for the undocumented and immigrant community. Her work centers on equity for people of color and underrepresented communities. Her professional experience is grounded in community grassroots for anti-gentrification and anti-displacement.

What do you do at RACC?

I am an Arts Education Coordinator for RACC. I manage the communication and outreach of its program The Right Brain Initiative.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Selena- Dreaming of You/ Selena Como la Flor (sorry Selena is just too good to pick one)

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

I can stipple forever.

How is art a part of your life?

I was very fortunate to grow up in a city like LA where murals narrate the stories of first generation-immigrants (Chicanos). Today, poetry has become my guide to listening to the people of color outside the Mexican hegemony.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture are  _____________”

stories and survival of our history.


Photo of Lokyee AuLokyee Au

Originally from Los Angeles, California, Lokyee is second generation Chinese American, whose roots go back to Hong Kong. Coming from a family of cooks and bankers, she is a first-generation college graduate, and recently completed two master’s degrees from the University of Oregon: Environmental Studies and Community and Regional Planning. A creative of color herself, Lokyee is a firm believer in the critical role arts and culture plays in social movements. Much of her professional and personal work intersects with her background in environmental justice, racial justice, policy, and communications.

What do you do at RACC?                                                                     

As the Communications Manager, I keep a pulse on a number of moving parts. Collaborating closely with the Communications and Community Engagement team, we work to strategically communicate RACC’s work, events, opportunities, and more to the many communities we work with and serve.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I Want You Back by Jackson 5

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

I can beatbox.

How is art a part of your life?

I grew up playing the piano and singing in choirs, so music is a big part of my life. I’m also a self-taught illustrator (I call myself an amateur doodler), inspired by plants and whimsy.

Complete the sentence: “Arts and culture are  _____________”

A reflection of our realities, a tangible imagination of what’s possible, and catalysts for social change.

 

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


Why Can’t I Just Exist: Code-Switching in the Art World

by Humberto Marquez Mendez

Code-Switching, the practice of alternating between different languages, ways of speaking, conduct, and presentation of self, is often the reality for people of color and other marginalized groups. From a young age, we learn from our community, personal experiences, and observations that “acting” a certain way results in access to resources or success, while behaving in other ways results in barriers or rejection. Accepted patterns of behavior generally fall under white dominant culture, while less accepted behavior falls outside of white dominant culture. Code-switching has become a survival mechanism for people of color in a system created by and for white people to succeed.

We explored this practice of code-switching to navigate the art world in our April Art & Power conversation with 5 panelists, including Demian DinéYazhi´, Jenny Chu, Melanie Stevens, Pepe Moscoso, and Roshani Thakore – led by returning facilitator, Anna Vo. While common practice, the panelists unanimously agreed that code-switching is constant, emotionally exhausting, and plays into respectability politics, where you have to ‘play the game’ and follow the rules of those in power to survive and succeed.

Throughout the discussion artists shared experiences of debating or strategizing how to act in order to navigate systems and situations, particularly in response to the tokenization, exploitation, and fetishization of their art by predominantly white institutions. Early into the panel, Jenny stated, white people don’t ever not have to be white. People of color on the other hand, have to learn how to go into a room and not be a person of color. How their art is seen, judged, and supported is colored by their identity, including their race and ethnicity.

Do you participate in institutions that tokenize artists of color? Do you change your art to “fit in” with institutions’ expectations, or do you challenge them, knowing it may cost you opportunities? Traditional arts institutions have, whether intentionally or not, developed and codified expectations of artists of color’s work based on stereotypes and fetishization – how do you challenge that if you want to work within the institution? Do you? How do you exist as an artist of color – as the way you are, and succeed within institutions that only see artists of color in one-dimensional ways? How do you create art based on your own experience and perspective when institutions are telling you that’s not what they want?

These questions are only a few that artists of color ask, yet illuminate the constant tension felt by artists of color in social systems and institutions that center whiteness and white art. An example Demian offered highlights this tension: when invited to show a piece at a prominent museum, he debated whether or not to accept the offer and work with an institution that had a problematic history with communities of color. If he declined, would there be another indigenous artist represented in the exhibition? He ultimately decided to accept the offer while finding ways to challenge it from within. For Demian, accepting the offer meant increasing indigenous visibility, reclamation of space, and using the platform to highlight another indigenous artist. In his words, “If I don’t represent, who will?

The scarcity model many institutions operate under exacerbates this tension. The idea that there aren’t enough resources for everyone permeates and shows up in the arts world through things like invite-only exhibitions, grants, open calls, etc. We also see this in the form of caps or limits to the number of artists of color represented in a show – the unspoken diversity quota.

Back to Demian’s example, he challenged the institution’s scarcity model by collaborating with another indigenous artist to show there is space for everyone, especially those most often shut out. This is a reminder that institutions hold the power and responsibility to move beyond the scarcity model, offer flexibility in processes, and check for bias and barriers that force artists of color to code-switch.

As we always ask: What is RACC doing to challenge these structures? One action RACC has taken is to re-evaluate our artist selection and granting processes by gathering feedback from past and current grantees and artists and changing them based on the feedback. We reviewed panelist processes, selection criteria, and fund distribution to better identify and remove barriers that unfairly burden artists of color.

So what can arts institutions do to challenge the systems and structure? Learn, support, deconstruct, and rebuild. Go through trainings and learning circles with all staff, board, and volunteers. Find and support the ongoing efforts led by artists of color. Challenge your organization’s “business as usual”, and map out what deconstructing a flawed system and building an equitable one looks like. Things will not change unless we all do our part, and arts institutions, as gatekeepers, funders, exhibitors, trend setters, have a very big part to play.

As we continue on our journey, here are a few resources or examples to check out:

  • Read Jenny Chu’s article “Race and reading: The white echo chamber.”
  • PICA’s Precipice Fund supports projects that operate outside of traditional forms of support, galvanize communities, and are often anti-institutional, innovative, and intentionally nebulous.
  • APANO’s Arts and Media Project challenges institutions and culture to reflect the diversity in the Asian American and Pacific Islander identity.
  • Ori Gallery is led by and for artists of color to “reclaim and redefine ’the white cube’” by amplifying voices of Trans and Queer Artists of color, community organizing, and mobilization through the arts.”
  • R.I.S.E. (Radical Indigenous Sovereign Empowerment) is dedicated to supporting two-spirit/gender gradient/non-binary indigenous artists.

Join us for our third Art & Power event as we explore the power of art and creative expression as tools for healing, survival and empowerment. June 20, 6 – 8:30pm at Teatro Milagro – El Zócalo. Full event details and registration link are here


Fresh Paint with Molly Mendoza

In a city known for murals, how do you get your foot (or art) through a door when you’re an emerging artist of color? Fresh Paint, a partnership between RACC’s Public Art Murals program and Open Signal, offers that door to have artists work in the public space.

Last May, Molly Mendoza kicked off the Fresh Paint program as the first artist whose mural appeared on Open Signal’s wall. One of three artists in the program’s pilot year, Molly is an illustrator currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is a BFA graduate from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and now communicates visually through editorial and narrative mediums. Editorial clients have included Adobe, The New York Times, Hazlitt, The Atlantic, and more. Beyond editorial illustration Mendoza writes and illustrates comics that center on themes of relationship and turbulent emotion. She finds herself circling back to the use of tone in her work and how to convey intense feeling through the visual rhythms of composition and mark making — all under a narrative structure. Mendoza also enjoys creating portraits via one-on-ones with her viewer using water soluble crayons. The bright colors and haphazard mark making over conversation has been a new exploration in her art practice that she hopes to pursue further.

Molly’s mural was up on Open Signal’s wall between May – September 2017. We caught up with her to talk about her work and experience with Fresh Paint:

Tell us about the mural you created for this program. Can you walk us through your process of conceptualizing a mural and bringing it to life?

Photo of Molly standing on a ladder painting the arm of the girl in her mural. Another individual is painting the bottom of the mural behind her.

Photo by Open Signal

When it was time to conceptualize the mural I knew that I wanted to not only make a mural for Open Signal but I also wanted to create a mural for the community in the area. I loved the fact that Open Signal had programs for the youth and I thought it would be so cool to engage with younger people on MLK and bring them to think, “Broadcasting…Film…I want to do that.”

The two figures are engaging with people on the sidewalk as though they are interviewing them — it is colorful, inviting, and loaded with healthy curiosity. The simplicity of their figures and the geometric nature also allows the mural to be enjoyed from any distance. All in all I wanted to make a piece that brought people inside but also made people happy on the outside.

What was it like to paint your first mural on the Open Signal building?

​It was a challenge! I tried to get away with using the projector ​but there was no way that would work. I used the good old fashioned grid method and found that, once you get through the math part, you can scale up or down any image. I made sure to use simple shapes and a limited color palette because I had a short amount of time and did not want to bite off more than I could chew. I am glad that I did! I also brought friends to help me apply extra coats to be sure the color popped. Murals really can be a group effort and a community experience — it was fun to engage with people on their commute and it made me really happy that they enjoyed the mural. It was a real show for the three days I worked on it.

Molly's illustration depicting two women standing next to each other under the shade. Art courtesy of Molly Mendoza

Artwork by Molly Mendoza

Since your Fresh Paint mural, what have you been up to? What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way since your first mural?

​Since Fresh Paint I have been working on a graphic novel that has now been a couple of years in the making. It’s funny how every new experience makes me stronger and although this graphic novel has some crazy crunch times ahead of it I find myself saying, “Well you painted a mural in less than three days so just do this.” I also have a couple of potential mural projects coming up this summer that I am very excited about! Because the Open Signal mural was my first mural, I think that I need to take all of the positive experiences I had from that process and apply it to the walls of my next projects. Be reasonable, consider the people who will be engaging with the mural the most, and reach out to friends for help.​

As an emerging muralist, what thoughts or words do you want to offer other emerging muralists/artists?

​Please learn about the history of street art and graffiti if you are creating a public mural. Also, consider the community that your mural is in, and the wall of the establishment that it is on. What is your work doing in that context? Who does it serve? Also, ​I know for myself that I am at my best when my work can communicate to most rather than an insular few. And one last thing, be sure to measure correctly and double check your grid.

What are you up to now? Where can we find you and your work?

​I am making stories with pictures at the moment but who knows what it’ll be next month. You can find me at mollymendoza.com and on Instagram at @msmollym

Did you miss our chat with Alex Chiu, another artist who participated in Fresh Paint program’s pilot year? Read his short interview here.

Artists of color are invited to participate in Fresh Paint program’s second year cohort – get application details and apply here. Deadline to apply is July 16. Interested artist information session: Join us for an artist information session June 19 to get your questions answered.

Fresh Paint is a partnership between Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Public Art Murals program and Open Signal, a community-driven media arts center. To learn more about the program, contact Salvador Mayoral IV (RACC) or Daniela Serna (Open Signal).


Fresh Paint with Alex Chiu

In a city known for murals, how do you get your foot (or art) through a door when you’re an emerging artist of color? Fresh Paint, a partnership between RACC’s Public Art Murals program and Open Signal, offers that door to have artist work in the public realm.

In our 2017 pilot year, Fresh Paint gave three emerging the opportunity to paint a temporary mural on the exterior of the Open Signal building facing the highly-visible Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Each mural is then up for a period of months until it is painted over in preparation for the next mural. But what’s unique about this program is that it doesn’t just provide a wall for a mural – the program offers resources emerging artists would not typically have access to, which then gives them space to explore working in the public sector and incorporating new approaches and skills in their artistic practice and experience.

Alex Chiu, one of the three artists who participated in the pilot year, is a Chinese-American painter, illustrator, and arts educator living in Portland, Oregon who has been practicing art professionally for over 10 years. Over the past few years, Alex has been an illustrator for children’s books for Little Bee Books, a muralist for Trimet and APANO, an animation instructor at Open Signal, and a stay at home dad to his 3 year old daughter.

Alex’s mural was up on Open Signal’s wall from October 2017 – April 2018. We caught up with him to talk about his work and experience with Fresh Paint:

Tell us about the mural you created for this program. Can you walk us through your process of conceptualizing a mural and bringing it to life?

As a stay at home father, most of my personal inspiration comes from spending time with my daughter. The mural that I created for this program is based on a home video that I captured of my daughter jumping up and down on a bed. Using computer software, I was able to isolate 6 separate frames from this video. I took those frames and used them for my mural image. The mural itself consists of 6 images of my daughter in different stages of jumping. They are depicted from left to right and are meant to evoke the concepts of movement, animation, and film.

alex chiu kneeling at the ground, paintbrush in hand, painting his mural at trimet.

Photo credit: Alex Chiu

What was it like to paint your first mural on the Open Signal building?

The opportunity of painting a mural for Open Signal was exciting. I also felt honored to be one of the first artists participating in the program. The design that I chose to paint was a bit of a departure from my usual style of painting. I normally paint and draw in a very bubbly and cartoon-y style. For this image, I was working with photo reference and painting in a more proportionally realistic style. This shift in style pushed me as an artist. Also, working at such a large scale was a bit of a challenge. I found that the hardest part of the process was painting on a slatted wooden surface; the gaps between each wooden beam were difficult to paint. Overall, I learned a lot about painting on a larger scale and working outdoors. It was a great learning experience for me.

Since your Fresh Paint mural, your work has been popping up in other parts of Portland. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way since your first mural?

Since the Fresh Paint mural, I have finished a large mural project at the NE 82nd Ave. MAX Station, collaborated on a mural with ALLY (Asian Leaders for the Liberation of Youth) at Mojo Crepes, and also painted an outdoor mural at Prescott Elementary School. I have learned several lessons from the Fresh Paint project including what tools to use for murals, how to paint while outdoors, how much time it takes to paint a mural, and how to keep proportions while painting at such a large scale. The experience was valuable to me and gave me exposure and credibility as a muralist in the city.

Wide shot of Alex turned away from the camera, painting on side of the MAX station wall white

Photo credit: Alex Chiu

As an emerging muralist, what thoughts or words do you want to offer emerging muralists/artists?

I believe that success in art comes from getting work done regularly and keeping up with the momentum. After working on several mural projects in Portland already, I have been doing my best to push myself to continue and build my skills and portfolio as a muralist. I definitely see myself as a beginner when it comes to mural work. I also feel like this process has pushed me to become a better painter and ultimately has improved my style and technique of painting. This project has definitely opened doors for me and I am working hard to keep moving forward with these new opportunities.

What are you up to now? Where can we find you and your work?

I am currently painting a second mural at Mojo Crepes on SE Division St. I have also signed a contract to begin brainstorming ideas for a mural at Robert Gray Middle School. I will also be the father of two in about a month. My wife is pregnant right now and due in late June. Most of my newest work can be seen on Facebook and Instagram. I also have a website that needs to be updated at alexdoodles.com.

Catch our short interview with Molly Mendoza, Fresh Paint’s inaugural muralist, here.

Calls for artists to participate in Fresh Paint program’s second year cohort are now available. Deadline to apply is July 16. Join us for an artist information session June 19 to get your questions answered.

Fresh Paint is a partnership between Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Public Art Murals program and Open Signal, a community-driven media arts center. To learn more about the program, contact Salvador Mayoral IV (RACC) or Daniela Serna (Open Signal).


88 local artists and arts organizations awarded total of $451,037 by Regional Arts & Culture Council

Portland, Ore — The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) has awarded $451,037 in project grants to 59 artists and 29 nonprofit organizations in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties. RACC’s project grants provide financial support for individual artists and nonprofit organizations, and align with RACC’s goal of advancing the region’s access to a wide range of arts and culture.

“Arts shape who we are, how we see each other and our community,” said interim executive director Jeff Hawthorne. “These projects are finding creative ways to connect, teach, and inspire us throughout the region. We are pleased to invest in this wide variety of projects, and I am particularly energized by the number of new and emerging artists funded this cycle, with 56% of all project grants going to first-time recipients.”

Thirty-four peer review panelists, consisting of professional artists, community representatives, and arts administrators, reviewed a total of 215 applications through 9 panels. “Utilizing a grants process that allows artists to be reviewed by peers ensures that the discussion begins first and foremost with a common experience of being an artist,” says Director of Grants Helen Daltoso. “That shared understanding helps not only to keep the discussion focused on the concerns most central to artmaking, but also grounds the discussion with a level of solidarity and open-mindedness from practitioners who have faced similar aspirations or obstacles.”

The RACC Board of Directors unanimously approved all panel recommendations on May 23, with awards in three categories: Artistic Focus, Arts Equity & Access, and Arts Services.

Artistic Focus projects help artists realize their vision, and help organizations support their artistic mission. Examples funded in this round include $5,240 for Julia Bray’s Matter is Mother, a one-woman magical comedy written, created, and performed by Bray; $6,650 to Derrais Carter for the project black girls: using archives, poetry, and visual art by black women to challenge historical narratives and ways black girls have been sexually exploited in the name of science and photography; $6,250 for M. Allan Cunningham, who will be publishing his multi-generational mystery novel PERPETUA’S KIN; and $5,120 to World Arts Foundation, Inc. for a historic album release and release party featuring songs from the organization’s archive of historic Albina recordings to bring life to the Albina music culture of the 1960s-80s.

Arts Equity & Access grants support programs and services with a strong community engagement component, including festivals, arts education projects, and programs that expand arts experiences for underserved communities. Albina Jazz Festival will showcase and celebrate the historical jazz scene in the Albina Neighborhood of Portland through a two-day public event with their award of $1,000.

Arts Services grants include projects that provide professional development opportunities for the arts community, including workshops or conferences. In this category, Celeste Noche will elevate the Portland in Color (PIC) blog series further by featuring, promoting, and connecting Portland’s talented pool of diverse professionals often overlooked by creative agencies.Project Grants are funded by a combination of public and private investments, including the City of Portland’s general fund, City of Portland’s Arts Tax, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, Washington County and Metro. Additional funding comes from RACC’s workplace giving campaign, Work for Art.

Project grants, which had been offered only once a year, are now available three times per year. The next project grant deadline is June 6. Guidelines and application can be accessed at https://racc.org/apply.

A complete list of project grants appears below, and more detailed summaries of each grant are available here

RACC project grants for individual artists: May 2018 (cycle 2)

Note: (*) denotes Clackamas County applicants, and (**) denotes Washington County based applicants.  All other applicants are based in Multnomah County.

Applicant Project Type Discipline Award
Kamee Abrahamian Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,950
Oluyinka Akinjiola Artistic Focus Dance/Movement $7,000
Nii Ardey Allotey Arts Equity & Access Folk Arts $6,800
Rory Banyard Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,950
Avantika Bawa Artistic Focus Visual Arts $6,320
Virginia Belt Arts Equity & Access Multi-Discipline $3,600
Irena Boboia ** Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,160
Ron Bourke Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,250
Julia Bray Artistic Focus Theatre $5,240
Derrais Carter Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $6,650
Tomas Cotik Artistic Focus Music $5,250
M. Allen Cunningham Artistic Focus Literature $6,250
Martha Daghlian Arts Services Multi-Discipline $2,290
Roland Dahwen Wu Artistic Focus Media Arts $4,860
Eileen Finn Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $3,880
Lara Gallagher Artistic Focus Media Arts $6,300
Darrell Grant Artistic Focus Music $6,300
Cheryl Green Artistic Focus Media Arts $4,800
Chisao Hata Artistic Focus Theatre $4,880
Jessica Hightower Artistic Focus Dance/Movement $3,250
Anthony Hudson Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $6,527
Garrick Imatani Artistic Focus Visual Arts $6,650
Simeon Jacob Artistic Focus Dance/Movement $3,370
Zoe Keller Artistic Focus Visual Arts $1,950
Andrea Leoncavallo Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,140
Emily Lewis Arts Equity & Access Visual Arts $5,140
Béalleka Makau Arts Equity & Access Social Practice $7,000
Margaret Malone Artistic Focus Literature $4,650
Tina McDermott Arts Equity & Access Visual Arts $4,540
Megan McGeorge Artistic Focus Music $4,460
Pam Minty Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,190
Elise Morris ** Artistic Focus Dance/Movement $5,230
Jose Moscoso Artistic Focus Visual Arts $6,300
Emily Nachison Artistic Focus Visual Arts $5,950
Tylor Neist ** Artistic Focus Music $5,600
Tabitha Nikolai Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,310
Anders Nilsen Artistic Focus Literature $5,520
Hunter Noack Artistic Focus Music $7,000
Celeste Noche Arts Services Multi-Discipline $5,770
Eleanor O’Brien Artistic Focus Theatre $5,890
Brian Padian Artistic Focus Media Arts $3,960
Hajara Quinn Artistic Focus Literature $3,820
Rángel  Rosas Reséndiz Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $5,690
Alicia Rose Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,250
Paul Rutz Artistic Focus Visual Arts $5,160
Ivan Salcido Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,650
Heidi Schwegler Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,000
Matthew Sheehy Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $5,650
Mike A Smith Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,250
Todd Strickland Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,200
Cornelius Swart Arts Equity & Access Media Arts $4,690
Devin Tau Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,250
Roshani Thakore Arts Equity & Access Social Practice $5,600
Lindsay Trapnell Artistic Focus Media Arts $7,000
Freddy Trujillo Artistic Focus Media Arts $5,250
Grace Weston Artistic Focus Visual Arts $1,710
John Whitten Artistic Focus Visual Arts $5,250
Dan Wilson Artistic Focus Music $5,000
Renee Zangara Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,840

 

RACC project grants for organizations: May 2018 (cycle 2)

Note: (*) denotes Clackamas County applicants, and (**) denotes Washington County based applicants.  All other applicants are based in Multnomah County. 

Applicant Project Type Discipline Award
Albina Jazz Festival Arts Equity & Access Music $1,000
Andisheh Center Arts Equity & Access Multi-Discipline $4,080
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) Arts Equity & Access Multi-Discipline $5,250
Blackfish Gallery Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,510
Design Museum Portland Artistic Focus Visual Arts $5,000
Enso Theatre Ensemble Artistic Focus Theatre $3,750
Estacada Area Arts Commission * Arts Equity & Access Multi-Discipline $5,520
Hacienda CDC Arts Equity & Access Multi-Discipline $7,000
Jim Pepper Native Arts Council Arts Equity & Access Multi-Discipline $6,270
Ko-Falen Cultural Center Arts Equity & Access Folk Arts $5,950
Many Hats Collaboration Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $5,240
Media Institute for Social Change Artistic Focus Visual Arts $4,250
MediaRites Artistic Focus Theatre $5,950
Mittleman Jewish Community Center Artistic Focus Music $4,800
Northwest Art Song Artistic Focus Music $4,470
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Artistic Focus Visual Arts $5,600
Portland Japanese Garden Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $6,650
Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Artistic Focus Music $3,310
Portland Meet Portland Arts Equity & Access Music $5,250
Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival Arts Equity & Access Media Arts $5,600
Rogue Pack Young Portland Speaks! Arts Equity & Access Theatre $6,210
SoulPatch Music Productions * Artistic Focus Music $5,600
Staged! Musical Theatre Artistic Focus Theatre $7,000
Street Books Arts Equity & Access Social Practice $4,860
Tavern Books Artistic Focus Literature $5,000
Verde Arts Equity & Access Social Practice $5,250
Vibe of Portland Arts Equity & Access Dance/Movement $1,160
Village Coalition Arts Equity & Access Social Practice $7,000
World Arts Foundation, Inc. Artistic Focus Multi-Discipline $5,120

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The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) 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 through Work for Art; 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. For more information visit racc.org.


The Right Brain Initiative awarded $45,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts

PORTLAND, ORE — National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants in its second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $45,000 to The Right Brain Initiative, the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s (RACC) arts integration program. This generous award will support Right Brain’s innovative, systematic, and equitable approach to arts integrated education in Portland area elementary and middle schools that delivers creative learning experiences through a variety of art forms to teach core subjects like reading, math and science.

The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“For the Portland metro area this means that students will experience new ways of learning and find creative ways of demonstrating their knowledge and understanding,” noted Marna Stalcup, RACC Director of Arts Education. “Picture a 6th grader who now understands the water cycle because of a movement experience or a 2nd grader whose writing is ignited through storytelling and puppetry. That’s Right Brain in action.”

This marks Right Brain’s 8th year of funding from the NEA, and is the largest amount the program has been awarded to date. The grant will equip an estimated 1,813 teachers, arts specialists, principals, and teaching artists in the 2018-19 school year with professional development opportunities. By offering education professionals the resources to weave creative thinking into teaching practices, The Right Brain Initiative works toward creating lasting change within our school systems so that students can thrive academically, socially, and artistically.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as The Right Brain Initiative in Portland, Oregon, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

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The Right Brain Initiative is a sustainable partnership of public schools, local government, foundations, businesses and the cultural community working to transform learning through the arts for all K-8 students in the Portland metro area. Now in its tenth year, Right Brain serves 70 schools and approximately 29,500 students from urban, suburban and rural communities in the Portland area. In fall of 2014, Right Brain released data connecting the program to an above-average increase in student test scores, with greatest results for English Language Learners. Right Brain is a program of the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Operating partners include Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington (Residency Partner), Victoria Lukich (Research & Evaluation Partner), and Deborah Brzoska of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Professional Development Consultant). Read more online at TheRightBrainInitiative.org.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) 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 through Work for Art; 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. For more information visit racc.org.

 


“Not About Us Without Us”

RACC’s new Art & Power conversation series kicks off with discussion of Cultural Appropriation in the Arts

by Humberto Marquez Mendez

 

“What is the historical and cultural framework which informs your art practice?”

This question by Anna Vo kicked off the series and set the stage for an evening of critical thinking, personal reflection, and discussion of covert racism in the arts.

What is Art & Power? Art & Power is RACC’s newest conversation series that centers and explores the experiences of artists from historically marginalized communities through themes of creative expression and power structures. As an organization invested in furthering arts equity, we are committed to the full scope of this work, to hold ourselves accountable, and to actively seek out, listen, and fully engage in dialogue with those often left out of the dominant narrative. Art & Power is rooted in this philosophy and came out of actively listening to artists of color and others who have not always felt supported by or connected to arts and cultural institutions.

Facilitated by Anna Vo, an artist with years of experience facilitating equity and trauma-informed trainings around the world, our first conversation examined cultural appropriation and how it appears in the arts. Vo led us through concepts including tokenism, fetishization, commodification, white-savior complex, corporate co-optation, and cultural exploitation. Participants collectively defined these terms, and were given time to reflect on how they have directly experienced, perpetuated, and/or observed how they appear in our communities.

So what is cultural appropriation and why is it a problem? Cultural appropriation can be defined as the use of traditional work and art forms from a culture other than your own, stripping off their original meaning, and reducing it to an “exotic” aesthetic. Consequently, appropriation leads to cultural exploitation, where the appropriator benefits from the art form without acknowledging its origins or significance, and does not share the profits or acknowledgement with the communities the art originated from. People perpetuating cultural appropriation, whether intentional or not, adopt elements of a culture, get rewarded for it, and can move on when it’s no longer convenient or interesting. Whereas for people of color, this luxury of choosing what, when, and how to embrace our cultural identity does not exist in the same way.

How can people appreciate the cultures of communities of color without perpetuating an oppressive system? “Not about us without us!” This short but powerful statement, which resonated with RACC staff, highlights the importance of talking with and listening to folks of color. Most importantly, many avenues already exist for anyone to support the work of communities of color and immigrant communities. Ori Gallery, Tender Table, My People’s Market, and IntersectFest are only a few of the many efforts led by artists of color in Portland to create platforms for and showcase their work from their experiences and identities.

We so appreciate the vulnerability and engagement that participants showed that evening for these types of challenging conversations and hope attendees continue the conversation with others. Here at RACC, in addition to holding spaces like this for our communities, staff meet to reflect on the conversations to critically think about and change our systems and practices.  As a regional arts and culture institution, this program is but one of the ways we work to hold ourselves accountable to the diverse communities that we serve.

We also know this is a process for us, and that there is a long road ahead. For artists and arts administrators on this same journey, here are some questions that we have been asking ourselves that may help you navigate this journey:

  • How are we creating safe and honest spaces for artists of color to talk/share/create directly about their own racial perspectives?
  • When artists of color highlight barriers or biases in our practice, how are we listening and responding to them? Do we begin with “I understand” or with “But I’m don’t/not…”?
  • How can we change internal and external expectations of what artists of color create in their art practice?
  • How are we addressing our individual and organizational white-savior complex? How are we building genuine relationships with historically marginalized communities and including them in our program planning?
  • How is our organization perpetuating tokenism with our staff, our board and the artists we serve?
  • What are ways we can shift from acknowledgement to action?

As we continue in holding these intentional spaces for dialogue, we hope you join us! If you would like to learn more about Art & Power or ask questions, please contact Humberto Marquez-Mendez at hmarquezmendez@racc.org.

Art & Power is RACC’s newest conversation series focused on the experiences of historically marginalized communities in the arts to engage in safe and intentional dialogue. These conversations are free and open to the public.


New Mural Imagines the Process of Choosing a Non-Partial Jury

Working with King School students, Ralph Pugay’s installation is up on the pedestrian walkway to Hawthorne Bridge

A Long Line of Non-Partial Jurors is now installed in the temporary pedestrian walkway along the SW Main Street entrance to the Hawthorne Bridge. This public art mural was created collaboratively between Ralph Pugay as the lead artist and students from the King School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMOCA) project at MLK Jr School in Northeast Portland.

Before this project’s creation, lead artist Ralph Pugay sat in on Judge Nan Waller’s presentation to students at MLK Jr School on her experience being a judge. Pugay, having never gone through the experience of being a juror for a case, found it interesting to imagine how the process of picking a non-partial jury worked. Assuming the student collaborators also have never been through the selection process first-hand, Pugay and the students drew a collection of characters they thought might be able to judge a case in a non-partial manner.

Pugay says, “Looking at all of the drawings, I am excited to see some of the students portraying themselves along with a diversity of other characters who might be different from who they are.” With the students’ images superimposed onto the environment of a courtroom, the now-installed mural is open to the public and can be viewed along the pedestrian walkway along the SW Main Street entrance to the Hawthorne Bridge until early 2020.

You can learn more about Ralph Pugay at ralphpugay.com and KSMOCA at ksmoca.com.

Find more public art pieces around the region by using RACC’s Public Art Search