Why a Regional Arts Approach is Best for the Community to Thrive – Oregon ArtsWatch

Carol Tatch (second from left), Executive Director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council, with (from left) Javon Johnson, Ted Lange, Regina Taylor, and Phillip Bernard Smith. RACC hosted these artists during the recent Pacific Northwest Multi Cultural Readers Series and Film Festival. Photo: Meech Boakye

The City of Portland has notified the Regional Arts & Culture Council of its intent to end a 28-year fiscal relationship by Summer 2024. Carol Tatch, Executive Director of RACC, wrote an opinion piece for Oregon Arts Watch on why a regional arts approach is best for the community to thrive. 

“Our grantees are not just names on applications; they are our partners in our mission. RACC continues to demonstrate how our local region can successfully engage, support, uplift, highlight, and share arts and culture. RACC has clearly demonstrated it is the solution for clear access to funding, engagement with respect and dignity, and a regional advocate for more funding and support for arts and culture, for the past 28 years.”

We invite your questions and ask that you actively demand that the city support RACC in continuing its mission, which deeply honors equity, transparency, and community uplift. Please check out the RACC Advocacy Hub as well as joining with us for our “RACC in Community” conversations coming soon (check our website and social media for updates on where and when). All are invited!

Read the full article here.

RACC’s Unwavering Commitment to Arts: Discussing the Future of Arts Funding on “Eye on Northwest Politics”

In a recent “Eye on Northwest Politics” segment on KOIN 6, Carol Tatch, Executive Director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), addressed Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan’s decision to terminate the city’s contract with RACC. Carol spoke with Ken Boddie about how this action raises critical concerns about the future of arts and cultural development in Portland at an especially pivotal moment.

RACC is a community-based organization that stands for the values and desires of the community. The organization was formed 28 years ago with a mission to foster artistic expression in the Portland metro area, and this mission is reflected in everything we do. Since then, RACC has been at the forefront of arts and culture, leading the region in understanding what our artists and creatives need.

The decision to terminate the contract is particularly concerning for several reasons. First, it removes arts funding decisions from the hands of the community and places them within government agencies. RACC was established to ensure that arts funding is decided by the community.

Second, RACC is more efficient and faster in its operations than what can be replicated at the government level. RACC uses community reviewers who are familiar with the arts and have specialized knowledge. This ensures that funding decisions are equitable and reflect the voices of the community. We also offer professional development opportunities and engage with the community at levels that cannot be replicated at the City level. RACC is a nonprofit, non-partisan group that has been responsive to the community’s needs.

Furthermore, it is essential to understand that RACC is not a government agency. We work with our communities to ensure that there is a diverse and equitable lens in our approach to arts and culture. We have garnered community trust over time and have become a leading voice in the arts and culture ecosystem in the Portland metro area.

As we move forward, we remain focused on the larger community and are exploring how best to continue in our role. What’s more important is the loss of community input and the community’s voice in making decisions about which artists and arts organizations have their voices lifted or diminished. We were created by the people for the people, and today’s RACC is the culmination of long-time community regional needs.

We are excited to be part of the solution for the City of Portland and all our partners. Portland is at a pivotal point in its economic recovery, and we look forward to being part of the solution. We are the fabric of the Portland Metro region that threads together art and cultural communities, and we are ready to face the challenges ahead with the expertise, heart, and vision that RACC has sustained for over a quarter-century.

Thank you for your continued support. We encourage you to watch the full segment to learn more about our efforts to support the arts community, our plans for the future, and the significance of a centralized organization serving artists, creatives, and the broader creative economy. Despite the upcoming changes, we remain diligently committed to our mission. 

RACC Grantee Heléna Dupre Thompson’s “Unintentional Spectacles”

Laura Vincent Design & Gallery is a space in downtown Portland known since 2018 for its careful selection of contemporary artists. We visited to interview artist Heléna Dupre Thompson and view her exhibition Unintentional Spectacles, funded in part by a Make|Learn|Build grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC). 

Thompson was raised in the industrial city of Providence, Rhode Island, and worked as a firefighter. This exhibition served as a testament to her background. Thompson extracts stories from what many overlook: utility poles covered in posters, skate parks, and the undersides of skateboards, transforming close-up images into abstract worlds. 

On view alongside Unintentional Spectacles was James Florschutz’s exhibition, Assembled Fragments. Constructed out of found materials, these objects carried their own histories, challenging our views on urban sprawl and consumerism. Together, these two artists’ were in conversation, their works resonating with each other, weaving narratives of urban life and transformation from the seemingly mundane.

The phrase “industrial beauty” seems like an oxymoron, but in Thompson’s hands, it becomes an exploration of the aesthetic potential hidden in the mundane. “I’ve always been drawn to abstraction,” she says. Providence is a city with an industrial history like her current home, Portland. Despite the geographical distance and the years away, she found unexpected similarities between the two cities. “Providence is kind of like a really small version of Portland,” she notes, describing the shared landscapes, content, and political undercurrents, though also acknowledging a few east-west coast differences.

Her work, characterized by magnifying her lens deep into her subjects, is layered with history, the passage of time, and the gentle or not-so-gentle interventions by humans and nature alike. Focusing on the elements that resonate most with her, Thompson encapsulates vast landscapes within tiny surface areas. “Most of my [photographs]…are about a one to two-inch surface area,” she shares; yet these miniature compositions hint at large geological formations. 

Thompson challenges the notion that her work is a form of documentation. While she captures the tangible realities of her subjects, she intends to remove them from their context and allow them to stand separate. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition of preservation and abstraction that pulls viewers into an almost ethereal space, urging them to question and rethink what they’re perceiving. “I do this…for the viewer to see it however they want to see it,” she explained. The result is an abstraction so detailed, it becomes a world unto itself.

Thompson embraces spontaneity in her creative process, and her work emerges from the unexpected, while staying grounded in the physical world. “Most of my work happens on-site,” Thompson reveals. But there is an element of serendipity at play. She explains, “Sometimes I’ll be riding my bike and I’ll find chunks of metal or glass [on the roadside]. I’ll [then] take them back to my studio and compose them there.”

“Being in that environment, hearing the sounds, seeing the people, meeting the people, smelling the smells… It makes me more connected to the city and the people.”

Her experimentation is not confined to stationary objects; she draws inspiration even from the fleeting, like skateboarders gliding by at the park. “I’m interested in the surfaces that the skaters skate on, but also what the undersides of their boards look like,” she says, unveiling an exciting recent find, recycled skateboard decks. “This is the thing that scraped the wall that I was photographing and now…already…this is a piece,” she marvels, cradling the board. “I love [this] kind of layering…First of all, there’s a graphic on it, right? And then somebody bought it and put these stickers on it. And then who knows where this board has been? Now, through the actions of the skater, it becomes a mashing and regeneration of the original colors, lines and textures,” she contemplates, her words subtly drawing parallels between her work and life itself – a multitude of intricate, layered experiences.

Thompson sees the relationship with these environments and communities as a two-way street — she was observing them, and they were inadvertently shaping her. 

“Being in that environment, hearing the sounds, seeing the people, meeting the people, smelling the smells… It makes me more connected to the city and the people. Even if I see them once, there’s a bond that I feel more connected to,” she confessed. “Being amongst artists and communities, I’ve gotten so much out of that and learned so much from it.” These interactions fostered a sense of shared understanding, a silent bond that she found incredibly nurturing. “I feel like it makes me a more present person, more caring. As artists, we have this connection that a lot of people don’t have. It’s made me feel more whole in a lot of ways, more connected to my environment and myself.”

Thompson also noted the crucial role of funding bodies like RACC, acknowledging how its support had impacted her journey as an artist. She concluded, “[This grant] allowed me to take a few leaps forward, to prioritize my craft, to grow, and to learn. I truly believe I wouldn’t have been in this gallery now if it weren’t for the timing of that grant.” 

As we wrapped up, I was given the exciting news that Thompson had been asked to be represented by Laura Vincent Gallery as the show concluded, confirming the steady evolution of her artistic trajectory. Laura Vincent Gallery’s invitation emphasizes Thompson’s unique visual language and the raw intimacy she brings to her work. With her journey marked by a non-traditional, self-guided education, Thompson’s story reflects the potential for diverse routes into the art world, celebrating creativity that thrives outside established norms. 

All images by Heléna Dupre Thompson, from Unintentional Spectacles.” 

For RACC – Community Matters

By Carol Tatch, Executive Director

Many of you have heard: Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan announced he has created a separate office of arts and culture inside Portland city government. He is also planning to not renew RACC’s contract when it expires on June 30, 2024. This will seriously impact RACC’s ability to serve you.  

Here’s why this matters  — and why we believe Commissioner Dan Ryan is making a grave mistake.  

Everything RACC does  — through our grantmaking, support to artists and arts organizations, and public art programs — is focused on the health and well-being of arts and culture in the Portland Metro region. Our work benefits city residents as well as everyone in the larger metro area. A thriving arts and culture community is what our area is known for across the nation, and RACC plays an essential role in this.  

Perhaps the most critical idea for people to understand is that a decentralized approach to distributing public support for arts and culture will lead to significant gaps in service and support. The potential for lasting damage to a fragile eco-system that has experienced tremendous challenges in the last three years is real and considerable. There is an important distinction between what is, and what could be if city commissioners vote to defund RACC. We consistently put the region’s artists and creatives, and our communities, first, and have a documented tenure of distributing our partners’ funds with integrity. We listen to the individual voices within our communities, and believe that you should be part of artistic decisions in your community. There is currently a Cultural Planning process underway that is not upheld by this decision. If there are changes to be made to how RACC and the City operate together, it should be done following the analysis of community input. 

We have been hearing from many community members that you support the continuation of RACC as the primary steward of public funding for arts and culture. If you want to learn more about why it is vital to maintain RACC and protect our communities’ artists and creatives, ensuring everyone’s access to art, here’s what you can do: 

  • Share your perspective: Reach out to your local officials to voice concern for Commissioner Ryan’s plan to end RACC’s contract and create a government-run office of arts and culture. We’ve prepared some letter templates that you can adapt to your point of view; please click here for information and downloads to get you started. 
  • Speak your mind: Sign up to testify at a City Council meeting. This is your time as a member of the public. Let City Commissioners know you’re not happy they’re leaving you out of future arts funding decisions. 
  • Join us: In a few weeks we will host a series of community conversations to listen to your concerns and suggestions. We’ll also share highlights of what we’ve achieved in the last 28 years — and what you could lose if the city follows through on its plan to take arts funding from the Regional Arts & Culture Council. 
  • Sign up: If you haven’t already, please sign up for our newsletter and share with friends and family who may be interested in supporting our collective mission! 

For almost three decades, RACC has walked the talk of our mission and values: To enrich our communities through arts and culture and create a thriving region, powered by creativity, bringing arts and culture to every neighborhood. This mission was thoughtfully designed in collaboration with our public funding partners.  

Please let us know if you have any ideas or questions and stay tuned. Thank you so much for your ongoing support – it means the world to us.  

— Carol 

RACC Grantee North Pole Studio Recount their Experience at the Outsider Art Fair

In the spring of 2020, North Pole Studio emerged as a testament to creative inclusion and artistic empowerment. In June of 2023, I spoke with Sula Willson about the organization and their recent experience at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City, a trip made possible through a Regional Arts & Culture Council Arts3C grant. Co-founded by a dedicated group of artists, educators, and advocates — Sula Willson, Mary Ellen Andersen, Davis Wohlford, Sarah Mensah — the organization serves as a robust platform supporting careers in the arts, particularly for artists with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities. As Willson shared in our conversation, “…we decided to open North Pole Studio as another option for folks who needed a creative space that was intentionally smaller, intentionally quieter, and highly individualized.” 

A large, colorful artwork filled with bold lines and abstract shapes sits on a wall. Below it, a comfy looking couch. On the adjacent wall sit five smaller artworks of varying size.

Housed in NW Marine Artworks, Portland’s largest collaborative of professional artist studios, North Pole Studio is more than a 1,200 sq/ft space for creation: it embodies the belief that understanding diverse human experiences is foundational to a vibrant and whole community. With an unwavering commitment to fostering self-determination and facilitating meaningful connections, the organization ensures that its artists thrive as visible contributors to both local and national contemporary art communities. “We always say that the space belongs to the artists… and we are here to facilitate whatever artists come to create and pursue,” says Willson, encapsulating the mission of North Pole Studio and its focused approach. 

In a vertical line, three small paintings on cardboard sit on a wall. Each depict colorful, costumed, faceless figures. To the right and left are more gestural and abstract framed works. A potted plant peeks into the left side of the image.

Communication is central at North Pole Studio, bridging gaps and enabling artists to navigate opportunities and employment within the art world and beyond. Willson explains, “…we scaffold communication in a lot of different ways, but we use a lot of social stories, visual supports,” tailoring contracts or other documents that may be inaccessible to individual artists. Collaboratively, unique strategies are crafted for each artist. For some artists like James Enos, the studio acts as the primary liaison with his book dealer. For others, like Austin Brague, guidance is provided as he applies for opportunities independently.  The need for spaces like this studio is great, as evidenced by North Pole Studio’s rapid growth. As the organization begins to tackle questions of growth and scalability, one thing is clear: at North Pole Studio, the individual needs of the artists will always take center stage. 

As with many arts nonprofits, the challenging landscape of funding underscores their mission. In an endeavor to make their workshops more accessible, the studio has introduced a sliding scale fee for all programs, which in turn amplifies the need for more robust external funding. Despite this terrain, the determination of Willson, Andersen, and the myriad collaborators that allow the space to run smoothly, remains unwavering. What keeps them going is their recognition of the transformative influence that this support and advocacy has on artists’ lives. Willson describes, “having someone recognize that you are capable of something bigger than you thought… is empowering within itself.” 

In our conversation, Willson highlighted North Pole Studio’s core belief of fostering individual growth and opening doors to opportunities for artists with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities. Their commitment to this mission was brought to life when they attended the Outsider Art Fair in New York City, made possible through funding from RACC. This experience served as both an enriching platform for their artists and a milestone in the studio’s journey. Now, to truly capture the experience, let’s turn to the team at North Pole Studio, who share below their firsthand reflections and insights from the fair: 

In March 2022, RAAC awarded an Arts3C grant that made it possible for North Pole Studio to represent three artists at the highly competitive Outsider Art Fair in New York City. This eye-opening and career-changing exhibition opportunity would not have been possible without RACC’s funding, and we are deeply grateful for the support. The fair was a true whirlwind — an enriching, educational, challenging, colorful experience that provided a valuable new perspective for our staff, artists, and their advocates, family members, and community members.

The Outsider Art Fair is the largest exhibition of self-taught artists in the world. It occurs biannually in Paris and New York, and is internationally attended by exhibitors, visitors, and patrons alike. “Outsider Art” or art brut (raw art) historically describes artists who are creating outside of educational institutions and traditional techniques, or those without exposure to (whether intentional or not) or influence from popular art culture and trends. Aesthetically and philosophically, this work has a rawness to it — and is valued for its pure, expressive, seemingly unselfconscious quality which captures the artists’ completely original experience.A scanned piece of paper filled with pink and red handwriting.

Some of the most renowned “Outsider” artists include Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery and began creating art in his eighties; Martín Ramírez, a railway worker who was institutionalized with schizophrenia in his later life; and Judith Scott, a deaf woman with Down’s Syndrome who discovered her creative voice in a supported art studio. In the contemporary art world, the “Outsider Art” movement has broadened significantly, encompassing a diverse community of artists both dead and living. Today, the commonality among artists represented at the fair is that they are entirely self-taught, and are creating extraordinary artwork in a style and technique that is completely their own. 

As the field has evolved, the term “Outsider” itself has become controversial. Many of the artists represented at the fair are from marginalized communities, including artists that are low-income, disabled, and BIPOC with many intersections in between. North Pole Studio is intentionally embedded inside the professional arts community. Our location is a strategic choice to combat the isolation and access barriers that artists with disabilities continue to face in their communities. While almost all of the artists we serve are entirely self-taught, the desire to identify as an “Outsider” in the art world varies from artist-to-artist and is rejected by many.

North Pole Studio is part of a nationwide movement of progressive art studios who are working to amplify the voices and work of artists with disabilities. The energy of this movement is vibrant, and very much alive at the fair. Using these funds from RACC, we were so proud to represent artists Austin Brague, Dan Tran, and James Enos. Our highlight by far was having Austin and Dan join us in New York City to represent their work firsthand. Austin worked on his submission for over a year — a large scale pen and ink drawing of New York City — which he triumphantly sold at the fair, breaking many New Yorker hearts. Artist James Enos is co-represented by Booklyn, Inc. and this was his second appearance at the fair. He also sold an original work on the first day. James’ work truly stands out at the fair, as he is among a minority of artists working in book form and has developed an unparalleled binding technique, which includes large-scale illustrations which can fold out over 5 feet long. Dan Tran is a rising star in the progressive art world, and it was our pleasure to make face-to-face introductions to fans from all over the country who continue to follow his work.

Austin shared that he had no idea that he was part of such a vast community of self-taught and disabled artists. He was “blown away by the creativity, how vast the collection of work is…[he] had no idea.” Selling work at this level made him realize that success as a professional artist is in reach, and it has motivated him to focus his art practice and dream bigger moving forward. Prior to joining North Pole Studio, many of the artists we serve were creating work in isolation, with little access to resources and exposure. Beyond the art sales and professional connections, the community aspect was perhaps the most powerful impact of our experience at the Outsider Art Fair — the sense of place and connection with an international community of self-taught artists who are valued as professionals, and core contributors to art history and contemporary art. 

We learned so much, and returned to Portland with valuable insights to share with North Pole Studio’s community, and Portland’s art community at large. We can’t wait to go back!

To learn more about North Pole Studio, please visit their website. They are currently seeking new artists to join their Main Studio Program this year. If you or someone you know is seeking supported studio space and looking to connect with a community of artists, they’d love to hear from you!

Image Captions, from top to bottom: A glimpse inside of North Pole Studio’s cozy, art-filled space. Detail of various artworks hung on the studio wall. Work by James Enos, Writing

Reflecting on Fiscal Year 2022

We invite you to read our most recent Annual Impact Report for FY21-22.  There you will find some of our recent accomplishments, program reflections, financial information, future plans, and the joy we have in supporting arts and culture in our community.

“A look at RACC’s activities in the past year offers an invigorating picture of organizational culture change undertaken alongside monumental social transformation occurring in our community and around the world. Beginning in 2020, RACC embarked on a transformative journey of community engagement and connection. Two years into this journey, organizational development continues to focus on transforming our culture, making solid internal infrastructure investments, and creating meaningful opportunity for professional development.”


Image of performers in colorful costumes holding poles that actively move a large dragon structure.

White Lotus Foundation, Dragon and Lion Dance Performance, MLB grant recipient | Photo: Elvis Nguyen


The Installation Space’s Inaugural Exhibit: KSMoCA’s Present Days

The Installation Space’s inaugural art exhibition in the newly renovated Portland Building includes a selection of ephemera from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School Museum of Art (KSMoCA), an art museum within an elementary school in Northeast Portland. This display includes a selection of previous artworks and comments by Lomarion, a fifth-grader at the school on the Student Curatorial Committee, and a selection of new pieces from the KSMoCA Mentorship Program.

Mentors and mentees participating in this exhibit include: Claire Melli & Tasha, Leo Crum & Emily, Laura Glazer & Reed, Gillian Rappaport with 5th-grade students, Mo Geiger & Becca Kauffman with the 5th-grade Safety Patrol, Lyberty Udochu, Omar Arras, and Sean Bascom with JAGz (Justin, Amir, Gabriel, Melia, & Chris). Present Days was coordinated by Diana Marcela Cuartas and Lillyanne Phạm, current MFA students in Portland State University’s Art + Social Practice program.

On view: July 1, 2022 – November 11, 2022

at the Portland Building — Installation Space, 2nd Floor
(1120 SW 5th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97204)


Photo by Gilian Rappaport and Bex Copper. Currently on view within the exhibition.

A Message from KSMoCA:

KSMoCA: Present Days Featuring Lomarion’s Favorite Works from 2015-2022 / Mentorship Program Spring 2022 

Welcome to an exhibit/extension of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMoCA), Present Days! We, the Student Curatorial Committee, restarted in January 2022 with a new crew and students after a year of hibernation during COVID-19.

Coming back to in-person life, we have spent the last few months getting to know the school staff and building relationships with its community, creating pathways for families to engage with KSMoCA, and taking part in the mentorship program with fifth-grader Lomarion.

Our names are Diana Marcela Cuartas and Lillyanne Phạm. We are current MFA students in Portland State University’s Art + Social Practice program. We were allowed to update a previous exhibit started at this space in 2019 by Roz Crews and six fifth-graders, now middle schoolers. What you see here reflects the current days of KSMoCA. After an intense time shift, we are back and filled with creatively generative mentorship relationships and critical topics relevant to our everyday lives.

Lomarian, Curator and 5th grader, Student Curatorial Committee.

Interview with fifth-grader Lomarion

Lillyanne: What is KSMoCA?

Lomarion: KSMoCA is an art place where people go to create art. My favorite part about KSMoCA is the different types of stuff that we can do. The room is like a jungle with a lot of cords. And my good awesome friend Lilly. We hangout Wednesdays and Thursdays. We are hosting a basketball game on June 4th too!

Lillyanne: Yes! A basketball game as a collaborative art project for PSU’s annual Art + Social Practice conference, Assembly 2022.

Diana: The jungle is the museum. Do you like having a museum at the school?

Lomarion: I like having a museum because it has a lot of different types of animals like lions because I’m always lyin’. It makes me want to go to an art museum and help with the art.

Diana: Why does art need museums?

Lomarion: Art needs museums so people across the whole world can see every piece of art created by a famous person or a person with creativity.

Lillyanne: Do you like museums better in schools or downtown?

Lomarion: Yes! I haven’t been to the one downtown. It’s about to be math time for me.

Lillyanne: Let’s get you back to class.

Lomarion’s Favorite Works from 2015-2022

We, Lomarion and Lillyanne, started our student-mentor relationship in the spring of 2022. We talked about life near and in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and the contemporary art museum, KSMoCA. Lomarion shared his experience both as a student and as the school’s neighbor; he also has an older sister who attended the school. Unofficially, he is known as the school’s mayor, as health/PE teacher Mr. Monty said. Lomarion’s expertise led him to curate this show. He gave his advice on the best works to pay attention to at the school along with his favorite works from peer submissions. He said curating is “picking things you like and sharing it with people.” He suggests that being a curator takes “50% smarts, 50% imagination, great thinking, good ideas (good as in nice), being prepared, having a cute face but a cuter voice.”


About KSMoCA 

KSMoCA, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School Museum of Contemporary Art, is a contemporary art museum inside an elementary school. The project reimagines how museums, public schools, and universities shape people, culture, and perspectives by creating radical intersections and sharing resources across organizations. Internationally renowned artists collaborate with students and school staff on site-specific projects, exhibitions, and workshops, cultivating space for art to educate within and beyond the classroom through mutual exchange. Students learn through experience about museum practice and careers in the arts by participating as curators, preparators, artists, gallerists, writers, and docents.

KSMoCA’s program includes rotating exhibitions with visiting artists, a classroom adoption program with local arts institutions, a 1-on-1 mentorship program with local artists, a public artist lecture series, site-specific commissions, community and neighborhood events, and more. The public is welcome to experience the museum by appointment and during selected open hours.

For more information, visit our website: www.ksmoca.com.

Also check out @ksmoca on Instagram for the latest updates.

About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School is a pre-K – 5th grade public school located in the King neighborhood of NE Portland, OR. In 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our legacy and our name change, a student-led initiative directed by middle school students who worked with district administration to change the school’s name just days after the death of Dr. King. At Dr. MLK Jr. Elementary School, we believe in the unlimited potential of everyone in our diverse community. We believe that a caring, well-balanced student will be motivated to become a global citizen who is inspired to take action.

The Mentorship Program

The KSMoCA Artist Mentorship Program pairs working artists and arts professionals in the Portland area with K – 5th grade students at Dr. MLK Jr. Elementary School in a long-term mentorship. Volunteer mentors spend 40 minutes with their mentee each week in student-directed, flexible time designed to foster the development of each student’s individual creative practice and encourage mutual exchange.

Students at Dr. MLK Jr. Elementary School hold a diverse set of intersectional identities. It is important to us that the KSMoCA Artist Mentorship Program supports and reflects our students’ experiences, and that we cultivate an environment of culturally responsive learning.

Since 2019, the KSMoCA Mentorship Program has been paused due to COVID-19 safety procedures. To continue relationship-building, Lisa Jarrett and Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. taught three PSU courses entitled KSMoCA Museum and Community for art and non-art majors alike during 2021 and 2022. PSU students worked at Dr. MLK Jr. Elementary School to collaborate with Dr. MLK Jr. students and develop mentor/mentee relationships.

Mentors and mentees participating in this exhibit: Claire Melli & Tasha, Leo Crum & Emily, Laura Glazer & Reed, Sean Bascom & Gabriel, Gillian Rappaport with 5th grade students, Mo Geiger & Becca Kauffman with the 5th grade Safety Patrol, and Lyberty Udochu, Omar Arras, & Sean Bascom with JAGz (Justin, Amir, Gabriel, Melia, & Chris).


About Installation Space

The Installation Space is an art gallery with an almost 30-year legacy located on the second floor of the Portland Building. The gallery is managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council and its mission is to present conceptually rigorous, site-specific and experimental media installations.

The Portland Building houses numerous municipal offices including Parks & Recreation, Transportation, and the Water Bureau. The building is a controversial anomaly of postmodern architecture, designed by Michael Graves in 1982.

The Installation Space gallery program began in 1994 and was on hold for years due to the building’s extensive, multi-year renovation and pandemic closures. This exhibition marks the relaunch of the art program. Stay tuned to learn more about exhibition opportunities and future programming.

Questions? Contact Morgan Ritter, RACC Public Art Exhibitions & Collections Specialist, at mritter@racc.org.

September – December 5th Edition Newsletter 2022

K-12 Arts Education Newsletter: September, October, November, December 2022

5th Edition 

Where education, creativity and joy collide!

Welcome back to school. Welcome leaves as we say goodbye to summer, hello fall, pumpkins, ghosts, the World Series, spice, family, friends, mini-vacations, elections, winter gardening, reading while watching the rain, the death of mosquitoes, brisk morning hikes, snow on the mountains. I do not know what your favorite season is, and they often blur together these days, but I do know that each moment is a time capsule in itself and a chance to listen, learn, teach, and explore. Please enjoy our interviews with two new AEAF Oversight Committee members, and one with a former arts educator turned RACC Board Member; this season’s community spotlight; the might of young composers; local events and resources; RACC’s new professional development opportunities for arts educators; RACC’s spring arts educator survey results; and more! Welcome back.

Share some joy.

Chanda Evans (she/her), Arts Education Program Manager

Highlights & Updates

  Spring 2022: RACC K-12 Arts Education Survey Results

We are pleased to report out our arts education survey results. Please click here for the full report. If you are interested in what action RACC is taking to meet the needs of our community, please click here. As always, we welcome feedback. Feel free to reach out to artsedu@racc.org. If you did not get a chance to complete the spring survey and would like to contribute, note that we plan on sending it out again in October. Please only respond once. Thank you!


The Arts Education and Access Income Tax Fund (AEAF) helps support arts programing in six school districts within the City of Portland. As a reminder, this is not just about tax day in April. Your $35 supports arts education for youth all throughout the year. Look on social to repost, tag, and retweet #PDXaeaf #CreativeEconomy #WhereArtThouPDX #ArtsEducationForAll #RACCgrants #ArtCreatesHope #ArtEd

Your annual $35 helps to support arts education in six school districts: Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds, and Riverdale. In 2012, residents of Portland passed this measure to provide one arts educator for every 500 students. The fund also supports community arts nonprofits through grants administered by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). For more information on the AEAF click here.  The Arts Education and Access Fund Oversight Committee (AEAF Oversight Committee/AOC) is the volunteer-run body charged with ensuring compliance with the 2012 measure. Their meetings are open to the public. For more information click here.


Legislative Update: Arts Education for All Act & More

To learn more about Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici’s (D-OR1) Arts Education for All Act click here.

To advocate for H.R.5581 and to endorse click here. Currently, there are 51 co-sponsors in Congress.

To learn more about the Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) introduced by  Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM3) click here.


Where to go in our community?

Spotlight on the Latino Network

The Latino Network is a non-profit organization that has deep roots in supporting families, schools, and neighborhoods. One way this organization centers their outreach, advocacy, and engagement in school is through their participation in the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program through Multnomah County. Currently, the Latino Network is based in two school districts, Portland Public and Reynolds.  “SUN Community Schools offer opportunities that support healthy child and youth development and family stability.” Arts and culture are also part of the diverse programming offered to youth: Studio Latino offers youth a safe space after school to participate in arts & culture classes from Latino/a role models. The model exposes youth to new art forms while increasing positive skills and behaviors, encouraging academic success.” (Quotes from Latino Network.)


Arts Education Resources 

A comprehensive curated resource list by RACC’s Arts Education Program is available for download. Click here.


Mt. Hood, C. Evans, photo taken from the Portland Japanese Garden, 06/2022.


Professional Development

Trauma Informed Care workshop series continues bi-annually

The Regional Arts & Culture Council, in partnership with Trauma Informed Oregon, is pleased to continue our workshops twice a year. Our first workshop will be on October 7, 2022. Look for an invitation in your inbox in the coming month if you are a K-12 arts educator in Multnomah County.

Subject -specific workshop for k-12 arts educators in Multnomah County

RACC listened to you! Thanks to our third-party survey, conducted in the spring of 2022 with K-12 arts educators in the City of Portland; we will offer professional development opportunities through a collaborative working partnership with several regional colleges and universities. We plan to convene this fall and offer our workshops in the spring of 2023. These will be free and available to all K-12 arts educators in Multnomah County. If you are not an arts educator but are interested to see if you can join, please reach out to artsedu@racc.org.

The Beat: Interviews from the Field

Meet James Dixon, Producing Artistic Director for BlaQ OUT, newly appointed volunteer member of the AEAF Oversight Committee, & Chair of the Equity Subcommittee. 

You are a new member of the AEAF Oversight Committee. What brought you to the table? Do you have specific goals in mind and opportunities you see with arts education in particular?

I have been a huge supporter of the Arts Tax [Arts Education and Access Income Tax Fund] over the years and had heard many complaints from fellow artists, teachers and just regular Multnomah County taxpayers. I have served on several arts boards so I was excited to dive in and offer some support to this special fund. Equity with representation is very important to me and is one of my personal specific goals within arts education. The world is changing so rapidly and art is a vital part of that change. As a working local stage artist, I just don’t see enough representation, and that starts with showing all our students that there is a place for them in the arts. Their stories, lives and identities matter and so does that of our educators. I would  also like to see more focus on closing the communications gaps, which prevent educators from providing quality education. I think much of that work starts with staying open to adjusting to emerging needs in our community, fostering more dialogue and remaining teachable as leaders.

What is the intersection of arts & culture in your life?

I am a Portland-based actor and director. I am also the Producing Artistic Director for the BlaQ OUT Theatre Festival, which is an unapologetically Black, Indigenous, Queer and gender diverse producing engine. I am also an ensemble member of Fuse Theatre Ensemble, which is partnered with BlaQ OUT through the OUT wright Theatre Festival.

Can you share with us something you are passionate about  that you wish more folx would notice?

I feel it is paramount to see the arts as a vessel for change, dialogue and collective liberation. When we limit access to  this valuable resource, we are essentially telling our fellow humans that their stories don’t matter. Art in any medium has the potential for personal growth and our students should have equal access. I challenge taxpayers to see this as an opportunity to invest in our future. If there are problems – let’s collaborate. If there is an obstacle – let’s tackle it collectively. It is life-changing for kids to see themselves represented and celebrated within our schools, in our galleries and on our stages. However, our largest obstacle is remaining in dialogue as a community and remaining flexible as emerging needs surface.



Meet Hana Layson, PhD, Head of Youth and Educator Programs at the Portland Art Museum, newly appointed volunteer member of the AEAF Oversight Committee.

You are a new member of the AEAF Oversight Committee. What brought you to the table? Do you have specific goals in mind and opportunities you see with arts education in particular?

The AEAF has made such an enormous difference in arts education in Portland. It provides essential funding to place arts teachers in public schools across the city’s six school districts, and to increase equity and access for all students. It also provides support for arts organizations who play an important role by collaborating with schools and classroom teachers to form Portland’s arts education ecosystem. I joined the Oversight Committee so I could help support this work. Every child deserves to experience high-quality arts learning throughout their time in school. I’m so proud of Portlanders for overwhelmingly voting to restore public funding for arts education when they approved the AEAF in 2012. I want to do whatever I can to ensure that arts education in our city continues to improve in quality and reach and to make a difference in the lives of all Portland students.

What is the intersection of arts & culture in your life?

Like (I imagine) many of your newsletter readers, I feel the arts sustain my mental health, nourish my soul, and provide a catalyst for some of the most meaningful experiences I have with other humans. I love my job—connecting students and educators with art at the Portland Art Museum and getting to collaborate with artists and community partners across the region. I’m grateful for all the ways I experience the arts in the rest of my life as well. My son—a senior at Franklin High School—plays jazz and blues piano, and to be able to sit in my living room and hear him play is one of the deepest joys I know. I’ve had a longtime love of dance of all kinds and I do it or watch it as often as I can (so grateful that live performances have come back!). I’ve also always been a reader and writer. 

For me, the most powerful arts experiences come from bringing different disciplines together. Every year in April, I collaborate with the PPS Visual and Performing Arts team to plan the HeART of Portland K-12 Student Arts Showcase, an event that celebrates the extraordinary work of arts students and teachers, and is a big thank you to Portlanders for the AEAF. This past April, we had Jefferson dancers performing in the Mesh exhibition, the Tubman Middle School clarinet choir playing in Isaka Shamsud-Din’s exhibition, and a closing, solo performance of La Llorona by a Grant High School freshman in front of Ideal PDX’s Frida and Diego Are Here. It was so powerful to see these student performers activating these visual art spaces and to see their work honored alongside the work of professional artists.

Can you share with us something you are passionate about that you wish more folx would notice?

Art in public spaces. One of the best parts of summer is outdoor music and dance. I loved Portland Parks & Rec’s first annual East Portland Arts Festival! And I love how public art is flourishing in the city, how I come across a new stunning or quirky or thought-provoking mural almost every day. Even small pieces like this one—words from James Baldwin carefully stitched into a bit of cloth that was stapled to a utility pole near Laurelhurst Park. I’m grateful for the moments of reflection these public art pieces provide and for how they invite us all to be in relation to each other. The organization Write Around Portland uses the wonderful phrase “Writing in community.” I appreciate how every art form has the power to activate that experience of community.


Meet Nancy Helmsworth, artist, newly elected RACC Board Member, newly retired PPS arts educator (Capitol Elementary), and former AEAF Oversight Committee: Metrics Chair and Interim Chairwoman of the AEAF Oversight Committee.

What brought you to the arts?

I have loved art since I was a child. What really captivated me were   the sensory experiences like that of pencil/crayon on various papers, or the way paint is absorbed or not on certain surfaces, etc. I did plenty of inventive projects on my own and lots of paint-by-numbers. One thing that stumped me in the paint-by-numbers kit was that although the color selections were so beautiful, the paint was so gloppy and the brushes were poor quality and hard to control. That definitely influenced my teaching, where I made sure my students had good brushes, paper and quality materials.

What inspires you today as you move forward in your new role as a member of RACC’s Board?

As an artist and art educator, I have known about RACC for many years. I have looked to it as a clearinghouse for artists to find various local, regional and even national opportunities. That is a real service for artists. Through my time on the AOC, I learned more about RACC funding for the regional community. It is a unique and valuable organization. That said, I’m aware RACC does so much more than I yet know. I’m interested in learning how they currently support diverse regional arts, and how they connect to all citizens with various interests. Most importantly, I am excited to support RACC as they clarify and follow their improvement goals.

How have your previous experiences as an arts educator and AEAF Chairwoman helped inform how you see arts education programming in Oregon?

I cannot speak for the whole state of Oregon, but passing the Arts Education and Access Fund – aka The Arts Tax – was a huge plus for the area. The money fully funds one full time arts teacher for every 500 students in each of the districts. When I was the full time art teacher at Capitol Hill, I taught up to 400+ students. A full time specialist (art/music/dance/theater) can efficiently run a successful program for a whole school, giving the students a strong foundational experience.  At full time staffing, it is a very EFFICIENT use of money, and let me say two things:

  1. Those teachers work really, really hard for those students, they wholly believe in their arts education mission.
  2. There are some extremely high quality teachers funded by the Arts Tax, whose assignments have the broadest responsibility and heaviest workload in each school district. These teachers are to be valued as the “glue” in the school community, knowing and supporting all the students.

Sadly, many of these positions in my old district are being re-designated from full time to two half time positions with the goal of including music and visual art as two half programs. Having both music and art is a wonderful goal, but doing each as a half time program is the problem. This rarely, if ever, is successful for the students, as they cannot get enough time in either program to learn and develop mastery.

This occurs when administrators and non-teachers make staffing decisions without understanding what is happening in the classrooms and listening to the expertise of the educators.  The true experts, the teachers, are familiar with the national “best practices” (how often students get to go to their art class and how long is the session) and what is possible within the logistics of an elementary school. 

I had a principal suggest that 30 minutes was long enough for students to get something valuable done in an art class. She wasn’t kidding; she was ignorant and had the power to make that decision. This is a weakness in the AEAF implementation – that the quality of the opportunity in the implementation was never standardized and principals and other decision makers were never given guidelines nor trained.

There is a simple solution to this though…

One of my core beliefs is that organizations are best informed when they make sure they listen to everyone, especially those doing the actual work. Those folks, the teachers, have first-hand knowledge of potential and limitations that are key to art programming implementation.

AND, transparency is essential to do quality work.

  •       Evaluate with honesty, withhold shame/blame, and use information/data to direct next steps.
  •       Make sure any system changes work for all parties involved, don’t leave anybody out! 
  •       Be ready to evaluate and do it again as needed.

No need to feel bad about it. New programs, new anything have unexpected consequences…just observe and correct. The AEAF is a fantastic educational resource. Portland is so fortunate to have this funding.

2022 Stepping Stones, Finding Way, Nancy Helmsworth.

What brings you joy?

Though there is plenty to worry about in this world, I love this question as it reminds me that there is still so much joy in my life.

I truly love art, and say that it has been my “best friend” through my whole life. I am so glad I committed to it – making it, learning more skills, sharing it with others, especially children (who reciprocally taught me) and observing it in galleries, sidewalks and museums.

Moving around in the beautiful Pacific Northwest is a pleasure – hiking, swimming, and appreciating the landscape. Family, friends and food. Ha – I guess that covers a lot. Thanks for asking.




Featured Arts Organization: Fear No Music

An interview with Jeff Payne, Director of the Young Composers Project

Fear No Music’s Young Composers Project (YCP) provides groundbreaking composition training and mentorship for youth interested in composing as a professional career or life passion.  Students in grades 5 – 12 train with the region’s top professional musicians and composers, developing their new works through a series of workshops and public concerts. Scholarships are available.

When youth participate in the Young Composers Program, what do you hope they will take away from their experience?  

I want every student to experience how creating their own music is more rewarding, and more personally and emotionally fulfilling, than simply downloading and listening to what someone else puts on the internet.  The act of creating music helps a student understand who they are, how they fill a unique place in the world, and how they can share their emotions with others through sound.  The workshops also strive to create a community of music creators and performers.  Creating music can sometimes be a solitary undertaking, and by providing the students with live professionals to help in their writing processes, the workshops help build the bonds between them. 


How can students and arts partners help encourage schools to include music composition in the arts?

When we get ready to present the concert of works by young composers each year, I encourage them to invite their teachers, their neighbors, and everyone they know.  Letting teachers and others know about the amazing music that these students are creating is essential to developing greater support for creative work in the schools.  Writing music develops so many skills that are not confined to music:  attention to detail, understanding of complex systems, planning and following through, thinking outside the box, and envisioning and creating.  Those skills carry over into so many other areas of education.  

When you think of art, what inspires you? 

There are many art forms that inspire me, but I get most excited when I hear a new voice who looks at the world in a totally different way, whether that is presented through music, literature, theatre, art or some other form.  When I stop and say, “Wow, I’ve never heard anything like that before,” I want to know more about the person who created it and experience more of their work.  

Application for this year’s program are due Oct. 1st. Scholarships ae available.

Young composers & musicians from Fear No Music in Lincoln Hall at Portland State University, May 2022.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery have wonderful fall programming. Many of these opportunities are virtual and free. Click here to learn more.

Direct from the Portland Art Museum website: The Poster Project

With generous support from the PGE Foundation, the Portland Art Museum has created a set of posters featuring works across the permanent collections. Posters are available free of charge to educators in Oregon and Washington. Hang them in classrooms, hallways, and libraries or take them out for specific activities and lessons. Our goal is to provide educators and students with artworks you can study and enjoy wherever you are.

Spanish-language PDFs developed with the support and collaboration of AB Cultural Drivers, LLC.

Beginning September 2021, we are proud to partner with Relay Resources to package and mail posters to you. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Click here to request a poster.

Be sure to check out artlook®oregon to find arts education programing for the summer. Over 250 arts organizations in the tri-county area are listed!

What brings YOU joy?

A street mural with whimsical robotic characters in front of a bike rack.

Questions for Humans, Gary Hirsch, mural.

Please share with us by emailing cevans@racc.org.

Please email the Arts Education Program about any summer programming opportunities so we may include them in our short summer one-pager of #newsforyourheART.

If you would like to highlight student work or a recent performance, please share with us! Thank you.

Workshops • Events • Lectures  

Hosmer Brook Trout, Analee Fuentes, 2019.

Here is a curated list of lectures, workshops, events, and conferences from local colleges and universities. If you know of an event, workshop, performance, lecture, or art exhibition that is coming up, please go here to submit an opportunity.

Chapman Elementary in NW Portland is famous for their Vaux Swifts. Join in this family friendly experience and be part of this beloved ritual, celebrated each fall. Click here for more information. FREE

Latinx Heritage Month Celebrate from September 15th through October 15th.

Portland Latin American Film Festival at the Hollywood Theatre SAVE THE DATE: Opening of the Annual Portland Latin American Film Festival at the Hollywood Theater in person on the big silver screen. September 28, 2022.

Oregon Humanities is offering the online fall course Humanity in Perspective (HIP), a free college-credit class and learning community for students 18 years or older in Oregon who face barriers to continuing their education. Learn more and apply.  Classes begin in early January 2023. Check out their free curriculum to use in the classroom. Best for grades 9-12.

FREE Museum Days Go to the Portland Art Museum, the Portland Japanese Garden, or OMSI for free! Show your Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or Bank of America Private Bank credit or debit card and a photo ID on the first Saturday or Sunday of the month for one free general admission ticket. Always scheduled on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, continuing into 2023.

  • October 1 and 2
  • November 5 and 6
  • December 3 and 4

Teacher Guides for Latinx Heritage Month (free)

Portland Textile Month- begins Oct 1. The theme is Regeneration

Portland Open Studios October 8 & 9, 15 & 16 from 10-5pm (free) To see the artists click here.

Portland Film Festival October 12-22, 2022 (various venues)

Portland Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes and Hayrides Local fall family-friendly activities and events


**Some workshops/events/lectures might have changed due to COVID-19 or other reasons. Please check before you make plans.

The Scoop – Grow your Brain    

For more information click here.
 Click here for valuable resources.
For more information click here.
For more information click here.
For more information click here.

*Featured artwork from RACC’s public art database Canvas NW.

Designed by Andrea Blanco, RACC Graphic Design and Content Specialist.


Regional Arts & Culture Council, Arts Education Program.

We welcome feedback and suggestions. Please reach out to Chanda Evans (she/her), cevans@racc.org

Disclaimer: The Regional Arts & Culture Council is not held liable for the materials or images in this newsletter.