East County Library – Exterior Sculptures Artwork Opportunity

Rendering of the new East County Library’s north and east-facing exterior elevations in Gresham, OR.

East County Library Exterior Sculpture Artworks Request for Qualifications

Important Dates 

  • April 4, 2024 – RFQ launch
  • May 8, 2024 – Applications due
  • May-early July 2024 – Panel review and artist selection (including interviews)
  • July-October 2024 – Design Phase
  • October 2024-October 2025 – Fabrication
  • November-December 2025 – Artwork complete and installed

Watch the Info Session Here

In partnership with Multnomah County Library (MCL), the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) invites artists/artist teams living in Oregon and Washington to submit qualifications for site-specific exterior sculptural artworks at the new East County Library as part of the Library Capital Building Projects. One artist/artist team will be selected to create a series of free standing, 3-dimensional sculptural artworks which will be prominently located along the building’s east exterior elevation that faces NW Eastman Pkwy, a busy thoroughfare in Gresham, Oregon. The budget available for the commission comes from Multnomah County’s Percent for Art Program and is $225,000. Submissions are due by Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at 11:59pm PDT.

About East County Library

Located in Gresham, the 95,000 sf building will be located at the corner of two busy thoroughfares, NW Division and NW Eastman Pkwy, with the Gresham City Hall TriMet Max stop north of the site that also includes a civic space for farmer’s markets and public events. Designed by Holst Architecture, the new library will serve as a transformative space for community members. Being the second largest library in the county, this site will provide much needed services and access to library resources for a large swath of the region’s communities. The mass timber and symmetrical building will consist of three floors that include an auditorium, flex rooms, maker spaces, child, teen and learning areas, gathering spaces, a collection of over 200,000 library materials, and a parking garage on the bottom floor.

Art Opportunity

We are seeking an artist or artist team to create a series of site-specific exterior sculptural artworks for East County Library. The sculptural artworks will be prominently located along the sidewalk of the building’s east exterior elevation, welcoming visitors to the new, grand community space. These artworks will be highly visible to pedestrian, bike and vehicular traffic along NW Eastman Pkwy and partially visible from NW Division St, two of the main arterial roads in Gresham.

Along the building’s exterior east wall, there will be planting areas that range in size consisting of large, medium and small shrubs, as well as several ‘nurse logs’ which are downed tree trunks scattered through the landscape that may be used as seating, but most will be natural elements among the planting. Directly next to the plantings will be the sidewalk, which will include three concrete coves that are at a slight angle moving into the planting areas and extensions of the sidewalk. The areas around the coves have groundcover, allowing room for potential art interventions, invitations to pause along the way. These coves are about 7’D x 22.68’L each. At the southeast corner of the building, there may also be an opportunity for placement of artworks that is right outside of the view triangle that has to be kept clear for visibility and the two Douglas fir trees that will be planted. At the southern tip of this corner area, there is roughly a 13.5′ x 13′ triangle, and north of the two trees there is a 11′ x 15.5′ rectangle area available for artworks.

It’s important to note the north and south entrances to the library are on the west elevation of the building. Because of this, there will be a series of library banners and/or signage along the sidewalk on NW Eastman Pkwy, helping to both welcome and identify the library to the public. To better the pedestrian experience, there will also be various street lights and bollard lights to illuminate the sidewalk. These exterior sculptures will be some of the first pieces of public art visible as people arrive at the library. It is vital that the artworks play an integral role in creating a sense of place and belonging for the surrounding communities, neighbors, MCL staff and library patrons alike.

While these exterior sites primarily suit hearty and durable mediums (i.e. metals, stone, clay, plaster, and certain woods), there is an interest in incorporating other media into the artworks. Use of natural vegetation, light, sound and installation-like elements could be considered. We expect the artist(s) to determine the media(s) for their work through conversations with the project team, taking other design considerations for the space into account.

Please refer to the pdf attachment showing the detailed locations of the artworks at the site here.

Architectural rendering highlighting the art opportunities along NW Eastman Pkwy, including the three concrete coves.

Rendering of the northeast corner of the building along NW Eastman Pkwy.

Rendering of the southeast corner of the building at the intersection of NW Division St and NW Eastman Pkwy.

Rendering of the building’s east exterior wall and sidewalk along NW Eastman Pkwy heading south towards NW Division St.

Artwork Goals and Qualities

The artwork should reflect and compliment the natural and organic elements of the building’s design which is informed through the use of wood and earth tones on both the interior and exterior and the vast amount of windows which allow natural light into the library. In addition to the planting areas and nurse logs on the exterior, there will be warm lighting at several locations around the library, acknowledging its place as an active community hub with the civic space, TriMet Max station and Gresham City Hall to the north and the library’s plaza area and auditorium on the west side of the building.

Another main goal for the artwork is to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and richness of cultures that will utilize the building. Currently, 40 percent of the county’s population lives east of I-205, and East County is one of the most diverse areas of the region. To appeal to the diverse groups of users at this significant location, the artwork should be meaningful and dynamic. Some key approaches in accomplishing this is to align with the library’s programming and be relevant to the library’s users; generate art that connects to contemporary and/or traditional art-making practices; and stimulate and engage the senses for passersby.


The selected artist/artist team will receive $225,000 for this opportunity to create the site-specific exterior sculptural artworks. This fee is inclusive of all project expenses including artist fees, design development, materials, fabrication, installation, and communication/coordination with the design team, construction team and third-party contractors who may help to fabricate and install the artwork.


This opportunity is open to artists/artist teams based in Oregon and Washington. If applying as a team, at least one member must meet the residence eligibility requirement. MCL and RACC are committed to reflecting the cultural richness of our county by promoting opportunities for emerging and historically underrepresented artists. Artists/artist teams representing communities of color are strongly encouraged to apply. RACC is committed to engaging new communities of artists and expanding the range of artistic and cultural expression represented in the County’s public art collection.

The selected artist/artist team must be able to create, complete and deliver their artwork by November-December 2025.

Selection Process

At this time, the selection process will be entirely virtual. A selection panel composed of MCL representatives, project team members, local artists, and community members will review artists’ submissions and choose more than one finalist to invite to  interview for the commission.

Overall, the purpose of the interview will be to allow the artist(s) and the panel to meet each other and engage in a mutually beneficial and informative conversation. It’s an opportunity for the artist(s) to better understand the context of the project and the intentions the selection panel has for the final art piece. Both parties will be given the chance to ask questions and determine best alignment and artist selection for the project. After the interviews are completed, the selection panel will choose a final artist/artist team to award the public art opportunity to. Criteria for selecting semifinalists for interviews are (1) quality of past work as demonstrated in submitted images; (2) ability  and interest in creating site-specific artwork; (3) how past artwork has fit one or more of the general goals described above through demonstrated processes and/or final design.

(Note: the selection panel reserves the right to select an artist who does not directly apply to this call, if appropriate. Likewise, the panel maintains the option to make no selection from submitted applications and to reopen the selection process or propose other methods of selection if no applicant is accepted.)

How to Apply

All application materials must be submitted through the RACC Opportunity Portal, an online application system. Applicants will need to create an account, or log into their existing account at https://racc.org/apply. (If you are first-time user, learn how to create an account here). If you are applying as a team, please assign one person to apply and be the point of contact on behalf of the team. Submissions due Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at 11:59pm PDT

Application Materials

  • Artist bio/resume. Upload a PDF of no more than two pages that outlines your creative activities and artistic accomplishments. If applying as a team, submit one PDF that includes a bio/resume for all team members no more than 6 pages.
  • Statement of interest. Based on the information given, please address the following:
    • Your interest in this project
      • Why this project, its focus, and themes are of interest to you
      • Why you would be a good match for this project
      • How do you foresee your work connecting to the mission and values of the project
    • Describe your capacity and/or experience to complete the scope of work
    • If you are applying as a team, describe your individual roles on the team and how you anticipate working together

There are two options in submitting these responses:

-Written Statement: 3000 characters or less

-Oral Statement: Upload a video/voice recording no longer than 2 minutes

  • Up to 8 past work samples. These work samples are the primary way the quality of your work will be judged. Provide up to two images, no larger than 5MB each, for each work sample. For each image, please provide title, media, dimensions, year completed, budget and location. Conceptual information is desirable but not required.

Once you have started your application, you can save after each step and sign out. Your application will be saved as a draft that you can continue to work on, as needed. Please note that after you click “Submit,” your application is final and no further edits can be made.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us throughout the process.


We are here to support and assist you! If you have questions about the overall opportunity or the RACC application portal,  would like to set up a time for a phone/video call or have any other needs for assistance please email project manager, Salvador Mayoral IV, at smayoral@racc.org.

If you would like to be considered for this opportunity and don’t have a computer or online access, please feel free to contact RACC for support. Also, if you prefer these materials in another language you can contact the RACC project team for translation services.

We strongly encourage you to submit your application with enough time for any questions to be answered prior to when submissions are due as inquiries received towards the end of that period may not be responded to. We appreciate your understanding and consideration of our capacity.

Interpretation services are available, please email info@racc.org.

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Multnomah County Library and Regional Arts & Culture Council announce community artist as part of diverse work at North Portland Library

Sadé DuBoise will focus on community input as part of artwork for library’s new Black Cultural Center

  • Contact: Liz Sauer, Multnomah County Library Capital Building Projects Communications Manager, 971.350.8733, elizabeths@multco.us
  • Contact: Meech Boakye, Communications Lead, Regional Arts & Culture Council, 503.823.5111, mboakye@racc.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 22, 2024

PORTLAND, OR. — Multnomah County Library (MCL) and Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) are continuing their efforts to bring community-centered artwork to libraries throughout Multnomah County. This work is part of the voter-approved 2020 Library building bond which will build, rebuild or expand nine library buildings. Smaller upgrades to 11 libraries are also underway as part of the Refresh projects. Since the bond passed, Multnomah County Library has undergone major updates, with North Portland Library as one of the first projects.

North Portland Library will be renovated and expanded, adding 1,500 square feet to make the library 10,200 square feet. The renovated building will highlight the diversity and history of the community. The design by LEVER Architecture preserves the historic Carnegie building on Killingsworth Street while providing greater space for community gatherings in the new Black Cultural Center.

North Portland Library has long been the library home to the Black community in Portland. That’s why insights from the Black community have guided the vision and purpose for the new Black Cultural Center. Exciting updates at North Portland include:

  • A Black Cultural Center for connection and a celebration of Blackness
  • Outdoor space for community members to relax and be together
  • Updated technology and internet
  • Art that represents the neighborhood’s diversity

Public art for the North Portland community

As part of these updates, local artists are creating unique installations that represent the North Portland community’s history, culture and diversity.

“The historic North Portland Library has long been a cornerstone of the community, and specifically the Black community,” said Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries. “Through the library’s partnership with the Regional Arts and Culture Council, North Portland can offer vibrant new artwork that represents the community in a beautiful, inspiring space.”

Portrait of Sadé DuBoise. Photography by Olivia Renee (2020)

At North Portland Library, Sadé DuBoise has been selected to create a site-specific, artist-designed glass wall which will create a backdrop for the west side of the new Black Cultural Center. This permanent glass artwork, measuring 12 ft. high and 16 ft. wide, will be based on an original painting DuBoise will create, grounded in her North Portland upbringing and influenced by North Portland Library community engagement events. Her work is currently featured in the Black Artists of Oregon Exhibition at the Portland Art Museum, curated by Intisar Abioto.

In collaboration with Multnomah County Library and RACC, Sadé DuBoise will host two visioning sessions to welcome the community into the process of developing artwork for the Black Cultural Center. More details are below.

This artwork is developed in coordination with the Regional Arts & Culture Council through the Multnomah County Percent for Art Program, allotting two percent of the construction budget for all county-funded improvement projects toward the investment in public art. Artists are awarded projects as part of a robust public process, which includes selection panels led by local residents, business owners, artists, library staff and project partners.

Valarie Pearce, author, educator, and community panelist for the selection committee, celebrated the announcement, saying:

“As an educator, Portland native, and lifetime library evangelist it has been a great pleasure to be a part of the Multnomah County Library, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and community panel for the inaugural glass art and artist selection for North Portland Library’s Black Cultural Center.

“Art is a universal connector and the historical expression by which the Black Portland community has shared its story across time. North Portland Library’s Black Cultural Center is the legacy and enduring story of resilience, community, and beauty.

“I believe as a city it is important for us to invest in our values. With the focus of centering community voice, steering a broad and diverse artistic selection process, and curating community feedback forums, we have done just that. We have demonstrated our values for collaboration, community-centered voice, and the deliberate celebration of Black artistry in library spaces. Bravo!”

Artists and community working in tandem

Community engagement is at the center of the library’s building projects. The selection panel, made up of residents of the neighborhood, artists, architects, and library staff, prioritized artists with demonstrated experiences and connections to the North and Northeast community around North Portland Library. Most artists selected for these projects are seeking to create and host community engagement opportunities as part of their design phase, including the two events Sadé DuBoise will lead.

Design artwork for the Black Cultural Center at North Portland Library

The first event will be a visioning event where community ideas and perspectives will help shape the artwork for the Black Cultural Center. This gathering is a chance for community members to engage in meaningful dialogue and contribute to the selection of Adinkra symbols that will be featured in the upcoming glass wall art project. Adinkra symbols originated in Ghana and represent concepts or aphorisms. This interactive session will be an inspiring blend of cultural exchange, artistic discussion, and community bonding. Presentations will begin at 10:30 am and there will be handouts and opportunities for engagement for anyone who might come after the presentation begins.

  • Date and Location TBA

The second event will be held in celebration of Black History Month where participants will have the opportunity to create their own symbols, drawing inspiration from traditional Adinkra symbols. This hands-on experience is a chance to explore the symbolism of Adinkra while expressing your personal creativity using ink and paper. Additionally, attendees will get an exclusive sneak peek at the latest developments in Sadè DuBoise’s artwork for North Portland Libary’s new Black Cultural Center. All materials will be provided, and no prior art experience is necessary. Refreshments will be served.

Find more information on Multnomah County Library’s website and follow RACC on social media for updates.


About Multnomah County Library

A treasured community institution since 1864, Multnomah County Library is one of the nation’s busiest public library systems, providing social, educational and cultural programs, resources and services, online and through its 19 public locations. With an eye toward the future of community-centered spaces, the library is working to build, rebuild or expand nine libraries through a voter approved capital bond. In addition to being Oregon’s largest provider of free internet access, the library offers millions of print and digital resources, in multiple languages for people of all ages. From kindergarten readiness to job training, computer-assisted design and 3D printing, the library supports all people in their pursuits to connect, learn and create. Learn more at multcolib.org

About the Regional Arts & Culture Council

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides impactful and transformative funding for artists and nonprofit organizations in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties; manages an acclaimed public art program; leads an advocacy and arts education program; and offers a wide range of technical and professional development workshops. RACC advocates for equity, inclusion, and access, working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity, and the arts.


Thirty-three Artworks Inspired by the People and Places of Portland Selected for Purchase

Mika Martinez, Portland Catrinas, 2023, Photography and graphic design on aluminum, 20 x 40 x 2 inches.


January 11, 2024

Portland, Oregon — The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), in partnership with the City of Portland, announces that 33 artworks by 26 artists have been selected for purchase through a competitive application and review process. Celebrating and taking inspiration from the people and places of Portland, the selected pieces include paintings on canvas, photography, works on paper, mixed media, textiles and beadwork.

The selected artists are: Rebecca Boraz, Sarah Bouwsma, Terrance Burton, May Maylisa Cat, Epiphany Couch, Menka Desai, Michael Espinoza, Emily Fitzgerald, Future Prairie, Terrence Gasca, Josh Gates, Elisa Gusdal, Jo Hamilton, Linda Higgins, Anya Keyes, Latoya Lovely, Marne Lucas, Mika Martinez, Christa Nye, Rory ONeal, M Prull, Rebecca Rodela, Hampton Rodriguez, Mona Superhero, Heléna Dupre Thompson, and Aaron Wessling.

Left: Helena Thompson, One Eighty Compulsion 14, 2020, Archival pigment print (photography), 22 x 17 inches. Right: Menka Desai, New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden, 2023, Gouache and embroidery on handmade paper, 5 x 7 inches.

The artworks will enter RACC’s Public Art Collection of portable works, a rotating collection displayed in accessible municipal spaces throughout the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Fifteen of the works will enter the Visual Chronicle of Portland, a collection consisting of more than 400 works on paper that focuses on artists’ views of the city’s social and urban landscapes as they evolve through time.

Art Selection Process

Facilitated by RACC, an independent panel made up of artists, community representatives, and City employees participated in a three-stage review process to select artworks for purchase. RACC received applications from 155 artists, with up to six artworks submitted per person. The panel participated in thoughtful discussion and collective decision-making to determine which pieces to purchase from the many talented artists who submitted work.

Taking Inspiration from Portland’s New City Map

Funded by the City of Portland, the theme of the artwork purchase project was “Taking Inspiration from Portland’s New City Map.” The theme references Portland’s four new geographic districts, which were created by the City of Portland’s Independent District Commission through extensive community input. Submitted artworks could directly or indirectly relate to the theme, by portraying Portland’s neighborhoods or people; making personal, social, historical, political, or natural connections to the City or districts; and/or exploring broader ideas of borders, maps, place, or community.

Quote from Kristin Calhoun, Director of Public Art: “From celebrating community, to honoring the natural spaces within the City, to reflecting on urban changes, these thirty-three artworks present diverse perspectives on what it means to live, work, and play in Portland now. RACC is grateful to all the artists that submitted work for this opportunity, and we continue to be inspired by the unique viewpoints and creativity of the artists in our region.”

To learn more about the two-dimensional artwork purchase project, the selected artists, or to schedule an interview with RACC or the project team, please contact Eleanor Sandys at esandys@racc.org.

Contact Information: 


About the Regional Arts & Culture Council:

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides impactful and transformative funding for artists and nonprofit organizations in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties; manages an acclaimed public art program; leads an advocacy and arts education program; and offers a wide range of technical and professional development workshops. RACC advocates for equity, inclusion, and access, working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity, and the arts. We remain steadfast in our mission to enrich every neighborhood we serve.

Regional Arts & Culture Council and Port of Portland Announce Selection of PDX Phase 1 Terminal Redevelopment Artists

Left: Sanford Biggers, photography by Matthew Morrocco. Right: Yoonhee Choi, photography by Samuel Gehrke.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 16, 2023

Portland, OR – The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) in collaboration with the Port of Portland (Port) is pleased to announce the selection of two artists, Yoonhee Choi and Sanford Biggers. Both artists will be creating a unique artwork to be permanently installed in the new main terminal facility at Portland International Airport (PDX). Choi and Biggers’s artworks will both be a part of the first phase of the terminal core (TCORE) redevelopment project for PDX — the keystone project in an overall $2 billion renovation. Choi and Biggers’ projects will be on display with the opening of the new terminal in May 2024. These are the first of many artworks to be commissioned for TCORE.

Yoonhee Choi (Portland, OR) will be composing an artwork design for two glass walls located in the pre-security queuing area for both North and South TSA security checkpoints. Her first commissioned public artwork, Choi’s two 56-foot long, 11-foot high glass walls will be visible from both the concourse connector passageway and from the security queuing area. These large scale works will be  site-specific compositions developed from Choi’s mixed media collages, which are both whimsical and structured in their design. View images of Choi’s work and full artist bio.

Sanford Biggers (NYC, NY) will be creating two large scale, signature artworks that will be suspended from the ceiling in an area between both entries of the concourse connector passageway and situated around the concession’s pavilions. These post-security artworks will greet travelers once they pass through the TSA checkpoints. This work is Biggers’s first commissioned public artwork in the Pacific Northwest and these sculptures will be in dialogue with his quilt-based works which he has engaged with since 2009 titled the Codex series. View images of Biggers’s work and a full artist bio.

“When we opened the request for proposals last year, in partnership with the RACC, our goal was to create opportunities for historically underrepresented artists and to elevate the visibility of unique perspectives at PDX,” said Wendy Given, Port of Portland Art Program Manager. “With the selection of Yoonhee Choi and Sanford Biggers, I believe we’re meeting those goals. They are both world-class artists, and it will be a privilege to have their stellar work integrated into the fabric of PDX for thousands of travelers to experience every day.”

Yoonhee Choi – “As an immigrant and Portland-based artist, I am especially excited to have this opportunity to create such a significant artwork that will help represent our city to the world. A focus of my practice is creating site-specific artwork that responds to its individual situation and surroundings. I am inspired by the soaring and sensitive design of the PDX redevelopment and captivated by how an airport is the portal at the beginning and end of so many meaningful and memorable journeys.”

Sanford Biggers – “I’m thrilled to showcase a large-scale permanent installation as part of the PDX Terminal Redevelopment Project and for the occasion to be in dialogue with the rich artistic heritage in the Northwest. The unique opportunity of this project and the architecture designed by ZGF Architects inspires me to consider how I can create an artwork that responds directly to the context of a space that embodies transition, energy, interaction, movement, and potential.”

“RACC is simply elated with these selections and our opportunity to continue our partnership with the Port of Portland, and the Arts Selection team there,” said Kristin Calhoun Director of Public Art. “The choice of these artists through an art panel managed by RACC is emblematic of the work we strive to do every day. With Yoonhee Choi, it’s working with the amazing artists in our region by assisting them in the process of developing and transitioning their studio art practice into their first public art commission. Working with Sanford Biggers and his team has been a joy and we at RACC are very proud to be a part of bringing his first Pacific Northwest public artwork to the PDX Airport.”

Contact Information

About the Regional Arts & Culture Council

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides impactful and transformative funding for artists and nonprofit organizations in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties; manages an acclaimed public art program; leads an advocacy and arts education program; and offers a wide range of technical and professional development workshops. RACC advocates for equity, inclusion, and access, working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity, and the arts. We remain steadfast in our mission to enrich every neighborhood we serve. For more information, please visit racc.org.

About Port of Portland

With three airports, four marine terminals, and five business parks, the Port of Portland is an economic engine for transforming the region into a place where everyone is welcome, empowered, and connected to the opportunity to find a good job or grow their business. The Port works to pull down barriers and provide access to people and local businesses who have been left out of the region’s economic growth—including people of color, low-income workers, and people with disabilities. Collectively, the Port leads big projects in the region, including expanding PDX airport and making it more accessible and efficient; transforming a former marine terminal into a site for innovation in the housing construction and mass timber industries; and providing more options for Pacific Northwest businesses to send their products around the world. For more information, visit www.PortofPortland.com

Artists Chosen for Mural Project at Arbor Lodge Shelter Lead with a Community-Centric Approach


November 14, 2023

Meech Boakye, Communications Lead, RACC, mboakye@racc.org

Sophie May Hook, Public Art Project Manager, RACC, shook@racc.org

Portland, OR – The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), in partnership with Multnomah County, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Do Good Multnomah, proudly announces the selection of artists Lillyanne Pham (LP/she/they) and Paola De La Cruz (she/her) for the creation of a new exterior mural at the Arbor Lodge Shelter, anticipated to be unveiled in the spring of 2024. The mural will be a visual cornerstone of the shelter’s renovation, aimed at providing a range of support and services to North Portland’s houseless community.

Lillyanne Pham, a second-generation Vietnamese artist and cultural organizer, creates through a systemic consciousness framework, focusing on place-based justice and racial equity. LP’s collaborative partner, Paola De La Cruz, of Dominican heritage, weaves digital and analog media into narratives exploring cultural identity and interpersonal growth. Together, they’ve created a collaborative artistic practice, Qué Lo Gì, known for conceiving socially engaged projects that bridge individual stories with communal experiences which resonate with diverse local communities.

Qué Lo Gì, Website, @que_lo_gi

Lillyanne Pham, Website, @lillyannepham

Paola De La Cruz, Website, @happynappystudio

About the Arbor Lodge Shelter Mural Project 

The artwork is developed in coordination with RACC through the Multnomah County Percent for Art Program. The project seeks to add vibrancy to the shelter’s north and west exterior walls, invoking a powerful visual statement at the busy intersection of N Lombard St and N Denver Ave. The artist team of Qué Lo Gì will create an original artwork in collaboration with the local community, instilling a sense of welcome, belonging and joy for the shelter guests and neighborhood alike.

About the Shelter

The Arbor Lodge Shelter, a former pharmacy purchased using federal COVID-19 funding, was first used in February 2021 as a severe weather shelter before going on to serve as a year-round emergency shelter that combined an indoor sleeping space with sleeping pods in its parking lot. Now, as part of an ongoing shelter expansion by the Joint Office of Homeless Services, funded by the Supportive Housing Services Measure, the Arbor Lodge Shelter is being renovated into a long-term, purpose-built 24/7 shelter through reservation/referral only, focused on serving up to 106 people in the community and North PDX area.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services oversees the delivery of services to people experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County. The office represents a shared commitment between Multnomah County and the City of Portland to address homelessness by providing housing assistance, shelter, outreach, case management and other services.

Community-Centric Approach

The approach to this project is deeply rooted in community engagement and trauma-informed design. Pham and De La Cruz will work closely with shelter guests, local community members, and other key stakeholders to ensure that the mural is informed by their collective voice and the cultural richness of North Portland.

“RACC is thrilled to steward this project in collaboration with our partners at Multnomah County, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Do Good Multnomah. We recognize the immense value this facility will add to the North Portland area and understand that having meaningful art experiences at the site is instrumental in healing and supporting people through life’s challenges. In addition to making fabulous artworks for the public realm, Lillyanne and Paola bring a depth and care in their creation process that we are grateful to have as part of this project. We look forward to the mural becoming a joyous and impactful sight for all those in the neighborhood” Salvador Mayoral IV, Senior Public Art Manager of the Regional Arts & Culture Council

To learn more about the Arbor Lodge Shelter mural project, the artists, or to schedule an interview with RACC or the project team, please contact Sophie May Hook at shook@racc.org.

About the Regional Arts & Culture Council

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides impactful and transformative funding for artists and nonprofit organizations in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties; manages an acclaimed public art program; leads an advocacy and arts education program; and offers a wide range of technical and professional development workshops. RACC advocates for equity, inclusion, and access, working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity, and the arts. We remain steadfast in our mission to enrich every neighborhood we serve.

Krystal Perez’s Vibrant Caribbean Dreams Heat Up NE Portland in Fresh Paint Collaboration

Image Caption: Sueños Tropicales (2023) by Krystal Pérez. Photograph by the artist.

The mural is now on view at Open Signal on NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd as part of Fresh Paint, a partnership with the Regional Arts & Culture Council

PORTLAND, ORE. – October 17, 2023 A new mural by artist Krystal Pérez brings vibrant Caribbean imagery to a busy NE Portland thoroughfare. The mural, titled Sueños Tropicales, is the latest installment of Fresh Paint, an innovative public arts initiative from partners the Regional Arts & Culture Council and Open Signal. The public is invited to view it through April at Open Signal’s wall on NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, between Graham and Knott Streets.

Sueños Tropicales pays tribute to Perez’s ancestors as well as the flora and fauna of Cuba and Miami. The artwork, portrayed in vivid sunset hues, sets a dreamy scene where plants, wildlife, and culturally-significant objects create a connection between the past and the present. It celebrates the uniqueness of the Caribbean experience within Latine culture while inviting the viewer to explore and appreciate their own roots.

Krystal Pérez is a first-generation Cuban-American artist from Miami currently based in Portland. Her work celebrates Cuban heritage by emphasizing everyday experiences — cuisine, family life — as well as her memories of growing up in South Florida. This mural builds on her multimedia experience and unique approaches to color in a new exploration of scale and technique.

Sueños Tropicales is the twelfth installment in the Fresh Paint mural series, following previous works by artists including Rob Lewis, Zeinab Saab, Jose Valentine Ruiz, and others. Since 2017, this collaboration from the Regional Arts & Culture Council and Open Signal has supported emerging artists of color by offering a unique opportunity to showcase their talent in the public realm. Participating artists gain valuable professional experience and develop new skills for their artistic practice, leading to further public commissions.

“Each new Fresh Paint mural shows us that a personal work of art can speak to people across experiences and add to the character and feeling of a neighborhood,” said Daniela Serna, Open Signal’s Communications Manager and Fresh Paint facilitator. “By centering artists and investing in their stories, we hope to nurture a thriving and inclusive future for all Portlanders.”

See more from the artist at quasikrystal.art.



Daniela Serna, Communications Manager
Open Signal
daniela [at] opensignalpdx.org
(503) 288 – 1515 x931

Meech Boakye, Communications Lead
Regional Arts & Culture Council
mboakye [at] racc.org

About Open Signal

Open Signal is an equity-driven media arts center located in Northeast Portland, Oregon. The largest community media space in the Pacific Northwest, we offer production studios and equipment, workshops, artist fellowships, a cable and online broadcast platform, and a professional media production team. We focus on telling stories underrepresented in the mainstream media.

Learn more at opensignalpdx.org.

About the Regional Arts & Culture Council

An independent nonprofit organization, we support greater Portland’s creative economy by providing equitable funding and services to artists and art organizations; managing and growing our diverse, nationally acclaimed public art program; and developing long-lasting public and private partnerships.

For more information visit racc.org.


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.” 

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