First Thursday Night Lights

Thirteen multidisciplinary artists enrolled in the University of Oregon’s BFA Digital Arts program in Portland, Oregon who call themselves Sunny Side Up, will project their work for the April 7, 2016, First Thursday Night Lights. Their work spans several medias, including graphic design, illustration, programming, animation, interactive design, photography, drawing, installation and beyond. They say, “We are visual communicators who use our imaginations to make the world a better place, one art experience at a time. After all, life is always better served Sunny Side Up!”

The group includes Jiana Chen, Kathleen Darby, Anthony Hou, Jonny Kim, Sam Lillard, Clara Munro, Anna Pearson, Alex Prestrelski, Brandon Rains, Marion Rosas, Deandra “Sweet Dee” Stokes, Justus Vega, Kendall Wagner.

First Thursday Night Lights
April 7, 2016, Sundown to 9:00p.m.
411 NW Park Ave- North Wall, facing Glisan Street

Coming to the Portland Building Installation Space: “Radical Positivity,” an installation by Larry Yes, April 25 – May 20.

Picked for its punch of color and upbeat message, the Installation Space selection panel said “yes” to Larry, an artist whose work focuses on love and human connection, and can be described as a meditation on color and joy. The exhibition will cover the walls from floor to ceiling with “positive words” and symbols rendered on wood planks in the artist’s signature style—a combination of hand inscribed text, graphics, and color that scans the rainbow.

The Portland Building is located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland and is open 8 am to 5 pm, Monday – Friday.

For more information on the Portland Building Installation Space, including images, proposals, and statements for all projects dating back to 1994, go to http://racc.org/installationspace.

A tax you can feel good about

Now in its third year, the Arts Education and Access Fund has put an arts teacher back in every Portland elementary school and is transforming the way arts organizations serve our community. 

by Claire Willett

At right: Sitton Elementary in St. Johns didn’t have a full-time arts specialist before the arts tax. Now students receive weekly instruction from art teacher Carlos Baca.


“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Like fireworks on the Fourth of July, pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and debating the merits of the Super Bowl halftime show, grumbling about our taxes in April is practically an American tradition. We know our tax dollars matter; they pay for our roads and bridges, our hospitals and firefighters, and other vital services from which we all benefit in countless invisible ways every day. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, a mark of our collective obligation to each other; but it can be hard to get too excited about watching a chunk of your annual income disappear into the vast machinery of the government when you have no control over how it’s spent and no way to see what impact it will ever have.

But what if you could?

What if there was a concrete, measurable way to show you the real impact of your tax dollars? What if a little bit of money came out of your pockets and a little bit of money came out of my pockets and it joined together with a little bit of money from everybody else’s pockets and together we transformed an entire community?

If you paid your arts tax last year, that’s exactly what happened.

In 2012, 62% of Portlanders voted to pass ballot measure 26-146, the Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF), as a way to stem the tide of a staggering decline in the quality of the city’s public school arts instruction. The city lagged embarrassingly behind national education standards; before the tax, only 18% of Portland elementary schools provided any arts instruction, compared to a national average of 83%.  So for the cost of $35 per eligible taxpayer, the City of Portland collects over $9 million which they then distribute partly to schools, and partly to RACC to support arts organizations throughout the region.

“But I don’t have a kid in public school,” you might be asking yourself, “so why should I care?”

Because arts education doesn’t just serve the handful of students who might want to be actors or cellists when they grow up; it’s crucial in stimulating creativity and academic achievement for every child. According to Americans for the Arts, students with early, regular access to arts in schools are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than those who don’t. They have better attendance, lower dropout rates, higher confidence and stronger writing skills. They volunteer in their community and read for pleasure at astonishingly higher rates. They’re also better positioned for a 21st century workforce where a recent study conducted by IBM determined that the most important quality in the next generation of business leadership is “creativity.”

The arts aren’t a luxury for affluent suburban kids in well-funded schools whose parents can afford dance classes and theatre camp. They’re a vital tool to help every student learn.

In a city like Portland, whose citizens value creativity, and where the challenges facing our public schools are a source of concern to us all, it’s no surprise that a substantial majority of voters agreed to back the AEAF and do something about it.

The question, of course, is – did it work?

According to Marna Stalcup, RACC’s arts education director, the answer is yes.  And even better than expected.

The tax was created to fund one arts teacher per 500 students; the actual result has been better than promised, with a ratio of 1 to 398.  Before the arts tax, there were 31 arts teachers in elementary schools in Portland; now there are 91, of whom 80% are funded by the arts tax.  Portland Public Schools – the district with the greatest need – has seen the greatest increase, more than tripling their number of arts instructors from 15 to 64.  “Voters got what they wanted and it’s a solid success,” Stalcup says.  “It’s pretty exciting.”

With no restrictions on what artistic discipline to choose for their newly-hired teacher, the results have shown a fascinating range of different ways that schools and districts are choosing to spend that money.  David Douglas, for example, is investing in a comprehensive district-wide music education pipeline, while some schools have hired dance teachers for the very first time.  And on their own dime, Portland Public Schools has finally filled the district-level arts coordinator position which sat vacant for years. “The funding for that position came from PPS and supports the entire district—not just the newly-hired teachers,” says Stalcup. “That position isn’t funded by the AEAF, but it took the arts tax to bring it back.”

But it’s not just schools and districts who have used the AEAF as a tool to give their organizations permission to think about the work they’re already doing in a more expansive, innovative way. Grants Officer Helen Daltoso says the same has proven true with the fund’s second-largest program: support for arts organizations.

“We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915” playing at Artists Repertory Theatre through April 10.

Teacher salaries are allocated first, so this second pot of money will continue to grow as more people each year pay the tax, but organizations are already making changes.  Artists Repertory Theatre Managing Director Sarah Horton says increased operating funds from RACC support a range of community outreach and accessibility programs.  Pay-What-You-Can performances and the “Arts For All” program are offered for every season show, opening the doors to low-income audiences, while free student matinees impact over 1,500 students every year, including guests from the “I Have a Dream” program, New Avenues for Youth, and Outside In.  And she says RACC’s funding has also helped Artists Rep continue to develop their ArtsHub program, providing crucial performance, rehearsal and administrative space to ten Resident Companies and dozens of very small and emerging organizations at deeply reduced fees.

“The ArtsHub protects a space for art and artists in a real estate environment that’s become increasingly difficult for the arts, and gives fledgling organizations, many of whom serve underrepresented artists and audiences, a place to share their work and grow,” says Horton, and the consistent base of annual operating support they receive from RACC each year is a vital tool in helping make that outreach possible.

Daltoso says that the discoveries that came about through the access fund have sparked conversations among the RACC staff about every grant funding program they run, who’s being served by these grants, and who isn’t.  Grant applications now gather more thorough demographic data about board, staff and audience makeup, and RACC is exploring ways to help support the entire Portland arts community to step up their game about equity, diversity and access. You’re perilously close to being behind the times if you’re not tackling this stuff head-on,” she says.  “Period.”

The AEAF is also helping to get money in the hands of artists working in communities that haven’t previously been on RACC’s radar.  RACC’s new Arts Equity Grant program (formerly titled “Expanding Cultural Access”) funnels AEAF money to organizations providing services in communities that RACC hasn’t supported, opening the door to a rich, diverse ecosystem of nonprofit organizations that provide vital arts programs and services to an astoundingly broad range of often-underrepresented cultural communities.  Last year this fund supported projects ranging from a site-specific photography installation in the Lents neighborhood to summer arts workshops for gang-affected youth.  The number of applications increased significantly this year, says Daltoso, and “the breadth and depth of what we received was pretty phenomenal.”  Watch for the list of grant recipients to be announced in May.

Like throwing a rock in a pond and watching the ripples circle outward, it’s clear that the impact of the arts tax has already gone far beyond what was projected, inspiring the community to use their resources in ways they would never have thought of before this fund existed.  “It really is because of the arts tax that schools, arts organizations and funders are all thinking as deeply as we are,” Daltoso says.  “It’s too easy just to keep doing what you’ve always done, or believing that you can’t do something differently because it’s too difficult to change. If everybody’s doing what they can, if everybody’s making an effort, we could see some amazing changes happen.”


For more stories on how the arts tax is making a difference in our community, follow the hashtag #pdxlovesart. The arts tax is due on April 18 and can be paid online at artstax.net.

Jenna Reineking’s “Temporal Ecologies,” March 21 – April 15, heads up a new season of installations at the Portland Building

PORTLAND, ORE – Artist Jenna Reineking’s upcoming installation in the lobby of the Portland Building, Temporal Ecologies, is designed to transform the architecture of the exhibition space into an activated environment; her choice of materials to accomplish this—the humble brown paper lunch bag: “I recently have become interested in creating systems using forms repeated in incremental units that can range from finite to infinite based on the constraints of the space.”

The choice to use inexpensive, readily accessible materials allows the artist to create environments that ask the viewer to revalue the mundane. Reineking’s process includes carefully manipulating or “sculpting” each bag and adhering them one by one to fit and transform the geometry of the Installation Space. She expects to use over 300 individual bags, “They will grow from the corners and utilize the walls, ceiling, and floor…and will be recycled upon completion of the exhibition.” In the process the artist hopes to transcend the “thing-ness” of these simple, overlooked manufactured goods and create a new set of biomorphic forms—design elements that are reminiscent of nature and living organisms but do not aim to directly reproduce them.

The Portland Building is located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue and is open 8 am to 5 pm, Monday – Friday. Temporal Ecologies opens March 21st and runs through April 15th.

A New Season at the Installation Space:
  Jenna Reineking’s installation kicks off a new season of exhibitions at the Portland Building. Over the course of the next year, nine artists will present installation based and experimental media installations in the small gallery space adjacent to the building’s lobby. Each four week long installation has been chosen by the program selection panel to present challenging and diverse work that encourages visitors to reexamine their expectations of what art is and can be.

New Season Schedule and Project Descriptions:

Jenna Reineking  March 21 – April 15, 2016

Temporal Ecologies – Description above

Larry Yes  April 25 – May 20, 2016

Radical Positivity – Picked for its punch of color and upbeat message, the selection panel said “yes” to Larry, an artist who’s work focuses on love and human connection and can be described as a meditation on color and joy. The installation will cover the walls of the space from floor to ceiling with positive words and symbols rendered in every color of the rainbow.

Hannah Hertrich  May 31 – June 24, 2016

Delicate Home – Many of us think of home as our foundation, an extension of self that is a base of stability, but is that perception based on reality? Hertrich’s Delicate Home explores the “fragility of self” by focusing on our notion of home. The installation stages a series of model houses constructed out of mirrors perilously set below gathering clouds of stone.

Yalena Roslaya  July 5 – August 5, 2016

Visual Sound – Roslaya will record sounds that occur within the Portland Building and translate them into sound waves sketched visually on the wall and rendered aurally via ceramic sound wave sculptures. Five of these sculptures will fill the space, each with a mp3 driver enclosed in the heart of the vessel. “The idea of visually displaying sound is inspired by my experience with hearing-motion synesthesia…I would like to share this experience with viewers through my installation and hear their response.”

Bukola Koiki  August 15 – September 9, 2016

JJC (Journey Just Come) – Koiki highlights the challenges immigrants face by spotlighting the linguistic slang and vernacular that people often need to learn and employ when navigating the spaces between and within disparate cultures. “As a Nigerian-American immigrant myself, I am particularly interested in pidgin, which is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups that do not have a language in common…In Nigeria, a country of over 500 known languages, communication can be truly daunting at times.” To explore this idea of communication and miscommunication, the artist will fill the Installation Space with a profusion of brightly colored flags that showcase Pidgin English sayings extracted from the local language in Lagos, Nigeria.

Benz and Chang  September 19 – October 14, 2016

The Bridge, 1910 – Based on an archival photo of the Hawthorne Bridge under construction, Benz and Change offer a thoughtful and dynamic homage to the crews that built Portland’s oldest existing Willamette River crossing. The Bridge, a set of four, 8 foot by 6 foot, hand cut silhouettes crafted in wood, will extend from the back wall of the exhibition space to render a life-sized composite image of the historic photo.

Alex Luboff  November 14 – December 9, 2016

Pipeline Obstruction Pathway – Takes the form of large (one foot diameter), hand-build pipelines installed to purposefully obstruct and obscure entry into the exhibition space—a project that will get viewers thinking about all the energy infrastructure in our lives. Are the pipes, deftly assembled from plywood, a network of interlaced craft objects? Or are they elements of a dystopian “extractive energy landscape” we may be headed for?

Emily Myers  January 17 – February 10, 2017

Mechanical Rituals – A comment on just how industrial our food production cycle has become. Myers will install a set of computer controlled mutoscopes—mechanized flipbooks mounted on rotating cylinders—on a prominently positioned dining room table. The mutoscopes, which show scenes of the food we eat as it travels from farm to table, are animated automatically as viewers approach. “My proposal for Mechanical Rituals brings the process of industrialized agriculture, which is so far removed from society’s consciousness, into the modern dining room.”

Stephanie Simek  February 21 – March 17, 2017

Following on her work with optical illusions, holograms and science themes, Simek will create a custom built “table of holograms.” Optics hidden within her table will reflect images of common minerals upwards and cause them to appear to hover above the table surface. Simek sees her structure as a vitrine or a container for a kind of t​able of elements. ​“The choice of content is based on my previous work and interest in basic, elemental materials and their inherent potential. This often includes unusual and interesting physical properties like magnetic, electrical, and optical capabilities.  For example, I have built sculptural objects that are also simple radios, an invisibility cloak, a compass, and a levitating sculpture, all reliant on the special properties of familiar minerals.”

Location and Hours: The Portland Building is located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue and is open 8 am to 5 pm, Monday – Friday.

A preliminary mock-up of Emily Myers’ Mechanical Rituals. This installation, along with eight others, is part of the new season of exhibitions at the Portland Building.

A preliminary mock-up of Emily Myers’ Mechanical Rituals. This installation, along with eight others, is part of the new season of exhibitions at the Portland Building.

For more information on the Portland Building Installation Space, including images, proposals, and statements for all projects dating back to 1994, go to http://racc.org/installationspace.

RACC Focus Groups

RACC is seeking participants for three focus groups conducted this spring in partnership with Resolutions NW. The goal is to help RACC learn how we can be as approachable and welcoming as possible.

Two of the groups will be made up of past applicants, from underrepresented populations* and communities of color. RACC is specifically interested in hearing from applicants that have applied for opportunities through RACC’s Grants, Public Art and Right Brain Initiative programs and have not received the opportunity they sought.

The third group will be comprised of community members from organizations working with immigrants, refugees and English language learners that have had little to no interaction with RACC’s services.

If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please respond to Tonisha Toler at ttoler@racc.org or 503-823-5866.

*Underrepresented communities include LGBTQ, persons with disabilities and residents of East Portland and East County.


RACC launches new website

Welcome to our new website! With an average of 452 unique visits per day, we have redesigned and reprogrammed racc.org to help constituents access RACC’s abundant resources more easily. The new website is also fully responsive for tablets and mobile devices, which now account for 30% of all visits.

In addition to the new navigation menus on our homepage, a new superfooter at the bottom of every page helps constituents access the most popular content on racc.org with one click. For example:

  • Artists can apply for RACC grants, discover public art opportunities, find workshops and networking events, and tap into a wide variety of other online resources.
  • Arts organizations can learn more about RACC funding opportunities, find technical assistance programs and download research to help them be strong advocates.
  • Arts educators can learn more about The Right Brain Initiative and other opportunities for teaching artists in our community.
  • The public at large can browse the public art collection, find arts-related jobs, connect with organizations who offer $5 tickets through the Arts for All program, and learn more about how the Arts Education & Access fund, or arts tax, is making a difference in our community.

The new racc.org allows visitors to customize many of RACC’s resource lists by searching and sorting the results. For example, check out RACC’s list of residency opportunities, arts-related jobs, live-work spaces, workshops, and lectures. We have also created a new form where you can submit additional opportunities for RACC to share with others online.

We invite you to explore the new website and send your feedback to Mary Bauer, mbauer@racc.org. We are eager to hear what you think of the new site – good, bad or indifferent – and we will be happy to assist you if you’re having trouble finding something in particular.