Coming to the Portland Building Installation Space: “The Bridge, 1910,” an installation by Benz and Chang, September 19 – October 14.

The artists known as Benz and Chang will present a site-specific installation in the Portland Building lobby starting September 19th. The project, titled The Bridge, 1910, is a visual homage to the work crews that built the Hawthorne Bridge, Portland’s oldest existing river crossing.

Inspired by a historical photo Benz discovered in the City of Portland Archives, the installation recreates a bridge work crew scene through a series of four large paper screens hung in the exhibition space. Each individual screen contains a hand-cut silhouette which offers a layer of visual information. Viewed together, the silhouettes complete and frame the scene into a recognizable archetypal representation of the building of a bridge. By adjusting position in front of or alongside the silhouettes, viewers can alter their angle of view and manipulate the degree of abstraction or representation they take in.

The Portland Building is located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday – Friday. For more information on the Portland Building Installation Space series, including images, proposals, and statements for all projects dating back to 1994, visit http://racc.org/installationspace.

Celebrating four years of “Forest For the Trees” mural fest

Over 60 murals in 4 years.  Forest For the Trees returns to Portland with 7 new public art works.

North, South, East and West, for the last four years “Forest For the Trees” has been responsible for bringing domestic and international artists to Portland for the purpose of creating public art.  For this year’s installment, murals are being created by local artist Adam Friedman at the Maker House on North  Bryant Street (at right); Whole9 and Peach Momoko from Japan at Cider Riot on NE Couch; Local artist Jesse Hazelip at Hanoi Kitchen on NE Glisan; Colorado artist Molly Bounds, Alex Gardner (below) from California and Max McMaster from California at Disjecta on North Interstate; locals David Rice and Zach Yarington at The Redd on SE 7th Avenue; Japanese artist Yoshi47 (below) and New York artist Nina Chanel Abney (below) at ADX on SE 11th Avenue; and local painter and sculptor J. Shea at the Portland International Airport Terminal A.

The non-profit festival started in 2013 with the idea of bringing artists from around the world to Portland in order to create public art that would enhance and educate the local community. Forest For the Trees is organized by artist Gage Hamilton, Hellion Gallery owner Matt Wagner and event producer Tia Vanich. The mural festival’s name comes from the phrase “can’t see the forest for the trees,” which signifies the inability to understand the greater picture when you are too focused solely on what is in front of you. Forest For The Trees hopes to pull Portland’s residents away from their daily routines and provide them a moment of appreciation for the creativity that surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.  RACC’s partnership with the festival has allowed the project to grow and continue to add to the city’s public art collection.

“Since the 2014 event, RACC has recognized the importance of this program bringing new art to the city’s landscape and supports FFTTNW with funding from the Public Art Murals Program,” says RACC public art manager Peggy Kendellen. “This year marks the first time that all of the murals created as part of the event have become part of the City of Portland’s public art collection. The considerable effort on the part of the curators continues to bring striking murals to the city’s evolving public art landscape while providing great opportunities for local artists, local business owners and neighborhoods to be part of this contemporary art landscape.”

This year’s mural festival brought artists from France, Japan and cities throughout the United States to Portland, where they created murals in neighborhoods across the city. In addition to the murals the festival hosted live performances, short film festival, and public art installations.  In the past the central city area was the focus of the festival. With return of this year’s festival, new outer areas of the city were added. Adam Friedman painted a wall at the Maker House on 1505 North Bryant Street in North Portland.

“I’m obsessed with mountains,” Adam explains. “I think a mountain is the ultimate symbol of the sublimity and power of nature. One of my favorite things about living in Portland is seeing Mt Hood on a clear day.”  His vibrantly colored depiction of Mt Hood faces the Max lines on North Interstate Avenue.

“Some days it looks close enough to reach out and touch,” Adam says. “Hood is such an icon of Portland, and Oregon in general. But as with anything, we can desensitized to something we see every day. By showing Hood in a new light the mural is meant to serve as an homage to our local beauty and a reminder of how lucky we are to live here.”

A new partnership this year is with Disjecta in North Portland.  Disjecta is a contemporary art center that  receives general operating support from RACC.  Besides hosting two of the Forest For the Trees live performances, the art center is the home to 3 new murals for this year’s festival. Artists Molly Bounds, Alex Gardner and Max McMaster have created something really special for the Kenton Neighborhood.

“There are people who do and people that wish they could do,” says Bounds, referring to the overall theme of the wall.  The pastel figurative mural is meant to inspire people to create.

Mural by Molly Bounds and Alex Gardner at Disjecta, N. Interstate.

Mural by Molly Bounds and Alex Gardner at Disjecta, N. Interstate.

On NE Glisan, artist Jesse Hazelip created a piece that reflects a cultural element to the neighborhood.  The piece features a pack of wolves and the phrase in Vietnamese that translates to “unity is strength.”  The artist states, “It’s about the oppressed coming together. I use the wolf as a metaphor for prisoners.  Humans are pack animals like the wolf.  When we are separated from our pack it takes a toll emotionally.”

Another first this year is a mural and sculpture installation from J. Shea at Portland International Airport.  The installation is inspired by the artist’s fascination of all things flight. J. Shea has created a whimsical flowing installation that features some of his favorite floating characters.  The installation is a mixture of a mural and a collection of mobile-like suspended sculptures.  The work opens the viewer up to a colorful world of flying vessels and drifting creatures that sift through the air while always keeping in mind a perfect balance of scale, shape and recycled details.

In the future, The Forest For the Trees mural festival will continue to explore contemporary public art.  This year’s expansion into live performance, short film films and multimedia installation signifies a continued effort to bring new and exciting creative projects to the city of Portland.  The curiosity of the organizers will foster these explorations into new media and innovative artists to add to our city’s community.

For more information and images of all completed murals, visit www.forestforthetreesnw.com.

Mural by Japanese artist Yoshi47 at ADX on SE 11th.

Mural by Japanese artist Yoshi47 at ADX on SE 11th.

Mural by New York artist Nina Chanel Abney at ADX on SE 11th.

Mural by New York artist Nina Chanel Abney at ADX on SE 11th.

The Right Brain Initiative: another year of investing in imagination

This time of year the sun is setting before 8:00 p.m., a new season of your favorite television series premieres, and wide-ruled notebooks are selling for 70 cents each. It is September and a new school year is officially upon us.

At the Regional Arts & Culture Council, The Right Brain Initiative is back in action at local schools.

Now in its eighth year, Right Brain is proud to serve over 27,500 K-8 students in seven school districts: Corbett, Gresham-Barlow, Hillsboro, North Clackamas, Oregon Trail, Portland Public, and our newest addition, Reynolds. This fall, Right Brain is adding six partner schools located between Hillsboro and Boring, including Alder Elementary, Corbett Grade, Kelso Elementary, King K-8, Poynter Middle, and Troutdale Elementary.

Professional development for school staff continues to be a cornerstone of the program, training teachers and principals on arts integration as an approach to teaching all subjects including language arts, science, social studies and math. As one educator put it, “By integrating the arts into [all] instruction, it becomes a powerful vehicle for making the subject-area content relevant and meaningful.” This year, we are excited to supplement our full-day off-campus training sessions for small teacher teams with in-school mini workshops to reach the entire school staff. Engage all teachers; reach all students.

Teachers also learn to weave the arts into classroom learning by collaborating with Right Brain teaching artists. Over the last year, seven new artists joined Right Brain’s Teaching Artist Roster diversifying artist residency offerings to include recycled art, digital animation, and Peruvian dance, among others.


Right Brain teaching artist Lin Lucas works with students at Rieke elementary school.

Last year, teaching artist Lin Lucas joined 3rd grade classrooms at Rieke Elementary where students and teachers explored graphic arts as a vehicle to examining historical and cultural norms in the Portland community. During their social studies unit on the Oregon Trail, students created narratives in the form of comics to express the similarities and differences among people from different cultures. When asked what it takes to make a successful comic, one student explained, “I learned that you have to dig in, get tons of evidence, know the ‘who, what, when, where, and why,’ and you have to ask questions.” At the conclusion of the project she commented, “It just amazes me how far comics can go [to express] what other people’s perspectives are.” This experience most certainly demonstrates that creative expression provides new entry points into learning that can invigorate classrooms, stimulate student dialogue and cultivate reflection.

If you’re wondering how this happens, Right Brain is proud to unveil a brand new video illustrating how all of these program aspects fit together to change the learning experience for students. In the video, 7th and 8th grade teacher Laresa Beck applies what she has learned through Right Brain to make creative sparks fly in her classroom. “I’m a good teacher,” she says, “but Right Brain has kind of made me a great teacher.”

Beginning September 12, The Right Brain Initiative will celebrate National Arts in Education Week (September 11-17) by releasing our 2016 Progress Report. We will also share stories of how arts education has impacted our community, including perspectives from our staff, as well as the students and educators we serve. Help us celebrate arts education by being our friend on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to follow our updates and share your own story about how arts education has made a difference in your life.

Want to learn more about The Right Brain Initiative, meet our staff, and have your questions answered? Join us at our next Right Brain Information Session on Wednesday, October 12, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at RACC, 411 NW Park Avenue, Suite 101. Also check out our new fundraising campaign Invest in Imagination Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund Challenge that matches dollar-for-dollar new individual contributions of $100 or more, all to support The Right Brain Initiative.

Quick — Take a summer vacation before it’s too late

Eloise Blog:

Right when everyone is gearing up for the crush of September activity, off we go to New England for family, friends, swimming in the warm Atlantic, and lobsters! It’s only a week and I know there will be wonderful arts events aplenty when we return.

So I am taking a blogging break – only to say Happy Labor Day and “see you in September”! Anyone else old enough to remember that song?

Time to see Native—November is Native American Heritage Month

“Where ever you are, Indians have been.” Jeremy FiveCrows (Nez Perce) used these words from Portland street graffiti to open his remarks at City Hall on October 12, Indigenous Peoples Day.

Indeed, where ever you are in the metro area, it’s the Chinook peoples who have already stepped there.

This is important, because, as Roger Fernandes (Lower Elwha S’Klallam) observed at the RACC-sponsored Northwest Native American Storytelling Festival last month, “The native people of this place have the most to say about this locale and the human relationship with it.”

Fortunately for us, they—and other native peoples—are still here, offering cultural and artistic expressions for everyone’s edification.

November is national Native American Heritage Month  and an apt time for us to celebrate the ongoing legacy of the original Chinook inhabitants and other native peoples whose contributions enrich this, our shared home.

November is also Public Art Month in Portland. The happy synergy between public art and Native American art is apparent in the work of native artist Lillian Pitt .. Some of her most recent public art is her contribution to the Vancouver Land Bridge, a part of the Confluence Project.

Pitt’s Welcome Gate graces the entrance to the Vancouver Land Bridge. In the City of Vancouver, Washington, the Land Bridge reconnects Fort Vancouver and the Columbia River and honors the Chinook peoples who, as Pitt says, were awesome traders. Lillian Pitt is Warm Springs, Yakama, and Wasco (a Chinookan people).

Her current project, with RACC and Portland Parks and Recreation, under the leadership of the Native American Community Advisory Council, is River Guardian, a sculpture fabricated from recycled and found materials. The piece is planned for the public walkway along the Willamette River in the South Waterfront and is intended to “help us dream and envision a future in harmony with nature,” according to Pitt and her co-creators, Mikkel and Saralyn Hilde.

Pitt is a prolific artist whose other public work can be seen at the Oregon Convention Center, the North Portland Interstate MAX station and the nearby Ainsworth Greenspace Project and PSU’s Native American Center. While these works, often collaborative projects with other usually native artists, draw on traditions of the Northwest and Columbia River, they are also inspired by legendary images from different tribal traditions and celebrate diversity of native peoples and voices in our region.

Going up in City Hall on November 11 is work by two Alaska Native artists Terresa White (Yup’ik) and Sean Gallagher (Inupiat). The installation Here To There And There To Here is part of RACC’s “Celebration of Public Art in Portland: 35th Anniversary of the Percent for Art Program.”

Their contemporary renderings of Yup’ik and Inupiat mask traditions evoke the back-and-forth connections between the human, animal and spirit worlds, according to the artists. “The qayaq (kayak) design in this installation is a symbolic lifeboat buoying us, the artists, through the calm and storms of time, life and space,” they wrote.

Living and creating here in the region, White and Gallagher like so many other native artists are part of the American Indian and Alaska Native diaspora, taking native peoples to urban areas such as Portland. The work of White and Gallagher can be seen through December 7.

Among the recent American Indian and Alaska Native artists and cultural practitioners supported by RACC is the Neerchokikoo Honoring Powwow.  For the past two years, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) has put on this annual extravaganza of artistic expression with the help of RACC.

The powwow honors Neerchokikoo, a village of the Multnomah Chinook people that, until well into the 20th century, stood on the land where the NAYA center is located. When the now 40-year old NAYA began a plan to move to this site in 2006, its leaders officially asked the Chinook community for permission to make its new headquarters on Chinook homeland.

In the mainstream American art world, the native oral tradition of storytelling might be called performance art. Native storytelling—as was recently demonstrated at the Northwest Indian Storytelling Festival—is performance, often theatric, and layered with meaning and purpose, but most of time it’s also embellished with humor.

This delightful RACC-supported event is affiliated with the Portland-based Wisdom of the Elders. Catch a final 2015 Northwest Indian Storytelling  event on November 20, 11741 SE Foster Rd., 7:00-9:30 p.m. in East Portland.

What other cultural or artist events or venues might a resident, or visitor for that matter, take in during Native American Heritage Month? Here are a few additional suggestions.

At the Portland Art Museum’s brand new Center for Contemporary Native Art, you’ll find the opening exhibition “Thlatwa Thlatwa: Indigenous Currents.” The exhibit’s three artists, Greg Archuleta, Greg Robinson, and Sara Siestreem are local natives and members of nearby tribes. Don’t overlook the museum’s excellent permanent collection of  Native American art}.

If there are any tickets left you might attend the NAYA Gala. Held at the Portland Art Museum, it’s a gathering of local Native American movers and shakers and features Native American cuisine and an art auction. NAYA bills the November 13 event as Oregon’s largest celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

For a more casual venue, take a walk to look at the mural in downtown Portland, 225 SW 6th Ave. This RACC-supported public work of art by Spencer Keeton Cunningham (Colville) and Jaque Fragua (Jemez Pueblo) is a 2005 addition to the cityscape.

Just as the metro area’s geography and natural environment reflect its native heritage—the Clackamas and Tualatin rivers, Multnomah County, Tilikum Crossing, Siskiyou and Umatilla streets and so on—our built environment is also beginning to embrace these deep native roots.

Over the years RACC has sponsored and purchased more than 100 pieces of native works of art, many of them displayed outdoors and in public buildings. The next time you’re in a public space, check for native art. And enjoy a month-long exploration of native culture and art.


Oregon Cultural Trust announces record $2.9 million in FY17 grants

Issued by The Oregon Cultural Trust on August 10, 2016:

The Oregon Cultural Trust will award a record 149 grants totaling $2.9 million to Oregon’s cultural nonprofits, a 9 percent increase over last year. The increase is the direct result of another record year of fundraising.

The awards include a total of $714,045 to the Cultural Trust’s five statewide partners (Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Humanities, Oregon Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office); $714,045 to 45 county and tribal cultural coalitions – for regranting in their communities; and $1,433,798 in competitive Cultural Development Grants to a record 99 cultural organizations across the state.

The Cultural Development Grants include first-time awards to 45 organizations and the largest grants ever awarded – $40,000 – to eight groups: The Benton County Historical Society; The Dalles-Wasco County Library Foundation; Japanese Garden; Miracle Theatre Group; National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Oregon; Oregon Public Broadcasting; Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and Portland Center Stage. More than half of the grants were awarded to organizations outside of the Portland Metro area.

A full list of grantees by geographic region is here.

Bukola Koiki presents “JJC (Journey Just Come)” in the Portland Building Installation Space, August 15 – September 9

PORTLAND, ORE – Beginning August 15th artist Bukola Koiki will present JJC (Journey Just Come) in the Portland Building Installation Space located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland. This four week long exhibition, held in lobby of the Portland Building, is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

JJC (Journey Just Come) was conceived by Koiki to explore the immigrant experience through pidgin—the simplified form of communication that develops between groups of people that do not have a language in common. As a Nigerian-American immigrant, she is particularly interested in using Pidgin English to explore how this shorthand form of communication affects the experience of immigrants living between cultures.

In Nigeria, a country of over 500 languages, basic communication can be truly daunting at times and pidgin is used to navigate everything from markets to parking lots. To help illustrate how pidgin communication functions Koiki has created a set of brightly colored flags with printed Pidgin English sayings (extracted from the local language in Lagos, Nigeria) that will cover the walls of the Installation Space. The title of the work, JJC (Journey Just Come), is slang that refers to naive newcomers or recent arrivals. The artist’s intent is to inspire conversations about what it means to experience a new culture through an unfamiliar language and to illustrate how the process of making linguistic transitions can both build, and block, mutual understanding.

“The overall effect of this installation will be a kind of magnetic disorientation as one might feel with the visual stimulation of a new city, something that immigrants like myself can definitely understand. As a way of engaging the audience I will be creating a game card that will list translations of the unfamiliar phrases and invite the viewer to match them to the right flag. Visitors can also leave me pidgin phrases and translations of their own.”

—Bukola Koiki

About the Artist: Bukola Koiki was born in Lagos, Nigeria and now lives and works in Portland. She came to study art in the United States as a teen through a series of events involving a secondary school classmate and the American Visa Lottery Program. Koiki received her MFA in Applied Craft + Design from Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art in May of 2015. Her multimedia work explores cultural hybridity and dislocation through the lens of memory, language, and ritual. She has exhibited her work in Oregon, New Jersey, and Tennessee and recently completed artist residencies at c3:initaive + Pulp & Deckle and Rainmaker Artist Residency in Portland.

Viewing Hours & Location: The Portland Building is located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue in down-town Portland and is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. JJC (Journey Just Come) opens August 15 and runs through September 9, 2016. www.bukolakoiki.com

Meet the Artist: Join us for a chance to meet the artist and discuss her installation on Thursday, August 25th at 4 p.m. in the Portland Building.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) manages a 13’ x 8’ installation space in the lobby of the Portland Building. For more information, including images, proposals, and statements for all projects dating back to 1994, go to www.racc.org/installationspace.

Oregon Public Broadcast Think Outloud podcast (8/24/16)


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

What a Time

Eloise Blog:

I wish I could write a glowing message about the joys of long hot days and cool breezes at night and all the other delights of summer in Portland. While of course we enjoy the bounty of our myriad farmers markets, outdoor concerts, beaches, bike rides and reading on the porch, this feels like a very different summer.

How can it be that we count the number of horrendous and hate-motivated shootings of innocent citizens and dedicated  corrections officers by the week?  The racial tension and prejudice that generated the Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter movements echo back to too many decades of a dark side of our country. We celebrate two terms of our first Black president, but the violence goes on. And this is now happening across the globe driven by political, religious and other motivations that push people over the edge to do the unthinkable.

And then we have an election season like no other – ever. Enough said. We must do better and we must prove we can.

So how do we get through this time without feeling completely beaten down? For me I look to the best we have here. The artists, artisans, and creative people of all kinds reflect who we are and who we aspire to be. They comment on the dark side but also help us see through the gloom and hatred and reflect the beauty of our place and the richness of our diverse population.

Summer festivals full of music, dancing, food and friends abound.  Shady parks lure us to picnic, read, write, strum a guitar, hang out with family and friends, take a nap. Let’s get together this summer and enjoy our best selves, the delight we see in our children, neighbors, visitors enjoying all our city and state have to offer. We cannot be oblivious to our world realities nor are we protected from violence in this place, but humans have a way of figuring out ways around.

Let’s tap into the creativity in all of us and make the best of all that we have. The sun is shining and the berries are abundant.