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

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

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

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

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


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

A Message from KSMoCA:

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with fifth-grader Lomarion

Lillyanne: What is KSMoCA?

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

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

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

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

Diana: Why does art need museums?

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

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

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

Lillyanne: Let’s get you back to class.

Lomarion’s Favorite Works from 2015-2022

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


About KSMoCA 

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

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

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

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

About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School 

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

The Mentorship Program

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

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

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

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


About Installation Space

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

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

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

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

Black Portland Matters Art & Placemaking Initiative launches two new projects featuring local photographer Richard Brown and writer Renée Watson

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) has teamed up with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to support local Black-led art projects around the city.

Along the median strip on NE Holladay Street, between the Oregon Convention Center and the Hyatt Hotel and parking structure, the temporary public art project that began in 2019, In—Between returns. Author Renée Watson has responded with poetry to the photographs of Richard Brown. Eight unique ten-foot banners displayed along the Max tracks convey Black children’s dreams of their possible futures.

Richard Brown is a photographer and a Black Portlander who has spent decades working to bridge the divide between the police and the Black community. Through his art and activism, Brown has been an advocate for Portland’s Black communities for over 40 years.

“Being an activist can often feel like walking through a dark tunnel with no end in sight. But I have learned something over the years: you can make your own light. And you’ll need to. I’ve made my own light by taking pictures.” – Richard Brown.

A sample of the banners that will be displayed along the Max tracks. Designed by Danielle McCoy of Amen Amen Studio.

Renée Watson is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, educator, and community activist, and her writing centers around the experiences of Black girls and women, exploring themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender. Many of Renée’s books are inspired by her childhood growing up in Portland.  Her book series, A Ryan Hart Story, takes place in the Northeast Portland neighborhood and the main character attends Vernon Elementary school.

The artist and author share common ground, both in their work and in their personal histories. Having grown up in Northeast Portland, Watson now calls Harlem home. Born in Harlem, Brown now calls Northeast Portland home. The students featured on the banners attended Vernon Elementary School, which Watson attended and continues to write about. This pairing of text and image, curated by and featuring the work of intergenerational Black artists and activists, asserts dreaming into becoming.

The banners will appear on four posts along NE Holladay Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 1st Avenue through June 30, 2023.

“I am the song of my ancestors. In me an ocean of melodies sing.” – Renée Watson

Continuing up NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Richard Brown’s series of photographs “Keepers Of OurStory will be on view beginning in late September on the exterior of the Walnut Park Complex at Multnomah County Northeast Health Center (5329 NE MLK Jr Blvd, Portland, Oregon). Made in 1988, these studio and environmental portraits of Black Portland elders were created to encourage the community to value the Black elders in their lives. “Keepers Of OurStory” sits alongside the 1998 mural work of celebrated Portland artist Adriene Cruz, who coincidentally was also born in Harlem.

Intisar Abioto, whose photographs were previously displayed at this same site alongside Hank Willis Thomas’s work, has curated these projects. A Memphis native, Abioto moved to Portland twelve years ago with her mother and sisters, and has since gained recognition for her photography and her blog, The Black Portlanders. Moving from the visionary and embodied root of Black girl Southern cross-temporal, cross-modal storytelling ways, her works refer to the living breath/breadth of people of African descent against the expanse of their storied, geographic, and imaginative landscapes.

Another Black-led Public Art project in Northeast Portland is from artist Sharita Towne. Named Black Reverie, the project is a collaborative project to create publicly accessible, exterior site-based activations that act as artistic expressions of love for Black Portland in neighborhoods of significance. One component of the project consisted of Sharita working with a variety of collaborators to create screen-based activations focusing on Black Portlanders telling their migration stories through the use of video excerpts, soundscapes, projection mapping, programmed LED lights as well as a refurbished telephone interactively capturing stories. This occurred on Juneteenth in 2021. In the fall of 2021, the second aspect of the project was completed which resulted in a mural that includes LED lights and installed lettering of the words “still here”.

For opportunities to apply for future installations, artists can follow us on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up to receive public art opportunities in their inbox at racc.org/public-art/public-art-email-list/.

Artists and youth strengthen community connections within East Portland

Mario De León is a local artist whose playful, detailed murals and paintings can be found throughout East Portland and Gresham. Passionate about his art and sharing it with the community, De León is bringing his talent to a new project engaging youth from the nonprofit Play Grow Learn. In May, these young artists brightened the intersection of 148th Avenue and East Burnside by transforming this traffic signal box into a larger-than-life vintage boombox. Coming up next, they plan to transform the TriMet service building across the street with a large new mural featuring human rights leader Malcolm X. The public art project seeks to connect the City of Portland to the City of Gresham in an area where predominantly Black communities reside and where public resources remain under-invested and under-prioritized.

Muralist Mario De León and youth from Play, Grow, Learn turned this signal box into a work of art.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) has teamed up with Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) supporting local Black-led art projects around the city with financial and technical support and a streamlined permitting process. Locations vary but are focused in North and Northeast Portland’s Historic Albina Area and East Portland, neighborhoods with strong community and cultural connections.

Six community-based organizations are leading or partnering in this initiative including:

  • Play Grow Learn
  • Somali Council of Oregon
  • African Youth Community Organization
  • Albina Vision Trust
  • Self Enhancement Inc.
  • Soul District Business Association

The nonprofit City Repair Project is providing technical assistance and partnership facilitation.

Project Partners
Play Grow Learn strives to help community members feel a sense of positivity, pride, and belonging in public space and to uplift Black and East Portland community spiritually, mentally, and physically during the converging crises of the pandemic, systemic racism, and climate chaos.  Find out more.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is an independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supporting 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. 

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is a community partner in shaping a livable city. PBOT plans, builds, manages, and maintains an effective and safe transportation system that provides people and businesses access and mobility. Find out more.

City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. City Repair has accomplished many projects through a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. They provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim their culture, power, and joy. Find out more.