RACC Creative Spotlight: Artist James Enos

Artist James Enos, Make | Learn | Build grant recipient

Introducing the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Artist and Organization Creative Spotlight, where each quarter we will feature one artist and one organization in consecutive months that have been impacted by the support of programming, training, grants, or other services through RACC, and/or have been nominated for their impact on our community.

James Enos was a Make|Learn|Build grant recipient in June 2021. RACC’s Make|Learn|Build Grant Program was designed to address the ways the arts community in the tri-county region needed support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Artists, creatives, organizations, and businesses were awarded either $1,500 or $3,000 to make work, gain skills, or build up their arts business.

With RACC’s grant award, Booklyn, Inc. represented James Enos at the 2022 Outsider Art Fair. The Outsider Art Fair is a world renowned art fair that provides a stage for self-taught artists, art brut, and Outsider Art and takes place biannually in New York City and Paris.

James Enos works at North Pole Studio, a Portland-based progressive art studio for artists with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities. With James’ consent, this Q&A was answered collaboratively with North Pole Studio staff and his mother, Beth Enos.

Would you share your journey as an artist with us? When did you begin; how did you begin?

James is an entirely self-taught author and illustrator. James began drawing in high school, and was encouraged to expand his drawings with the encouragement of an early teacher. His deep creativity quickly emerged, as he transitioned away from life drawing to more fanciful subjects. It was years before he started making the books that he is now known for, and the catalyst for this shift is still unknown.

James designs and executes each book from scratch. His extraordinary process includes binding, researching, writing, and hand-drawing illustrations— many of which fold-out and can extend upwards of 275 cm. His stories weave together to form a collection inspired by his life experiences, picture books adapted from major motion pictures, and pop-culture of the late 80s and early 90s, among others.

James began by hand-writing his books with penmanship that is a work of art in itself. James’ early books alternate line for line with a slightly different shade of the same color (i.e. light blue, dark blue; pink, red). Over the past two years, James has transitioned to writing on a type-writer. His illustrations have evolved but adhere to a consistent style.

James created art at the Portland Art and Learning Studio (PALS) until it closed in 2020. During his time at PALS, James was discovered by Marshall Weber at Booklyn, Inc. in NYC who began representing him and selling his books nationally. In 2021, James joined North Pole Studio, where he works to date. 

In a very short period of time, James went from being an unknown artist to boasting an impressive resume which includes being collected by major universities including Bainbridge Island Museum of the Arts; University of California, Los Angeles, Special Collections Library; University of Central Florida, Special Collections Library; University of Delaware, Special Collections Library; Yale University, Haas Family Fine Arts Library.

How would your community of peers (family, friends, other creatives/artists) describe you?

James is incredibly focused and has an admirable art practice, working continuously from 10am – 3pm and pausing only for a lunch break. When James is in the writing phase, his typewriter starts buzzing the moment he walks into the studio, and doesn’t stop until he leaves. It has become a beloved soundtrack of North Pole Studio. 

Because of the seriousness James approaches both his art practice and the world with, many don’t know what an incredible sense of humor he has. He is a prankster at heart and has a sharp and sophisticated sense of humor which is best captured in his books. 

James’ artistic genius and extensive knowledge of pop culture, familiar kids’ stories (such as Mulan, Tarzan, and the Chronicles of Narnia) is admired by his peers.

Thinking back to your artistic journey, bridging to where you are at now, how would you summarize your artwork currently? Where are you now with your work?

James continues to hone his craft; his evolution from hand-writing his books to his typewriter has marked a distinctive shift in his process. James’ illustrational style and syntax are consistent across his stories, but he continues to refine both with each book. 

James experimentation with various methods and materials for binding his large-scale, multimedia books is evident over time. James books are often up to 6” thick and well over 5lbs when complete, with fold-out illustrations strategically folded to fit into a structure that can be read cover to cover.

James’ latest books are tighter, both visually and structurally with consideration to decisions around materials and paper size. Additionally, many of his recent works are written in chapters, and can be read as isolated stories or as a collection.

Based on the award/grant you received from RACC how have you continued your direction in your project/artwork/process?

In 2021, James was invited to exhibit his books in a solo booth at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City. The Outsider Art Fair is a world renown art fair, and provides a huge opportunity for lesser known self-taught artists’ work to be viewed by major art collectors alongside the greats. With the support of his team, James applied for a Make | Learn | Build grant to cover the cost of the booth fee. With RACC’s grant award, Bookyln, Inc. represented James Enos at the 2022 Outsider Art Fair in spring of 2022.

Accessing grant funding is rife with barriers for many artists in the disability community, from awareness of opportunities, through application to the disbursement processes. James’ team values RACC’s recognition of his work through this award, and their collaboration in making this grant funding accessible.

What have been some of the speed bumps you have encountered? Did it change your trajectory or direction?

For a long time, James did not have access to the resources needed to fully develop his creative practice. Being part of a progressive studio community has provided James with access to materials, direct support, and advocacy to both structure and develop his existing practice and promote visibility of the work. Having access to progressive studio programming changed everything, as it provided a platform for James’ work to be seen and acquired. Without this platform, it is unlikely that James’ work would be included in the art collections and conversations it is today.

When the pandemic hit, James’ studio program (PALS) closed, putting a temporary pause on his practice as he no longer had access to materials and space to work. In the spring of 2021, James resumed his practice at North Pole Studio. 

What is next for you?

James is currently working on writing and illustrating and original series based on the Chronicles of Narnia. Both North Pole Studio and Booklyn, who represents James in NYC, will continue to facilitate opportunities for James’ work to contribute to the art and literary world.

Artist James Enos sits among his illustrations.

James Enos working in North Pole Studio. Photo by Kaitlin Green

Latinidades: Redefining Art Spaces to Support Latinx Creatives

How do a regional arts and culture organization and a Latinx economic and community development organization intersect? Months ago, RACC and the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber (HMC) first met to discuss partnering and what that would look like. Together, we asked this question, and the answer was right there: our commitment to the creative and entrepreneurial Latinx community.

We turned this commitment tangible through Latinidades: An Art Show Celebrating Latinx Artists, a first-of-its kind First Thursday art show that opened on August 2nd. Mercedes Orozco, Director of UNA Gallery, led the show curation. Once a contemporary art space, UNA Gallery is now a non-localized visibility project that supports the creativity of people of color (POC), queer, femme, and gender non-conforming artists through exhibit curation and events throughout Portland.

Show attendee viewing the feature artist artwork in the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber

Together, we transformed the HMC office into an art gallery with an opening reception that welcomed over 60 community members. The range of artwork and artist experience, thanks to Mercedes’ curatorial direction, is truly the soul of Latinidades. Just like the Latinx identity,  these artists’ work are not homogenous – and Latinidades is just a taste of what the creative Latinx community looks like.



Eleven local Portland Latinx artists were featured in the exhibit, ranging from sculptors, painters, to printmakers:

Daniela del Mar and Camila Araya of Letra Chueca Press standing and speaking to Latinidades attendees

Latinidades attendees listening to Latinx artists featured introduce themselves and their work

The night was filled with live music, appetizers from Latinx vendors, and vodka tasting sponsored by Parlae vodka, a local Latinx vodka distillery. By night’s end, 5 pieces of artwork were sold, and we’re expecting several more as the show remains up on the Chamber’s walls.

As organizations with the resources not often afforded to artists of color, we understand the importance of finding ways to make those resources or opportunities more widely available, more often. These all matter, since it is shows and exhibit opportunities like Latinidades that have the potential to propel artists into bigger and more opportunities. Ultimately, the warm reception for Latinidades serves as both a reminder and encouragement for more creative, non-traditional collaborations to address the needs of many communities often left out of the traditional arts scene.

Latinidades attendees walk down the HMC office hall to view featured artworkFor those who missed the opening reception, we invite you to stop by the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber office (333 SW 5th Avenue Suite 100, Portland, OR 97204) Monday thru Friday between 9am – 5pm. The works will be up until September 30th, 2018. As for future collaborative shows, RACC will continue finding opportunities to create spaces for the many communities facing similar challenges of representation and inclusion, and we hope you will join us as these take place.

RACC’s private sector initiatives continue to grow

Throughout the Portland metro region, businesses are using the arts more than ever before to inspire employees, stimulate innovation and foster creative collaboration. And increasingly, RACC is working to support this powerful intersection between arts and business.

RACC’s workplace giving campaign, Work for Art, engages employees in creative activities while raising contributions on behalf of local nonprofit arts organizations. And through our Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), RACC provides essential services for businesses who support the arts, including Art of Leadership, a board training program, and the Arts Breakfast of Champions, an annual recognition event.

  • Work for Art raised a grand total $912,213 last year – our best campaign ever! Thanks to the generosity of more than 2,000 donors, 75 companies, and everyone who participated in our first annual Battle of the Bands event, Work for Art will be able to distribute larger investments (and a full 100% of the proceeds!) to 100 local arts and culture organizations this fall.

Our 11th annual campaign kicks off this month, chaired by Kregg Arntson, director of corporate social responsibility for Portland General Electric and executive director of the PGE Foundation. Although Work for Art is primarily a workplace giving program, anyone can participate and enjoy the benefits of making a single gift that supports 100 arts and culture organizations in our community. Online at workforart.org.

  • Art of Leadership, established by BCA in 2003, prepares business professionals to serve on the boards of arts and culture organizations. A series of six half-day workshops are led by internationally acclaimed arts consultant George Thorn and other expert speakers. The program also provides opportunities for an internship to observe an arts board, and a “speed dating” event to meet with boards seeking new members.

Registration for the 2016-17 series is now open! The first workshop is slated for October 5, then on future Wednesdays — November 9, December 7, January 4, February 1, and March 1. The $800 tuition fee includes all six workshops, five lunches, and an afternoon graduation reception. For more information visit racc.org/artofleadership. Deadline to apply: 9/26/16.

Coming next spring, RACC will unveil new, advanced-level Art of Leadership workshops specifically designed for current board members to do a deeper dive on board engagement and fundraising issues. Stay tuned!

  • The Arts Breakfast of Champions is scheduled to return to the Portland Art Museum on February 8, 2017. This annual event brings together elected officials, business leaders, and members of the arts community to celebrate and support culture, creativity and innovation in our community. Tickets for the event will be available in November.

To help us expand these programs and build more collaborations between arts organizations and businesses, RACC will convene a visioning session with arts and business leaders in the fall – stay tuned for more information, or contact jhawthorne@racc.org to be added to the invitation list. Also, RACC is currently seeking applications for a new, full-time Business Partner Manager position. For more information on this exciting job opportunity, visit http://bit.ly/2aAPtXV.