Catalyst Grants support local artists

Every year, RACC invests hundreds of thousands of dollars through Project Grants to support the creation or presentation of performances, exhibits, and other publicly accessible creative endeavors.

RACC Catalyst Grantee and Filmmaker Kanani Koster

In 2019, RACC created a special category of Project Grants specifically designed for applicants who have never before received a RACC grant. The new Catalyst Grant features a shorter and simpler application, with awards fixed at $3,000 each. These grants also come with enhanced RACC staff support to help recipients with grant administration.

Last fiscal year Catalyst Grants provided 75 first-time awardees with $225,000 in funding. We’ve received feedback from Catalyst grantees that this first experience with RACC has helped them successfully apply for other RACC grants and build their grant writing skills. Additional flexibility and support during this pandemic has also been invaluable.

In their own words, learn more about three of last year’s amazing Catalyst Grantees: filmmaker Kanani Koster, painter Ameera Saahir, and DJ and speaker designer Michael Davis-Yates.


Award-winning filmmaker Kanani Koster

“I’m a Hapa director, filmmaker, AD, and producer here in Portland. My pronouns are she, her. Hapa is Pigeon or Hawaiian for half. I’m Japanese-Hawaiian and white. That is a big part of the work that I make in a lot of different ways. I have been living in Portland for the last year and a half. Moving to Portland was the main thing that’s driven my career forward! I lived in Seattle beforehand and felt stunted and didn’t feel connected to the community. The second my partner and I landed in Portland, I started getting jobs. I started meeting the coolest people here who were supportive and excited to work on my projects and excited to have me on to help with theirs. That’s meant a lot to me. I find it essential to bring BIPOC people onto my projects and working with women-identifying people because the set is different when you have a nice mix of everyone coming together. When I was younger and middle and high school, I took a lot of film production classes. I remember I enjoyed the classes at first but eventually got frustrated. Many girls were doing those types of courses because many of the dudes would do all my work for me. They said, ‘Oh, I’m going to help you out here — you can be in front of the camera. Well, honestly, I hate being in front of a lens! I’ve always loved period pieces, mostly old westerns, but I loathe watching them because John Wayne and all these old white cowboys are unappealing to me. But I love the imagery. I love the aesthetic of it. I love the idea of what the Old West was because it was such a diverse time. You know, we had many people of color who were building our nation up. I’m filming my own stories now. ” — filmmaker Kanani Koster.

Her Catalyst Grant supported her work reclaiming nostalgic film tropes and aesthetics for diverse audience members who’ve historically been left off-screen. She is the director of the award winning short, The New Frontier, and the docu-short, Any Oregon Sunday.


Painter and business owner Ameera Saahir

“My name is Ameera Saahir. I recently turned 74. I’m an African American woman, highly educated, I grew up in southwest Portland and was gentrified to southeast Portland; been here 16 years. I’m an artist and business owner. I was looking into my ancestry. That’s where the idea came up for the show that the Regional Arts and Culture Council funded. I’ve always captured stories and ideas. I found out from talking to family members that we have a narrative that has been circulating within our family at the family reunion. I took that information, the story, and I modeled my art exhibit after the milestones that the narrator had left for us. I took our family and I put it into historical references. Then I started looking into the story of the African migration. I’m from a large family. I saw family members becoming homeless, and I was like…oh, no. My own sister was living in terrible transitional housing; it became personal. I went backward instead of going forwards, and I traced through that story, and I looked at the housing. It started in Africa. I made some paintings of housing. There’s a slave ship called Minerva in my family history story. The woman who was captured and enslaved and brought here from Africa, well, her name was Minerva Jane. In my research, I learned—and I went, it took me months, but I traced it back—that was the name of the slave ship. That’s where our story begins. I have the narrative. I found records of the ship that carried my ancestors.” — Painter Ameera Saahir

Her Catalyst Grant supported the creation of a series of paintings called “Uninhabitable Living Conditions”. The pieces connect historical images of slave ships and sharecropping with transitional housing for African Americans.


DJ and speaker designer Michael Davis-Yates

“As a kid, I was kind of an oddball nerd, and I spent a lot of time alone as an only child, even though I had pretty hardcore group of friends in my neighborhood. I always found time for myself to find things out by breaking electronics by accident and then taking them apart with a screwdriver to see what was inside. Junior High was a big one; I blew up my first speaker with too much power from an amplifier. The smell of the electronic smoking and the impact of the driver blowing out was pretty cool. I wanted to know more, and I kept with it. Yeah, I’m a huge nerd. I still keep a day job, which was heavily brought to me due to Cstm Math and my speaker building. It all turned into a portfolio. Now I’m working for a company that I’ve been with for about four years that’s in Portland. We build studio monitor speakers for professional recording studios. That takes up a lot of my time. I’ve been DJing at night and on weekends (until COVID hit). Now I’ve gotten a lot more time to focus back into things and realizing that there is no rush. The ideas are there and working on them and making them better has been a great asset to me. I’m making speakers and boomboxes. A lot of my boombox work now has been based around vector recreations of retro boomboxes, or imagination stuff that pops out. I work with plywood mostly. Laminated plywood is my favorite thing to work with, stacking the layers of Baltic birch to get a really cool edge effect. My biggest dream would be chilling somewhere, in a small manufacturing shop, making stuff.” — DJ and speaker designer Michael Davis-Yates.

His Catalyst Grant was for “Custom Mathematics”, a series of speakers he designed and hand-built from the ground up, inspired by teachings from the Nation of Islam as well as the spirit of classic vintage boomboxes.


Check out more stories about local artists, and see these ones, on RACC’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

Montavilla wine shop bets on jazzy future

Vino Veritas, located in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood, features live jazz music

In mid-November, the day that Governor Brown’s 4-week “freeze” in Multnomah County went into effect, Vino Veritas General Manager, Trevor Gorham called RACC. Trevor was anxious to learn when his wine shop, Vino Veritas, would receive their grant funding. In business since April 2017, Vino Veritas is a small wine bar and bottle shop located in the Montavilla neighborhood of Southeast Portland with a devoted following thanks, in part, to their live music. They started offering music when the owner’s son asked if his band could play at the shop one-night a week. Customers liked it and before long, they had a robust rotation of jazz trios and other small groups playing live sets throughout the week. Because they normally provide a performance space, Vino Veritas was eligible for a portion of the $2.5 million in PDX Cares Venues funding administered through a partnership between Prosper Portland and the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Jazz Concert – Eunice Parsons, 1984

After the initial shut down order in March, Vino Veritas pivoted their business model. They kept their doors open by focusing on phone and on-line orders bottle sales and offering curbside pick-up or delivery. As summer approached and restrictions loosened, they resumed more of their regular operations. Continuing to innovate, they added virtual programming, including on-line wine tastings. They also brought back the music. “At first our outside area could only hold a solo musician or a duo,” Trevor explained. Their customers responded, returning to Vino Veritas to enjoy the music and regain a feeling of normalcy. They expanded the covered area to hold a trio and a larger audience. “It meant so much to the musicians – and to the customers – to have live music again,” he added.

In April, Vino Veritas received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan but decided not to take the full amount. Like many, they underestimated the impact the virus would have on their business and were unsure of all the strings attached. “We also wanted to be sure other businesses like us had access to the funds,” Trevor explained. “When we first got the news (about the PDX CARES grant) we were speechless. This additional money helps us so much. We can now see the end and see how we are going to get through this.”

Support Beam Artist Reflection: Patricia Vázquez

Patricia Vázquez is an artist with SUPPORT BEAM, a new RACC grant program supporting artists’ long term creative practice and livelihood. 

I have been drawing, painting and making prints for longer than I have done any other kind of artwork. I am a self taught visual artist. I have learned through taking classes here and there, and through working independently to develop a formal language. It has been a slow and private endeavor. The process of publicly becoming an artist was plagued by doubts, fears and contradicting inner messages. For most of my life, I couldn’t embrace an artistic identity. In a recent interview with students from Reynolds HS (available through the Art Talk Bus podcast), I shared that when I was young, I thought artists were people from another planet. Where I grew up, in the most populated and impoverished area of Mexico City, there were no artists, art centres, art activities, or anything art related. Art was something that people from a reality radically different than mine did. It took me decades (and tens of thousands of dollars in student debt!) to transform that belief. Even today, when I say “I am an artist”, the voice that speaks feels foreign to me, like it belongs to somebody else, or like it comes from somewhere far away.

As a result of acquiring an MFA in Social Practice, most of the artwork I make available publicly, and get paid for, is interdisciplinary and process based. This kind of work is a good fit for me, because it allows me to explore issues, situations and people I am deeply interested in, to use methodologies I learned while working as an organizer and educator, and to test the impact of socially embedded art making processes. However, producing images is also an essential aspect of my artistic thinking. I have intensely missed creating images, the quietness of a studio and the dialogue with the paper and the canvas. Compared to my interdisciplinary artwork, my visual work is not as immediately recognizable as socially or politically invested, but the fact that I am doing it feels incredibly political to me. The fact that it exists, that it is created by this person that wasn’t meant to be an artist, has a political significance.

The drawings I have created over the last few months originate in countless studies, sketches and doodles of the natural world. Some of them maintain a direct resemblance to landscapes, plants, logs, stones and other natural elements. But others, while done in the same style, are less recognizable landscapes, “impossible architectures” as I have started to call them. In these drawings I combine semi-architectural structures with an organic style of drawing. These works are manifestations of ecological anxiety and visions for a future where the natural reclaims the artificial; a future where the announced ecological catastrophe is reversed and nature trumps the threat of human domination.

The monoprints are a combination of these drawings and an experimental use of screen printing. This is a new way of working for me. Until recently I have used screen printing in a more traditional way, creating multiples of posters, t-shirts or other materials with a functional use. I have developed an interest in the pictorial qualities of screen printing and its potential for creating textures and color surfaces that are not controlled and that are unique to each print. I am still developing a language in this new medium, and I look forward to continuing this body of work.

-Patricia Vázquez

Patricia Vázquez Gómez works and lives between the ancient Tenochtitlán and the unceded, occupied, stolen and colonized lands of the Chinook, Clackamas, Multnomah and other Indigenous peoples. Her art practice investigates the social functions of art, the intersections between aesthetics, ethics and politics and the expansion of community based art practices. She uses a variety of media to carry out her research: painting, printmaking, video, exhibitions, music and socially engaged art projects. The purpose and methodologies of her work are deeply informed by her experiences working in the immigrant rights and other social justice movements. Her work has been shown at the Portland Art Museum, the Reece Museum, the Paragon Gallery, and the Houston Art League, but also in other spaces as apartments complexes, community based organizations and schools. She is the recipient of the 2013 Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize and has received support from the Ford Foundation, Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), Portland’s Jade and Midway Districts and the Oregon Community Foundation. Patricia’s work can be explored at http://cargocollective.com/patriciavg

For more updates and ongoing stories from Support Beam artists, follow along on Instagram at #RACCSupportBeam.

Support Beam Round Two Funded through PDXCARES Announced

We are excited to announce 17  additional artists selected to receive financial support through our Support Beam initiative.

Support Beam is designed to support emerging artists’ long-term creative practice and livelihood during an unprecedented time. This new opportunity prioritizes Black artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of color to acknowledge the disproportionate historical and ongoing systemic inequities, and the impact this pandemic is having on BIPOC communities.

Inspired by the depression-era Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), this program utilizes City of Portland PDXCARES (#PDXCARES) funding to commission a piece of public art without restriction to media or themes, and aspires to sustain as many artists as possible during a precarious economic and political time.

Through intentional efforts like these, our public art begins to more accurately represent the many distinct communities who enliven our region. Learn more about the artists selected for initial round of Support Beam.

Over the coming months, Support Beam artists are giving us a peek into their art practices, studios, works in progress, and creative lives. Follow along with their posts and stories on Instagram at #raccsupportbeam.





Iván Carmona



Jodie Cavalier



Daniela del Mar



Sade DuBoise



Sarah Farahat



Marcelo Fontana



Tiana Garoogian



Laura Camila Medina



Lucia Monge



Dana Paresa



Diego Morales-Portillo



Ameera Saahir



Orquidia Velasquez



Mike Vos



Tazha Williams



Tammy Jo Wilson


Capturing the Moment – Call to Portland Artists and Creatives

Interpretation services available, email info@racc.org

Servicio de interpretación disponible   |  Предоставляются услуги переводчика   |   Có dịch vụ thông dịch   |   通訳サービスあり

Application window closed Monday, Oct. 26.

Artists are essential. In times of crisis, artists express what they see and feel, helping us process what we are going through, activating, and uplifting the community.

Capturing the Moment is a new call for Black artists, Indigenous artists, and all artists of color to submit works in all media created in this moment. ANY work that captures a creative response to the COVID-19 global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, racial justice protests, and/or the political environment of the moment. Submissions of all media will be considered – murals, paintings, photos, films, essays, poetry, performances captured on film or video, posters, stickers, t-shirt art, etc.

This new call aims to reflect and record this time of change, uncertainty, loss, and hope. It will continue to serve and showcase some of the work emerging from artists and creatives at this moment in our history. Artist submissions selected for Capturing the Moment will be shared via RACC and the City of Portland communication channels including digital formats and social media accounts.

Supported with City of Portland #PDXCARES funding dedicated to Black artists, Indigenous artists, and all artists of color who reside in the City of Portland.

Hampton Rodriguez, Bike, 2019, newspaper on canvas, 12 x7. Recent addition to Visual Chronicle of Portland


  • RACC will purchase actual physical artworks/memorabilia of all media. (Framing will be provided by RACC, as appropriate.)
  • RACC will also purchase written works, digital images of works, digital recordings of performances, etc. to show/use through RACC & the City of Portland’s communication channels.

Only works created since March 2020 will be considered. Selected artists will receive up to $1,500 per individual. The overall budget for this initiative is $38,000.

A panel of RACC staff and BIPOC curators selected by RACC will review and curate artist submissions. RACC reserves the right to select works from artists and creatives who do not directly apply to this call, if appropriate.


This opportunity serves artists who reside in the City of Portland only. Funds may only be awarded for submissions from Black artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of color who meet the eligibility criteria.

Additionally, priority will be given to artists who have not received RACC Support Beam 2020 commissions or a 2020 Project Grant or are not already well represented in Portland’s Portable Works Public Art Collection.

Elijah Hasan, See It Through, 2019, Inkjet print, 11×14. Recent addition to Portland Visual Chronicle.


All artwork for consideration must be submitted through RACC’s Opportunity Portal: racc.org/apply.

Artists must create an account, or log into their existing account. Instructions in the opportunity portal will guide you through the process. Incomplete submission forms cannot be considered.

Once you have started your Capturing the Moment submission form, you can save after each step and sign out. Your proposal will be saved as a draft you can continue to work on as needed. Complete all the tasks and hit “Submit.” Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions during the process.


Artists must include the following in their proposal:

  • Up to eight (8) works that “Capture the Moment,” including images, writing, or video. File size should be no larger than 5 megabytes. The .jpg format, PDF format, or links to video work online is preferred. Provide no more than two (2) images per artwork/item. For each submission, provide title, media, dimensions/length, date produced, and (if applicable) background or conceptual information.
  • Artist bio: A short paragraph that briefly describes your artistic practice (150-200 words).
  • Applicant demographics
  • Applicant W-9 form

Contact hnkent@racc.org

We’re Here to Help! Talk with the Program Staff. Ask questions and seek help early; last minute help can be in short supply.

If you have questions about the RACC application portal or if using the application portal presents a barrier to applying, contact Ingrid Carlson: icarlson@racc.org.


Application closes 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

Use RACC’s Opportunity Portal to apply racc.org/apply



Millions in new state and local funding is coming available for arts non-profits and artists, performing arts spaces, music venues, and small businesses. Timelines are short. Read below to see where you or your organization can tap into these new resources.

Watch our COVID-19 resources page for details on new grants and relief opportunities as we know them.

#PDXCARES Venues Funding – Application Closed

Funds for performing arts spaces, music venues, independent film theaters

In July Portland City Council allocated $2.5 million in federal COVID relief funding for Portland-based businesses and non-profit organizations that program  public space for music, dance, and independent film and that are unable to open until Phase III of the state’s re-opening due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health shutdown.

Up to $2 million will be available in grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for commercial entities with eligible expenses related to the coronavirus closure in accordance with federal requirements.  An additional $500,000 is dedicated to non-profit entities for the same purpose.

Priority will be placed on supporting applicant organizations that are led by or serve Black, Indigenous, and all people of color (BIPOC) community members, that have not previously received other state funds, or that present or partner with local artists and musicians.  The federal CARES Act requires that funding be used only to cover expenses that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the economic shutdown and that were incurred during the period that began on March 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.

Prosper Portland and RACC will host a panel review process. Staff will screen for eligibility and priority
criteria. Panels made up of a diverse group of community representatives will review eligible
applications using the following priority and review criteria. More details in the application guidelines.

Businesses and organizations apply here www.racc.org/apply Application closes 5 p.m.,  Monday, Nov. 2.

Read the FAQ for more details.


With City of Portland #PDXCARES funding, RACC offers a new call for submissions from Black artists, Indigenous artists, and all artists of color living in Portland.

Capturing the Moment is a new call for artists and designers of all media to submit works created in this moment. ANY work that captures a creative response to the global pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, racial justice protests, and/or the political environment of the moment. Submissions of all media will be considered – murals, paintings, photography, essays, poetry, performances, posters, stickers, t-shirt art, etc.

Application closed Monday, Oct. 26, 5 p.m. 

Read the full description and find out how to apply here: https://racc.smapply.org


New Round of Small Business Assistance Grants – application closed Sept. 24, 2020

Individual cities and counties have their own deadlines and requirements for these funds.

Resources and information here: https://www.mesopdx.org/grants/

Opened Sept. 14 in Portland: https://prosperportland.us/[portfolio-items][portland-small-business-relief-fund]

In Washington County: https://www.co.washington.or.us/CAO/business-recovery.cfm



Application Closed – Oregon Cultural Trust Coronavirus Relief Funds

Funding for Cultural Nonprofits and Community Venues

When: Application closed Aug. 24 at noon.

Cultural Coalitions in each county will help make funding decisions by September 14.

Find out more about how the City of Portland allocated $114 million in federal CARES ACT funding

Learn more about State COVID Relief funding for arts and music


Keep any eye out here and on our COIVD-19 resources page for more updates.

Regional Arts & Culture Council elects new board members

On July 1, Parker Lee became RACC’s new board chair, succeeding Linda McGeady who will serve as Chair Emeritus until June 30, 2021. Founder and managing partner of the design consultancy, Territory, and co-author of “The Art of Opportunity,” Parker Lee is a veteran of the technology, entertainment and sports marketing industries.

Joining Parker on the Executive Committee are Treasurer James Smith, and Secretary Frances Portillo. The Vice Chair position remains open.

The RACC board also elected three new members. Full board and staff profiles are available online at racc.org/about/staff-board.


Shani Marie Harris-Bagwell

Shani recently launched Shani Bagwell Consulting, a firm focusing on EDI and accessibility, committed to empowering underserved communities, and giving voice to the voiceless. She serves on the Basic Rights Oregon Equity PAC Board, the Multnomah County Commission Audit Review Committee, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation Pricing Options for Equity for Mobility Committee. Shani holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with an emphasis in Contemporary Commercial Music. She has performed throughout the United States and internationally.

Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Leesha Posey

Leesha Posey is an organizational leader, small business coach, educator and advocate for intentional and purposeful equity, diversity and inclusion. She is currently the Equity Manager for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services. She is a member of the Community Budget Review Committee for Portland Public Schools, National Forum for Black Public Administrators, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as well as the other local and national organizations. She has served as co-chair for the North/Northeast Community Development Initiative Oversight Committee for Prosper Portland, and is an alumna of Emerge Oregon Leadership program.

Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Nathan Rix

Nathan is passionate about elevating the social value of public art because of how it influences the imagination of Oregonians. Nathan is currently the Deputy Director, Strategy & Policy with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Nathan has served on numerous non-profit and public sector boards and commissions that serve the tri-county area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties), including as the Chairman of the Budget Committee with the City of Tigard. He currently serves as a Commissioner with Oregon Volunteers, which funds state-based AmeriCorps programs and promotes service, volunteerism and civic engagement across all of Oregon diverse communities.

Gender Pronouns: He/Him/His


Time for Review of Public Art

The toppling of the statue of George Washington on June 18, 2020, is part of our critical national conversation about systemic racism and injustice. Portland is part of this conversation as people examine the point of view these statues represent and consider the impact on Black Portlanders.

Last Wednesday, City Council adopted six core values to guide the City’s decision-making and workplace culture: anti-racism, equity, transparency, communication, collaboration, and fiscal responsibility. Together, the City Arts Program and the Regional Arts & Culture Council are working to determine what pieces in the public art collection no longer align with the City’s values. RACC has a short list of statues in the collection that have been identified by staff and community members as problematic or harmful. RACC is preparing to make a recommendation to the City about pieces that should be removed from the public collection.

The City Arts Program also intends to work with RACC over the coming months to review the entire collection, including portable works. But with more than 2000 pieces, that will take time, research, listening and learning.

George Washington statue, toppled by protesters, June 18, 2020