RACC Blog

RACC Creative Spotlight: Artist James Enos

Artist James Enos, Make | Learn | Build grant recipient

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


Call for Artists / Convocatoria a artistas: East Portland Cultural Corridor

The Regional Arts and Culture Council and a coalition of local organizations are seeking an artist/artist team for a community-based Artist in Residence to work closely with project partners, community members, neighboring institutions, and businesses to identify, express, and elevate outer SE Division Street’s identity as a cultural corridor. Artists from Oregon and SW Washington are eligible to apply. The budget is $75,000. The due date to apply for this opportunity is 5pm PDT, Thursday, July 21, 2022. Read the full details about this call. Información en español.

*This Artist in Residence means that the artist will be working in and with community. It does not include housing or a living stipend.

Background

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), in partnership with TriMet, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Division Midway Alliance (DMA), and the Slavic Community Center of NW (SCC of NW), received a $75,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Our Town is NEA’s creative placemaking grants program that supports the integration of arts, culture, and design to strengthen people’s connection within their community. APANO, DMA, and SCC of NW each have community art projects funded through the NEA Our Town grant. The grant will support resident artist fellows (APANO), a design process for a cultural center (DMA), and an international children’s festival (SCC of NW). RACC, PBOT, and TriMet are working with community partners to amplify the cultural corridor through a transportation justice lens. The $75,000 budget for the Artist in Residence is funded by PBOT’s percent-for-art and TriMet as a match for a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant.

The Our Town grant launches the East Portland Cultural Corridor (EPCC), a project aimed at generating a unified sense of place and cultural presence in East Portland along SE Division Street from SE 82nd Avenue to SE 175th Avenue. East Portland, the most diverse geographic area of Portland, is home to approximately 25% of the population of Portland and over 40% of the school-age children in the city. This area includes Montavilla, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Hazelwood, Mill Park, and Centennial neighborhoods, as well as Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative Districts at both NE 82nd/Division and in the Division/Midway area.

Who is eligible to apply?

Artists or artist teams living in Oregon and southwest Washington are eligible to apply. If applying as a team, at least one member must meet the residence eligibility requirement. RACC and the coalition of partners are committed to engaging new communities of artists and expanding the range of artistic and cultural expression in our city. Artists who live in or have a relationship to outer Southeast Portland will be prioritized.

How to Apply

All application materials are submitted through the RACC Opportunity Portal, an online application system. Applicants need to create an account or log into their existing account at racc.org/apply. If you are applying as a team, please assign one person to apply and be the contact on behalf of the team. For first-time users of the portal, view a brief video learning how to register here.

Information Sessions for Artists

  • Friday, July 1 at 12pm PDT on Instagram Live. Follow @regionalarts on Instagram to stay informed of this and other upcoming opportunities.

We’re Here to Help!
If you have questions about the overall opportunity or the RACC Opportunity Portal, please email Danielle Davis with questions or to set up a time for a phone call: ddavis@racc.org.

If you don’t have a computer or online access, please don’t hesitate to contact RACC for assistance. Also, if you prefer these materials in another language please contact RACC project staff for translation services.

Interpretation services available, email info@racc.org
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Fresh Paint: Seeking Artists for Next Round of Murals

The Regional Arts & Culture Council and Open Signal invite emerging Black and brown artists/teams who are currently living in Clackamas, Multnomah or Washington counties in Oregon, or Clark County in Washington to submit qualifications for a temporary mural at Open Signal along the highly visible NE Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd. at 2766 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Read the full details about this call.

Submissions are due by 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Opportunity

Fresh Paint is a partnership between RACC’s Public Art Murals Program and Open Signal, a media arts center carrying a vision for community-driven media focused on creativity, technology, and social change. This partnership provides artists the opportunity to explore working in the public art sector and incorporate new approaches and skills in their artistic practice and experience.

A portion of Open Signal’s west-facing wall along MLK Jr Blvd has been designated as the Fresh Paint space and measures approximately 9’H x 18’W.  Two artists/teams will be selected to have a painted mural featured for six months between October 2022 – September 2023. The selected artists will receive a $2,500 commission for their participation and are offered the opportunity to engage with a range of resources at Open Signal, including the use of equipment.

Artist Information Sessions
  • Thursday, June 16th at noon on Instagram Live. Follow @regionalarts on Instagram to stay informed of this and other upcoming opportunities.
  • Wednesday, June 29th at 6 pm on Zoom. RSVP here. Watch the previously recorded Zoom information session here.

We strongly encourage you to attend an info session, especially if you are a first-time applicant. Staff will share information about this opportunity and go over the steps of how to submit application materials.

Questions about the Zoom info session or need special accommodations to attend?

CONTACT: Daniela Serna at 503.288.1515 ext. 931, daniela@opensignalpdx.org.

Are you eligible to apply?

This opportunity is for emerging artists that identify as a person of color including (but not limited to) Native American/Indigenous, Latino/a/x, Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, African American, African, and Southwest Asian and North African.

In addition, you must:

  • live in Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah, or Washington counties,
  • have a consistent visual art practice
  • not have created an exterior-wall mural in the City of Portland (interior murals and murals on non-building infrastructures are fine).

How to Apply

All applications must be submitted through RACC’s Opportunity Portal here.

Applicants must create an account, or log in to their existing account. Instructions in the application portal will guide you through the process.

Questions regarding the application platform and materials and project’s process/timeline?

CONTACT: Salvador Mayoral IV at 503.823.5865, smayoral@racc.org


Fresh Paint Opportunity Re-Opens to First Time Muralists

Artist standing on a ladder painting image of a person on a wall mural

Artist Eric Mbungu Mpwo works on his Fresh Paint mural

Open Signal had a wall. We had experience creating murals. Salvador Mayoral, who facilitates our Public Art Murals Program, recalls how Fresh Paint, the partnership to provide emerging Black and brown artists a place to become muralists, got its start. “We were looking for a high visibility spot for a temporary mural pilot project,” he said. Open Signal’s Director of Strategy, Rebecca Burrell, remembers, “We were looking for a way to bring visibility to our mission and bring more art into our neighborhood.” The two organizations joined forces and their new initiative, Fresh Paint, kicked off in 2017. Since then, 10 artists have been selected to paint a temporary mural on an exterior wall of Open Signal’s building facing the highly visible Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Each mural is hosted for at least four months and then painted over in preparation for the next artist.

Installation Dates for Murals
  • October 2021 – March 2022
  • April 2022 – September 2022
The Opportunity

Fresh Paint is a professional development initiative providing emerging artists of color with a paid opportunity to paint a public mural for the first time in Portland. “We wanted artists who didn’t have experience as muralists but the desire to create murals get the support and resources they need to develop a new skill set and build their portfolio,” Mayoral explained. For several artists, the mural projects have led to other public commissions or funding opportunities. The wall currently features Limei Lai’s mural, Together.

RACC and Open Signal, announce a new call for Fresh Paint muralists. Interested artists have until July 14th, 2021 to apply. To qualify for the opportunity, artists must live in the greater Portland metropolitan area, defined as Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington. The selected artists receive a commission for their participation and are offered the opportunity to engage with a range of resources at Open Signal, including the use of equipment.

To be considered, artists can submit information about their background and interest through RACC’s online application portal. No proposals are required. Because the program is designed to support artists in establishing their careers, applicants may not have received any public art commission through RACC nor created an official exterior mural in the City of Portland. Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Public Art Murals Program will run the selection process, relying on past Fresh Paint muralists to review submissions and recommend which new artists should be selected.

Get Help with your Application

Questions regarding the application platform and materials and project’s process/timeline?

CONTACT: Salvador Mayoral IV at 503.823.5865, smayoral@racc.org

Artist Information Sessions
  • Monday, June 14 at noon on Instagram Live. Follow @regionalarts on Instagram to stay informed of this and other upcoming opportunities.
  • Tuesday, June 22 at 6 p.m. on Zoom. RSVP here.

Questions about the Zoom info session or need special accommodations to attend?

CONTACT: Daniela Serna at 503.288.1515 ext. 931 daniela@opensignalpdx.org.

 

About Open Signal

Open Signal is a media arts center making media production possible for anyone and everyone in Portland, Oregon. Launched in 2017, the center builds upon the 35-year legacy of Portland Community Media to create a resource totally unique in the Pacific Northwest. Open Signal offers media workshops, a public equipment library, artist residencies and five cable channels programmed with locally produced content. Open Signal delivers media programming with a commitment to creativity, technology and social change. Learn more at opensignalpdx.org.

About the Regional Arts & Culture Council

An independent non-profit organization, the Regional Arts & Culture Council supports greater Portland’s creative economy by equitably providing 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. RACC connects artists and creatives to opportunity and access. Learn more at racc.org.