Black artists find their way to their voices in Portland


In recent years, Bobby Fouther has watched the historic African-American center of his life in Portland, grow and expand again. The 69-year-old artist was born into a creative family from the Albina neighborhood, which he remembers and is full of jazz music and beauty. "Black artists worked well here in the 1950s," he recalls. "My parents turned our grandparents' garage into a small theater, where my uncle and friends would play later in the night."

Then came a 1962 study by the Portland Development Board, which declared the area – home to nearly 80 percent of the city's black population – to have lost "advanced shelling." Over the next decade, many Albina residents saw a forced relocation as the city was engraved in their neighborhood with the expansion of the highway system and the hospital project. Even today, residents are fighting the Black looga protect historic homes in the area to take over the property dealers.

"They tried to take us out of town," he said. Fouther. "Now there are generations of Black artists working in Portland to create historical art that surrounds our existence to show that we have never been here."

Roads throughout Portland, new mirrors appeared on the front porch of France and performance performances called & # 39; actions & # 39; from the actions of the blocked Multnomah Justice Movement in support of the Black Lives movement. Meanwhile, some of the arts centers in Portland have partnered with community organizers, sharing their office space, reorganizing resources and performing arts for the protests. Earlier this month, more than a dozen artists staged their extermination at Chapman Square, in the city center, following footage of recent violent clashes there between protesters and federal forces.

Seeking to create more opportunities for Black Portlanders, Sharita Towne, 35, created “A Black Art Ecology of Portland” to connect artistic organizations and affordable housing groups, remembering the experiences of displaced people through mirrors , photography, oral history and other arts. The project, which has garnered nearly $ 150,000 from supporters such as the Oregon Community Foundation and James F. and Marion L. Miller, will also be included in the upcoming Ms. Towne at the Portland Art Museum next year.

For almost seven years, photographer Intisar Abioto has created gruesome images of black people living in the city in a project called "The Black Portlanders." The 34-year-old singer later became a popular biographer in the city, showcasing her work in the Oregon Capitol last year and working with community organizations.

The women talked about Zoom about how artists & # 39; Portland & # 39; guide conversations about race and the arts. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Portland is a city that, in many ways, was built on the legacy of Oregon law that barred Black people from settling in the area when the state was still a piece of land in the 1840s. Why is it important for the United States to recognize this history?

INTISAR ABIOTO Our city is a microcosm of what Black people see everywhere, but the effects of racism are predicted here because our community is small; However, the idea that Portlandâ & # x20AC; & # x2122; s not having black people translates to black & # 39; s history is false. As a photographer, my care for people can be seen in the past, and I often fall in love with naming uneducated artists who have strengthened and enriched our city – such as Charlotte Lewis, Adriene Cruz and Damali Ayo. There is a need for dialogue, because without recognizing these names, the image of our humanity is forgotten.

This lack of recognition is spreading in our institutions. While researching museum artifacts in Portland, I recently discovered that the collection lacks one work that a Black woman has done in her artistic life and work in Portland County.

Sharita, you recently served on a committee from the City's Arts & Culture Council, which announced thousands of dollars in funding for new committees consisting of nearly 20 color artists for its art production. How does this decision represent changes in Portland's desire to prevent racial discrimination?

SHARITA TOWNE Our request for the proposal was the first time the State Arts & Culture Council has made it clear that it gives priority to Black, Indigenous and people of color. I’m excited to see this artist’s work appear on the city’s application like never before. Council, refers to reviewing the collection of public arts and modifying their employment practices.

CITY I am excited about Intisar’s new work in court because it will always be there. The fact that someone is experiencing carceral violence will see Black people breathing in nature – that will be a great cure for the country and its people.

Was it a struggle to seek state support for the arts against racism?

ABIOTO Any investment I receive will address the lack of investment and investment in Black Arts for many years, and the balance still does not look the same. Even with my successes, there have been times when I have experienced domestic discrimination. There were times when the agencies invited me as an artist to create images about Black people, but I was silenced when I tried to talk about how we could really serve Black communities. So even efforts to focus on Black representation in art do not necessarily reflect the same political power that white people have in Portland.

TOWNE I think that is probably the reason why so many art projects in the city are creating new spaces that value Black consciousness and imagination. We need resources to enable us to create our own decision-making infrastructure – a creative place.

ABIOTO In Portland, we find new ways to care for each other. That involves talking about the structure of power. Last year, I was invited to an exhibition in Oregon. It was the first time in 25 years that a Black artist had been invited. I asked eight other artists to accompany me to the building. We entered through the front doors to meet the giant rotunda mirrors of Lewis and Clark’s tour. The only Black person in the whole picture is York, a Black man enslaved by William Clark. We entered the office of the chairman of the artist Akela Jaffi was moved to play at the chairman's party table. There was a profound power when Akela – a Black woman, a native of Black Portland – made her mark on the history and time of art in a political space that was historically the only state and the freedom of white men and women. Art can open up space and possibilities where it seemed to exist.