Community Learn

Equity and Inclusion Update May 2021

In an effort to increase communication and transparency around equity and inclusion work at the Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center, the Equity Team will be sharing semi-regular updates here on the blog.

We are committed to bringing the entire organization along on the path of racial equity learning and change. We acknowledge, however, that this institution-wide goal can slow our progress in making changes that have the biggest impact on BIPOC staff and community. We also continue to reflect on the ways that our work is constrained by white supremacy culture norms such as perfectionism, worship of the written word, either/ or thinking, and fear of conflict. Our hope is that by sharing authentically, we can be held accountable to this work. 

The Equity Team recently welcomed three new members, which brings the team to 17 members: 14 staff, two volunteer docents, and one board of trustees member. Of the team members, nine identify as Black, Indigenous, or person of color (BIPOC), and eight identify as white. The Equity Team charter outlines the parameters for membership, including a requirement for balance of racial identity whereby there cannot be more white members than members of color. The new members come from a range of job roles, which is another goal of team membership makeup. 

The full Equity Team meets two times a month for two hours, and some members also participate in planning committees and other workgroups, often amounting to an extra 35 hours of work or more per month. Equity work at the Museum and Film Center is not done exclusively by the Equity Team. Many staff members from across departments engage regularly with equity issues and integrate equity in their work daily. 

Below is a snapshot of recent projects and initiatives that highlight the ongoing equity work being done at this time.

Exhibitions, programs, and partnerships 

  • Exhibitions just announced:
    • APEX: Sharita Towne | In the Museum’s APEX gallery showcasing Northwest artists, a new exhibition will showcase the work of Sharita Towne. The transdisciplinary artist gained attention in 2019 for A Black Art Ecology of Portland, an initiative she launched to bring together community organizations in support of creating, reclaiming, and redefining spaces for Black art and audiences in Portland.
    • Mesh | This Center for Contemporary Native Art exhibition will feature emerging Native American artists from across the country who have worked with artist mentors to develop practices informed by multiple traditions and cultural influences. Intergenerational mentoring relationships are the foundation of Native American art in all media, including basketry, weaving, sculpture, and photography.
    • Black Artists of Oregon | The exhibition highlights and celebrates the work of Black artists in and outside of the collection, and will serve to deepen awareness of the talented artists who have shaped and inspired art regionally and nationally. This exhibition will be guest curated by artist Intisar Abioto. This exhibition also recently received a major grant from the Terra Foundation.
  • The Museum and Film Center’s Re:Imagine Artist Fund continues to provide direct support to local artists, many of whom identify as BIPOC. 
  • Ongoing residency partnership with The Numberz FM, a radio station whose primary purpose is to create media space for Black people and communities of color, in a city where gentrification has played a significant part in scattering their voices.
  • Resist COVID/ Take 6! a public art and health campaign in partnership with artist Carrie Mae Weems, the City of Portland, and Multnomah County Public Health Division to draw attention to the outsized impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC communities. The Museum campus installation of this project is on view through May 2021.
  • The Portland International Film Festival had guest curators from diverse backgrounds for the first time.

Internal and staff updates

  • Financial and professional investment in support for BIPOC employees. This includes working with a facilitator to fully develop a support plan, developing an onboarding process for new BIPOC employees, and budget allocation for a BIPOC staff retreat.
  • The BIPOC affinity group continues to meet virtually once a month. The BIPOC affinity group is a space welcome to anyone who identifies as a Person of Color, with the understanding that everyone’s struggles are unique and different. It is a space of solidarity, sharing, listening, and support.
  • The white learning space group continues to meet virtually once a month. The white learning space brings together staff members who identify racially as white to discuss race, racial equity, and ways we can center people of color (POC) on the Museum and Film Center staff and in our community. In all conversations we enter, we uphold the agreements to: stay engaged, speak your truth responsibly, listen to understand, be willing to do things differently and experience discomfort, expect and accept non-closure, and confidentiality. Racial affinity groups are a core element in our work to dismantle racism at our organization. We understand that equity work is ongoing and difficult and that mistakes will be made as we learn and grow. Read more
  • Completion last Fall of part one staff training with the Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center’s Bridge 13 to introduce and further knowledge around LGBTQ+ related issues and combat intolerance.
  • Over the past year, the staff Equity Team has committed to working closely with the Docent Racial Equity & Inclusion Committee (DREIC, established in 2018) to support and align all docent equity work with the larger goals of the museum. To further this, an outside consultant was hired to facilitate internal leadership conversations, and in January 2021 the staff Equity Team invited the two co-chairs of DREIC as full members. Docents who participate on the Museum and Film Center Equity Team are also now compensated for their work. Plans are currently underway for a more collaborative and comprehensive approach to bring equity, inclusion, and accountability processes to the entire Docent Council.
  • In October 2020, the most diverse slate of new Board of Trustees members were elected. Learn more about them here: Artists Carrie Mae Weems and Marie Watt among new slate of Museum trustees. Planning for continued equity learning for the board is underway.
  • The Museum and Film Center hiring process underwent a third review and revision utilizing an equity lens, this time with direct feedback from BIPOC staff. New changes include hiring panels with diverse representation and anti-bias in interview training.
  • Photos of senior management, curators, and board of trustees are now available on the website, with more to come.
  • Staff employed as of March 29, 2021, were moved to 100% of market-rate pay at a mid-point level, and compensation for new hires is based on an equitable pay grade structure.

Read the Museum and Film Center’s equity statement, and learn more.