In our continuing effort to increase communication and transparency around equity and inclusion work at the Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center, this update from the Equity Team (covering summer 2021) recounts initiatives, partnerships, programs, and exhibitions that are moving our racial equity work forward. Our hope remains, that by sharing honestly and openly, we can continue to be held accountable to our goal of racial equity. Previous equity and inclusion updates can be found here: January 2021 | May 2021.
Below is a snapshot of recent projects and initiatives that highlight the ongoing equity work being done at this time.
Exhibitions, programs, and partnerships
- Former Portland Trail Blazers star Carmelo Anthony was named the winner of the NBA’s first Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award in recognition of his work for civil rights, Black empowerment and racial equity. In recognition of this honor, Mr. Anthony was given the opportunity to choose a nonprofit to receive a $100,000 contribution from the NBA, and he selected the Portland Art Museum’s Black Art and Experiences initiative. Learn more about the award and the initiative.
- The Museum supported the ongoing residency partnership with The Numberz FM during the Madison St. Plaza pop-up events, which featured music, fashion shows, and COVID-19 vaccine clinics, among other community-centered events. The plaza concept is a partnership with Portland Bureau of Transportation. Learn more about The Numberz FM residency.
- The Museum secured a loan of a painting by Amy Sherald, the Black artist who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait.
- In recognizing Juneteenth, Museum Visitor Services Lead Ted Smith recorded a video with The Numberz General Manager DJ Ambush talking about the end of slavery and what came before and after. Learn more, and watch the video.
- Programming for the Ansel Adams in Our Time exhibition included a screening of Faith E. Briggs’ film, This Land, followed by a Q&A with Briggs and a panel discussion titled Claiming Connection: Cultivating a Relationship with Place as Disabled Artists.
- The Museum partnered with the City of Portland on their “Supporting Community Healing with Art” initiative with the See Me. iAm. HEAR: A Creative Activation of Youth Voices of Color event. Other partners included The Numberz FM, I AM M.O.R.E, IPRC, and NAYA Many Nations Academy.
Exhibitions Now on View:
- APEX: Sharita Towne | In the Museum’s APEX gallery showcasing Northwest artists, a new exhibition features the collaborative artwork 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.
- AUX/MUTE Gallery | Presented by The Numberz FM and the Portland Art Museum, this gallery is an endeavor designed to reduce the barrier for BIPOC practicing artists to be represented within an institution of high art. The first exhibition within the AUX/MUTE Gallery is AWAY|HOME, featuring a cumulation of work created by Portland-based artist Sa’rah Melinda Sabino, a.k.a. “Rah.” The title of the show is a double entendre that can be read AWAY|HOME as a reference to sports teams, and A Way Home in reference to a journey. Rah hopes to create space for stories of underrepresented people and inspire conversations around what it means to be a mixed-race person in America.
- 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.
Internal and staff updates
- For the fiscal year 2022 the budget for equity work, which was approved at 100%, was separated from other departments. Budget priorities include continuing equity training for docents, equity lens use training for staff, POC staff support plan, and new hire equity training, among other initiatives and ongoing needs.
- The Equity Team and senior managers completed a four-session training on using the Museum and Northwest Film Center’s equity lens for decision making. The goal is to empower all staff with the tools to make more inclusive and equitable choices by broadening the range of perspectives and centering racial equity.
- The Black Lives Matter banner continues to be taken down or vandalized. Since it was first installed in the summer of 2020, it has been replaced ten times. This has harmed BIPOC staff and our community. A staff-led working group is being assembled to consider options and the future of the banner.
- Equity Team members and front-line staff, including protection service officers, continue to address issues of police response and de-escalation, with a priority toward community and BIPOC staff safety. All Museum and Film Center staff will have the opportunity to learn de-escalation skills in early 2022.
- As a first step toward bringing staff, board, docents, and volunteers all into alignment on equity and inclusion goals, members of the board of trustees are currently participating in anti-harassment training. Docents and other volunteers will soon be required to also complete the training.
- 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.
- PAM and members of its volunteer docent program continue to work together on ways to center equity and inclusion. In particular, the Docent Racial Equity & Inclusion Committee (DREIC, established in 2018) continues to meet and align its work with PAM’s large equity and inclusion goals. The DREIC group has recently created a charter document outlining its purpose and scope of work which will be shared more widely soon.