Earlier this year, seventh graders at Vestal School in Northeast Portland learned about the art of interviewing and photography in a residency with The Right Brain Initiative and local photographer Julie Keefe.
Photo by Michele Field, courtesy of the Right Brain Initiative
The Skanner News' longtime photographer Julie Keefe has been named as Portland's first-ever Creative Laureate by Mayor Sam Adams.
A photographer and youth arts advocate, Keefe has run her own company, Julie Keefe Photography, and also a joint venture with her husband John Klicker, KeefeKlicker Photography, in North Portland since the late 1980s.
She has worked for the Skanner News since 1990, and is currently curating a selection of her photos for an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society in 2013.
At ceremonies Saturday, Adams said the Creative Laureate is intended to be an active advocate for the arts.
"I think Julie Keefe is a fantastic example of the kind of artist that makes Portland a national hub for culture and creativity," Adams said. "Julie's work in community building through 'Hello Neighbor' and her teaching through the Right Brain initiative and at the Portland Art Museum highlight her commitment to the City of Portland."
For The Skanner News, Keefe's work has focused on the local African and African American communities, as well as North and Northeast Portland in general.
However Keefe is also known as a chronicler of artists themselves, from actors to poets and musicians; she photographed many Portland bands' album covers during the decade of the 1990s.
Thirdly, Keefe has spent many, many years photographing elected officials and candidates for office.
The Skanner News Editor Lisa Loving has worked with Keefe since the 1980s.
"Julie's trove of images – chronicling the Black community, grunge bands and the political kaleidoscope of elected officials -- stands as a popular history that shows why Portland is a unique community," Loving says.
"What also needs to be said about Julie is that she feels every image personally, each picture she takes tells a complete story, and her dedication to improving the lives of the people she photographs is unmatched in Oregon journalism."
Keefe has spent years as a youth educator, and helped launch the Caldera program for at-risk youth which has grown into an award-winning institution.
More recently Keefe combined photography, arts education and social change with her signature project on gentrification, "Hello Neighbor!"
The award-winning "participatory art" program invited underserved youth from local communities hit hard by gentrification to meet their new neighbors, take photos of them and create giant banners of the art that was then installed in those communities – literally bringing new neighbors together in public art.
"Hello Neighbor" earned Keefe national recognition and eventually grew to include towns across the state. It stands as the largest public art project in Oregon history.
For that, Keefe was a finalist in the President's Council on Arts and Humanity 'Coming Up Taller' Awards in 2009.
She now works with the Right Brain Initiative in area classrooms and the Portland Art Museum in the Object Stories program.
"It is my hope that the position of Creative Laureate for the City of Portland will afford me the opportunity to continue advocating for the ideas I so strongly believe in - that art creates conversation, conversation creates community and everyone loves poetry written by first graders reflecting on their first photographs!" Keefe said last week.
Mayor Adams created the new Creative Laureate program, administered by the Regional Arts and Culture Council, to create additional opportunities for creative industry leadership and arts advocacy in the local community.
The Creative Laureate will serve a one-year term starting Jan. 1, 2013.