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Arvey Smith mural
Eloise Damrosch, executive director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council
Published: 27 October 2014

Painter Arvey Smith and a mural from Project Hope, created by Smith and more than 100 young people in detention, over the course of two years. 


Much has been written lately about Portland’s changing demographics, and the fact that communities of color have disproportionately low access to publicly funded services. For the last several years, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, which receives significant funding from the city of Portland and Multnomah County, has been focusing on barriers for artist of color, and dismantling those barriers so that all forms of cultural expression can be more fully celebrated.

Most people know that the Regional Arts & Culture Council, or RACC, provides grants and services for artists, arts organizations and schools in the Portland metropolitan area. Over the last two years, thanks in part to the voter-approved Arts Education & Access Fund, RACC has been targeting more of its funding and services for culturally-specific communities, New Portlanders, immigrants, refugees, Disabled communities and residents of East Portland. Recent grants include $3,000 for the Center for Intercultural Organizing, $2,350 for ROSE Community Development, and $5,850 for the Obo Addy Legacy Project.

RACC also manages public art for the city and county, and we have been working hard to diversify the collection by proactively developing more representation from artists of color. More than a quarter of the new public art murals in town have been pained by artists from communities of color, but there’s room for much more! Among our current projects, The Committee to Honor the History of Williams Avenue has hired RACC to select artists for this important project; the committee is currently reviewing semifinalists. RACC is also working with artist Isaka Shamsud-Din to create artwork in Dawson Park that is centered on the history of the local African American community.

This fall, there are a number of “calls for artists” that are perfectly pitched to those who aren’t already part of RACC’s public art collection, including:

The Portable Works Collection. RACC is looking to expand its collection of more than 1,000 two and three-dimensional artworks—paintings, drawings, collages and photographs—that are rotated throughout public buildings. Artists who are not currently represented in the collection submitted artworks for RACC’s consideration by Oct. 21.

The Portland Building Installation Space. RACC manages an exhibition space in the lobby of the Portland Building downtown, and fills that space every month with interesting installations from local artists. Proposals for the coming season (March 2015 through February 2106) are due Nov. 5.

The Public Art Murals Program. RACC provides matching funds, up to $15,000, to help artists, developers, neighborhood associations and other community groups paint murals on public facades. RACC is especially eager to fund murals from African American artists and other culturally specific communities that are under-represented in the collection; proposals are due on the first Wednesday of every month.

RACC staff welcomes artists to contact them with any questions or feedback about our processes. For a summary of these and other funding opportunities for artists of color, please visit racc.org or contact Ahmed Yusuf at 503-823-5111. With so many new opportunities for artists to get involved with the Regional Arts & Culture Council, our community stands to benefit a great deal.

Eloise Damrosch is the executive director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council. She can be reached at [email protected].

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