Re:Imagining Our Work—Artist Fund Enters Next Phase of Support

The Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center’s Artist Fund Centers Artists’ Role in Reimagining Our Cultural Sphere

The Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center are pleased to announce the continuation of the Re:Imagine Artist Fund, which launched last year and supported artists through direct relief and sustainability grants during the pandemic. The fund’s next phase starting this spring, Re:Imagining Our Work, provides expanded, equitable financial support for artists developing new projects and programs that engage with the issues of our time and explore new avenues of art and film.

The purpose of the Re:Imagining Our Work phase is to increase the Museum and Film Center’s capacity to provide direct support to artists and recognize their role as the primary creators of a reimagined cultural sphere in Portland and beyond. The Museum and Film Center, like many cultural organizations, are evolving many aspects of presenting art, film, and new media as a result of the pandemic and increased demand for social justice. Through this initiative, the Museum and Film Center asks artists and community partners to envision alongside us new ways of engaging with art and each other,  and expanding dialogues that touch on the central issues of our time.

On average, the Museum and Film Center allocates $100,000 each year to pay artists to develop and present exhibitions, programs, events, festivals, and screenings. Re:Imagining Our Work funding will offer $72,500 in additional direct support for artists as we invite them to collaborate with us on timely and relevant new projects. 

The Re:Imagine Artist Fund was created in 2020 as a reaction to the pressures of the pandemic on artists in Portland and Southwest Washington. In initial phases of the Fund, the Museum and Film Center provided relief grants of $2,000 for 25 artists demonstrating severe economic need and $5,000 sustainability grants to 20 artists who are pivoting their practices toward greater impact and innovation. The grant programs aimed to center BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and artists living with disabilities who had been most impacted during the months of Covid-19 shutdown and over 80 percent of the funding went to artists who self-identified as such. 

The Numberz at the Museum’s Miller Family Free Day.

Through our current programming efforts, the Artist Fund has supported a community partner residency with The Numberz FM, a radio station committed to Black music for Black Portland. The Museum first worked with The Numberz during the Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… exhibition in 2019-20. Building upon that base, this residency began in Fall 2020 to highlight the role of art within social justice movements based in Portland; it entails both on-site and off-site interviews with community members, artists, and organizers through video and audio recordings. 

The Northwest Film Center’s recently concluded Portland International Film Festival featured a project supported by the Fund called Cinema//Care. Guest programmed by Sundance Film Festival’s Gina Duncan, the Cinema//Care program reinforces a commitment to care and community, and how through the programming of independent films at art houses, festivals, we can create and sustain a culture of care right where we live. 

The Artist Fund is supporting the development of equity-focused film and new media projects including a Virtual Reality (VR) To Go program in which, as in the video rental stores of old, audiences would check out and gain access to pre-loaded VR headsets with immersive stories showcasing BIPOC, female identifying and LGBTQIA+ artists from the Northwest and beyond. The Artist Fund also provides funding for BIPOC filmmakers, storytellers, and new media artists to participate in the Co:Laboratory, the Northwest Film Center’s recently launched experimental series of multi-media workshops, classes, and community-building offerings that inspire new projects, new skills, and new ways of seeing. 

Image from Sea Creatures installation courtesy of Sarah Turner, co-founder of the Mobile Projection Unit.

Also made possible by the Fund is Epic Ephemera, a digital art installation series curated by Mobile Projection Unit that reinvents public space and shared experience, transcending the limitations of our screens. The project is a series of four one-night only exhibitions presented outside on the Museum campus buildings. Mobile Projection Unit (Fernanda D’Agostino and Sarah Turner) first presented their work Sea Creatures with live music performed by Crystal Cortez; a group show, Myths and Rituals, featured five Portland-based and international artists; The next exhibition is this Friday, with SIGNALS (April 24, 9 p.m.) showcasing the digital mapping work of Rick Silva and Nicolas Sassoon with live sound by Pulse Emitter; and the final Epic Ephemera project in May features the groundbreaking multi-disciplinary performers Pamela Z and keyon gaskin through livestreaming and on site performance.

A test projection on the Museum for the upcoming SIGNALS exhibition on April 24.

Collaborative conversations around the role and future of monuments in public space is also supported by this phase of the Fund through the Museum’s participation in a collaborative vision called Re-imagining Portland: Parks, Public Space, Memory, Creativity, and Spatial Justice. City-wide partners include the Portland Parks Foundation, Converge 45, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. These organizations, along with many other community partners, are starting this exploration with talks in March and April by some of the nation’s leading voices on spatial justice and public memory. The conversations will continue throughout the rest of the year as the Museum offers support to community efforts to reconsider the monument spaces in the Park Blocks adjacent to the Museum campus and how artists can spark new thinking and approaches to acts of commemoration . 

Shedrich Williames (American, born 1934), Untitled, 1972, gelatin silver print, Gift of Al Monner, © unknown, 94.36.1.

Planning with artists and community partners for additional projects are underway. These include Black Artists of Oregon (October 1, 2022 – April 9, 2023) an exhibition that will highlight and celebrate the work of Black artists in Oregon, as well as serve to deepen awareness of artists who have shaped and inspired artists regionally and nationally but have been underrecognized by white-dominant institutions. The exhibition will be guest curated by artist Intisar Abioto, who has been documenting Black figures in Portland in her own practice since 2013. Through interviews, photography, research, and performance, Abioto is filling the region’s own historical gaps. 

With the end of the pandemic on the horizon, and a return to normalcy within reach, the Museum and Film Center remain committed to supporting artists and collaborating directly to create ongoing paths for local artists to live in, and share their talents with our community. 

Major funding for the Re:Imagine Artist Fund is made possible by the Museum’s Art Gym endowment, a restricted endowment established with support from the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, and grants from Tim and Mary Boyle, The Collins Foundation, Kirk and Cynthia Day, and longtime artist advocate Sarah Miller Meigs.

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