Portland Trail Blazers star Carmelo Anthony was named the winner of the 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. We congratulate Carmelo Anthony and thank him for supporting Black artists here in our city and across the globe.
Building on the success of recent exhibitions and programs centering Black artists and community organizations, such as Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, the Portland Art Museum’s Black Art and Experiences initiative supports showcasing and acquiring important works created by local, regional, and global Black artists.
“We are honored that Carmelo is supporting the Portland Art Museum,” said John Goodwin, Director of Community Philanthropy. “In 1994, a young Black student came to our Museum and saw images by photographer Carrie Mae Weems, and it changed her life. She saw these familiar scenes of Black family life on the Museum walls, photographed by a woman of color who also grew up in Portland, and she knew she wanted to be an artist too.”
The person who visited that day is Mickalene Thomas, now an internationally renowned visual artist celebrated for her complex work addressing race and sexuality. And Carrie Mae Weems, one of the most important contemporary artists, is now not only lending her talent to help guide the Portland Art Museum as a trustee, but recently she has been building vital awareness of racial inequity in the pandemic through her art on the outside of the Museum and across the country.
“That’s the sense of eye-opening connection I want everyone in our community to have at the Museum,” Mr. Goodwin continued. “Our Black Art and Experiences initiative will support the next generation of Black artists, and we are so grateful to Carmelo Anthony for supporting this work.”
This initiative continues a decade-long effort to advance access, equity, and inclusion at the Portland Art Museum. We recognize that at the heart of modern museum work is a tension between our mission to preserve the past, and a moral obligation to confront bias and inequities—both social and economic—entangled with that inheritance. Learn more about the Museum’s equity and inclusion work.
Portland business leader Larry Miller, who has built deep community connections as past president of both the Portland Trail Blazers and Nike’s Jordan Brand, applauded Mr. Anthony’s support for PAM’s Black Art and Experiences initiative. “I’m supporting this effort because I want all kids to see themselves on the walls of our local Museum,” said Mr. Miller. “After visiting the Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… exhibition in 2019, I realized how essential it is for other Black visitors to see art in the museum that looks like them. Through this initiative, we will spark awareness of possibility, and make sure Black visitors feel welcomed and seen here, make sure our voices are heard and included. I thank Melo for designating $100,000 to the Museum’s Black Art and Experiences initiative.”
The Museum’s initiative will build on a strong slate of exhibitions celebrating Black artists, as well as community programs such as the partner residency of The Numberz FM, the local Black radio station that is anchoring the weekly Madison Plaza Summer Series of music and celebration outside the Museum. Inside the galleries, visitors can currently view Isaka Shamsud-Din: Rock of Ages, an intimate exhibition celebrating the Portland artist’s masterful paintings, rich in a narrative combining personal stories and folklore.
In the Museum’s APEX gallery showcasing Northwest artists, where artist-activist Ed Bereal‘s work was recently on view, a new exhibition opening this month will showcase the work of Sharita Towne. The transdisciplinary artist—who was just awarded a 2021-23 Fields Artist Fellowship by Oregon Humanities and the Oregon Community Foundation—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. Ms. Towne’s work and A Black Ecology of Portland were recently featured in The New York Times.
Also highlighted in the Times was artist Intisar Abioto, who is guest-curating an upcoming PAM exhibition of Black artists in our state. Starting in October 2022, Black Artists of Oregon will highlight and celebrate 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 artists regionally and nationally. The exhibition will be the first of its kind to consider the work of Black artists collectively in Oregon, often underrepresented and unacknowledged. In Abioto’s own artistic practice, she has been documenting Black figures in Portland since 2013, through interviews, photography, research, and performance, filling the region’s own historical gaps.