By Ella Ray, Kress Interpretive Fellow and Community Partnerships Coordinator
Within the exhibition galleries of Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, the Community Partners in Residence Space will act as home base for the partnerships connected to the exhibition. Over the course of the exhibition this area will serve as a gallery, a gathering place, a mini library, a place to contemplate, a resting space, and hopefully more.
Much of Hank Willis Thomas’s work considers the relationships between objects and people, history and people, and objects and history. In an effort to continue this circular inquiry, community partnerships are central to the All Things Being Equal… exhibition. In presenting this show, we must ask how the artist’s work relates, or fails to relate, to our audiences—thinking critically about what it means to exhibit art objects that explicitly narrate experiences of anti-Blackness, global resistance, Black joy, and capitalist consumption in present-day Portland, Oregon. The decision to dedicate time, space, and resources to community partnerships comes from the desire to acknowledge that there are organizations and individuals living and working in Portland that have been grappling with the content of this exhibition for much longer than we have. Within this exhibition, in literal and figurative terms, we are creating opportunities for Portland communities to co-author experiences that stretch beyond a singular program—taking up space within the physical footprint of the show and centralizing the local response to a body of work oriented toward national audiences.
Don’t Shoot PDX, We+Black, The Numberz (96.7 FM), Oregon Justice Resource Center, Portland in Color, and the King School Museum of Contemporary Art are the core community partners for All Things Being Equal…. Each of these partners brings with them ways of knowing and doing that we recognize as integral not only to engaging with Thomas’s work, but to understanding how Portlanders are thinking about their relationships to one another, to an increasingly changing city, and to the Portland Art Museum.
We are endlessly grateful to be in this process with our community partners. The labor, energy, and knowledge they bring to this project has increased our ability to approach contemporary art as a praxis through which we connect, question, and inspire. A million thank yous to everyone involved.
WE+BLACK—A Wieden + Kennedy collective for the Black Diaspora, We+Black was established to enhance the Black experience, encourage equality, celebrate each other, strengthen our community, and share our diverse culture.
Don’t Shoot PDX—Started by Teressa Raiford in 2014, Don’t Shoot PDX is a grassroots organization dedicated to providing Portlanders with the activist, legal, and social justice tools needed to fight back against racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic poverty.
KSMoCA—Founded in 2014 by contemporary artists Harrell Fletcher and Lisa Jarrett, KSMoCA (King School Museum of Contemporary Art) is an artist-run project in the form of a museum. KSMoCA is supported by Portland State University’s Art + Social Practice graduate program.
The Numberz—The Numberz (96.7 FM) defines itself as a radio station that aims to air Black music by Black people from Black Portland. This station connects with folks systemically disconnected from the “cultural and artistic hubs” located nearer the city center and uses music as a means of connecting the diaspora.
Oregon Justice Resource Center—Oregon Justice Resource Center was founded in 2011 by Bobbin Singh and Erin McKee. The Center works to promote civil rights and improve legal representation for BIPOC and poor folks. OJRC works in collaboration with other like-minded organizations to expand their reach to serve underrepresented populations, to train future public interest lawyers, and to educate our community on civil rights and current civil liberties concerns.
Portland In Color—From its origins as a 2017 photo series by Celeste Noche, Portland in Color has evolved into a directory and journal celebrating the city’s artists of color in partnership with writer and educator Emilly Prado.