A person holding up Black Lives Matter and La Gente Unida signs

Museum awarded grant to expand community-centered practices

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has granted the Museum an “Activating Community Opportunities” grant that will help to fund a “Building Community-Centered Practices” initiative. The initiative will support an institution-wide effort to build capacities for expanded community engagement.

Over the past five years, the Museum has increased its commitment to community engagement and involvement. Recent programs, partnerships, and community advisory processes have pushed the Museum to be more than just a collection of objects and artwork, but also to be a place where conversations about the world around us take place. Realizing its role within a changing community, the Museum has developed innovative partnerships with dozens of local nonprofit organizations effecting change across a range of issues—including disability rights, social justice activism, celebrating immigrant and refugee communities, and supporting forward-thinking solutions to houselessness and transitional housing.

Children dancing at Heart of Portland

“It is essential to recognize that becoming an agent of community change does not happen because of a single event or program, and it certainly does not happen alone,” said Mike Murawski, the Museum’s Director of Education and Public Programs. “The transformation happening right now at the Museum is the result of passionate staff across the institution, as well as a rapidly growing network of community partners.”

To further the efforts that have already begun, the Museum will partner with the Pomegranate Center, a Seattle-based nonprofit. The Pomegranate Center was selected for their experience working with communities to design and build active community gathering spaces. As professional designers, artists, and community facilitators, their team brings a unique skill set to community projects that results in places that are the direct product of the community’s vision and efforts. The proposed Rothko Pavilion and related renovations provide an ideal opportunity to dive deeper into the important work of making the Museum an integral part within its neighborhood and the city of Portland.

Staff across the Museum along with selected community partners will receive intensive training and mentorship on community facilitation methods that empower people to come together, become change makers, and achieve constructive outcomes. Training will focus on community organizing skills such as design thinking, meeting facilitation, and how to develop an early success project. Building on previous work at the Museum related to inclusion and accessibility, the project’s goal is to expand community-centered practices across the institution in ways that can meaningfully involve community voices in shaping the Museum.

Museum visitors posing in front of photography installation

“We are extremely grateful for the support from the IMLS for this initiative,” said Museum Director Brian Ferriso. “It is critical for the Museum to be responsive to, and inclusive of our community to fulfill our mission and maintain relevancy. This grant will further equip our team with skills that will allow this institution to flourish for generations.”

The Museum has a strong history of support from the IMLS, with grants supporting the Center for Contemporary Native Art, and digitization of the Museum’s collection of Native American Art, Northwest Art, and Japanese prints, among other projects.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. The agency advances, supports, and empowers America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow on Facebook and Twitter.