After a several-month process, Commissioner Carmen Rubio and Portland’s City Arts Program named the City’s new Creative Laureates, Leila Haile and Joaquin Lopez.
Since 2012, the Creative Laureate serves as the City’s official ambassador to the broader creative community. The Creative Laureate is also an active advocate for Portland’s diverse arts and culture ecosystem. Up to now, there has always been one Laureate, but Commissioner Rubio secured funding to expand the role as part of the 2021-2022 budget process.
The first Creative Laureate was Julie Keefe, who served from 2012 until January 2018. The second and current Creative Laureate, Subashini Ganesan, has since completed numerous notable projects:
- an “Affordable Artist Space” questionnaire to better understand what "affordable" means to artists
- a collaboration with Professor Richard Clucas (Hatfield School of Government at PSU) to facilitate two community forums called “Building Political Support for the Arts in Portland.”
- Co-founding and organizing the “PDX Area Artist Emergency Relief Fund” from March – July 2020. The fund distributed over $170,000 to 250 artists across the Portland tri-county region.
During COVID, Suba led engagement efforts with BIPOC artists and creatives, advised Council Offices, and developed and implemented initiatives related to recovery and healing. Her final project, Supporting Community Healing with Art, will provide grants for art-inspired projects that allow Portlanders to address grief and/or healing toward feeling connected and safe.
Joaquin Lopez is a performing artist, musician, and counselor whose work is grounded in personal transformation, self-expression, and Latino Queer identity. In June of 2019, he released UNIVERSO, an electro-pop album that pays homage to his coming-of-age as a gay man. He is the oldest son of the Lopez family who for twenty years has run La Bonita Mexican restaurants in Portland. Joaquin manages a counseling private practice specializing in men’s issues, personal development, and the bicultural Latino experience.
Leila Haile is a Queer activist, dancer & tattoo artist. Through Ori Gallery, they curate space for Queer and Trans communities effected by white supremacy by facilitating exhibitions, art programming, political education, and direct action. After running an independent tattoo practice, they joined Constellation Tattoo Collective last summer, focusing on communities excluded from tattooing because of colonization, misogynoir, and ableism.
“Art is our most powerful tool for disrupting the dominant hegemony that drives oppression,” Leila Haile said. “I’ve had the privilege of building creative communities across identity, practice and ability and, as one of Portland’s Creative Laureates, I look forward to connecting, uplifting and mobilizing folks towards making Portland more equitable.”
Joaquin Lopez also underscored the importance of equity to art, and art to social change. “To move a community forward and foster change, we must support, trust, and rely on the authentic expression of the artists who live in it,” he said. “I’m excited to integrate my lived experiences as an artist, entrepreneur, non-profit manager, and mental health counselor to broaden the conversation about the arts, social change, and culture in our city.”
“Joaquin and Leila bring a wealth of lived experience, deep community relationships, and true passion for the future of our city,” Commissioner Rubio said. “I share their vision for an equitable and inclusive Portland where art grounds us to our community and to each other. They’ll serve our city and our creative community well as strong advocates for Portland’s diverse creative ecosystem.”