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Office of Arts & Culture

The Oregon Ballet Theatre's talented dancers perform.

Cultivating Portland's Cultural Ecosystem: Office of Arts & Culture

Commissioner Dan Ryan's leadership in championing Portland's vibrant cultural landscape exemplifies strategic City Arts Initiatives. His efforts aim to enrich the community's cultural vitality, promote inclusivity, and honor the city's diverse heritage, ensuring the arts remain a central pillar of Portland's identity. Under his guidance, these initiatives and their profound impacts on the Portland community showcase a deep commitment to fostering a thriving, inclusive, and dynamic cultural ecosystem.

Through these varied efforts, Portland's City Arts Program demonstrates a comprehensive commitment to cultural stewardship under Commissioner Ryan's visionary leadership. The city is cemented as a thriving hub of creativity, diversity, and cultural engagement. These initiatives underscore Commissioner Ryan's vision of a community where the arts are accessible to all and public spaces celebrate Portland's rich cultural heritage alongside a forward-looking spirit, strengthening community bonds and fostering a sense of shared identity among Portland's residents.

Portland City Arts: A Testament to Visionary Leadership

Before and after of the restoration of the Thompson Elk.

Thompson Elk's Restoration: A Symbol of Heritage and Community Unity. Under Commissioner Dan Ryan's stewardship, the initiative to restore and return the Thompson Elk statue exemplifies a commitment to melding Portland's historical preservation with community engagement. Championed with $1.5 million funding allocation, Ryan's advocacy underscores the importance of collaborative restoration efforts, ensuring cultural landmarks continue to inspire and unite the community. This project reflects his dedication to honoring Portland's rich heritage while fostering a dialogue that bridges past and present. 

Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC) building
  • Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC): Celebrating Black Artistic Excellence. Commissioner Ryan's oversight in reactivating the IFCC as a hub for Black arts and culture marks a pivotal step toward inclusivity and diversity within Portland's arts scene. By assembling a community advisory committee and directing resources towards artist residencies and public programs, Ryan is instrumental in rejuvenating the IFCC. His leadership amplifies Black voices and creativity and reinforces the city's commitment to equitable representation in the arts, fostering a vibrant and inclusive cultural community

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City Arts Programs Director, Jeff Hawthorne in discussions during the 2023 Art Talk meeting.
  • Portland Arts Grant Management: Expanding Equitable Access. Through Commissioner Ryan's initiative to open competitive bidding for arts grant administration, Portland sets a new standard for equitable access to arts funding. This visionary approach, distributing $1.4 million annually, aims to democratize support for artists and organizations, particularly those from marginalized communities. Ryan's efforts to streamline and diversify funding mechanisms underscore his commitment to building a more accessible and representative arts ecosystem, ensuring the vibrancy and resilience of Portland's cultural landscape.

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  • Complaint and Review Policy: In a move to ensure Portland's public art and monuments reflect the community's values and are responsive to its concerns, Commissioner Dan Ryan has proposed a pioneering draft policy. This policy introduces a systematic complaint and review process, providing a structured way for the public to express concerns and for these to be thoughtfully evaluated. The policy outlines clear criteria for review, ranging from significant public opposition, requests by directly affected individuals or groups, to issues of safety or relevance. Emphasizing inclusivity and transparency, Commissioner Ryan's approach invites extensive public feedback, extending the comment period to ensure broad community participation. This initiative not only aims to address immediate concerns but also sets a precedent for proactive engagement and decision-making regarding Portland's cultural and historical representation in public spaces, underlining Commissioner Ryan's commitment to a city that values anti-racism, equity, and community dialogue.

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Portland Monuments Project Logo
  • Portland Monuments Project: Crafting a Collective Memory.  With the support of a $350,000 Mellon Foundation grant, Commissioner Ryan's leadership in the Portland Monuments Project reflects a forward-thinking approach to public monuments. Ryan ensures that Portland's public art celebrates diverse histories and contemporary values by involving the community in reimagining these spaces. This initiative exemplifies his dedication to creating a public realm that embodies inclusivity, belonging, and civic pride, marking a significant stride toward a more cohesive and reflective urban landscape. 

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A concert put on in the park from the Our Creative Future team.
  • Our Creative Future: Shaping a Cohesive Cultural Vision. Commissioner Ryan's launch of as a regional arts and culture planning platform embodies his strategic foresight in nurturing Portland's creative sector. By seeking extensive community input, Ryan is at the forefront of crafting a comprehensive cultural strategy that anticipates future challenges and opportunities. His leadership in envisioning a sustainable and dynamic arts and culture ecosystem highlights a commitment to ensuring that creativity remains a cornerstone of Portland's identity and community well-being. 

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  • Legislative Support for the Arts: Championing Resilience and Innovation. Despite facing funding challenges, Commissioner Ryan's advocacy for Portland's anchor arts organizations amidst legislative decisions has been crucial in securing essential operating funds. His determination to navigate and leverage state support exemplifies a resilience-focused approach to arts funding. Ryan's efforts to sustain and invigorate the arts during critical times reinforce his role as a key advocate for cultural resilience, emphasizing the significance of the arts in community recovery and vibrancy.

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  • Creative Laureate Program: Fostering Cultural Leadership and Dialogue. The selection and support of Creative Laureates Joaquin Lopez and Jason Margolis under Commissioner Ryan's tenure illustrate his commitment to elevating Portland's cultural narrative. Ryan fosters artistic leadership that catalyzes community engagement, diversity, and healing by championing the Creative Laureate Program. His dedication to this program amplifies Portland's creative spirit, demonstrating his belief in the arts as a vital tool for communal transformation and enrichment.

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Under Commissioner Ryan's guidance, the City Arts Program exemplifies a comprehensive commitment to cultural stewardship, positioning Portland as a beacon of creativity, diversity, and cultural engagement. His vision and actions are pivotal in creating a community where the arts are accessible and where public spaces vibrantly celebrate Portland's rich cultural heritage and forward-looking spirit, ensuring the city's arts ecosystem remains dynamic and inclusive for all.