Moments from the Community Healing through Art initiative

News Article
Woman outside with arm extended out and palm open to the sky
The events organized through this initiative will continue into 2022. Here are some of the highlights so far.
In this article

From the start, the Community Healing through Art initiative has sought feedback through conversations with diverse communities, with the guidance of former Portland Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan. These reflections are embodied in the chosen projects, which celebrate creativity, strengthen community connections and serve Portland's communities, especially those hardest hit by the crises of the last year and a half.

These public displays of art, with the goal of providing an outlet for grief as well as healing, have the potential to serve many different kinds of people. The beauty of these projects may come in personal interpretation or in starting conversation amongst strangers. Creating space for these moments, for the diverse ways a community processes emotions, can add to the resilience of our community.

 “If we take the historical and cultural approach, art has always been part of grief and mourning ceremonies,” says Ganesan. “Spaces where people come together -- dance, music, drumming, every culture has its own way of incorporating art into what we collectively think of as healing.”  

Find more information about when and where these events are happening.
Here are some moments from the events so far...

Ten Tiny Community Healing Dances 

Ten Tiny Community Healing Dances® became a virtual event in order to support the communities' health during this pandemic. On September 12, 2021, artists took turns performing on the Ten Tiny Dances 4x4-feet stage, their performance evoking a response to recorded narratives from residents of Portland’s Lents neighborhood.

Read more about the project here.
Experience the work of these choreographers in the video:
  • Anis Mojgani
  • Makino Hayashi
  • sophia tweed ahmad
  • Viva La Free
  • Shaun Keylock
  • Malik Delgado
  • Sweta Ravisankar
  • Jamie Minkus
  • Adrian Lobo
  • Crystal Sasaki

See Me. iAm. HEAR: A Creative Activation of Youth Voices of Color

A young Black man stands on a stage speaking and smiling
Photo by Jon Richardson/Portland Art Museum

This event was designed by former Portland Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan to empower young people, who organized and led this one-day street party that took place on July 31, 2021, in front of the Portland Art Museum. It was a celebration of possibilities, in the middle of downtown. There were creative experiences, such as poetry, journaling, print-making, podcast and DJ workshops, open mic, DJ-ing and free ice cream. 

A diverse crowd listens to a speaker
Photo by Jon Richardson/Portland Art Museum

Featured collaborators included the Portland Art Museum, Independent Publishing Resource Center, I am M.O.R.E. and Dr. S. Renee Mitchell, The, NAYA Many Nations Academy, Belise Nishimwe (2019 Poetry Out Loud Oregon Champion), N M Bodecker Foundation and A Beat Happening.

Here are three voices that represent the experience of the day:

Belise Nishimwe

"I am a poet, and so I was here today to showcase some of my poems.

My teacher once said poetry is a great way to showcase who you are because it allows a key to your soul. A lot of the metaphors that you use in poetry can be understood only by those who are willing to try to understand it. So I love poetry because it allows myself to just put everything on paper and provide this little key to a diary that allows the world to see my story.

This event was really amazing because I got to see a lot of Black joy happen here. I really got to see the different Black talents. And not just Black talents, of course, but a lot of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) talent specifically. This allowed me to see that this is something that is tangible for me, that art can also be a career for me. I think for BIPOC, you don't have that many resources or opportunities to showcase our artwork. And so because of this, I've been able to finally grasp the idea that maybe I could also make poetry writing a career.

It was incredible to see people love my poems and people just love on one another. It was awesome."

Ken Kawaguchi

A boy smiles

"My love for music came from when I started dancing, maybe seven years ago, and I've been going with it ever since. When I hear music, I get so excited. Music can bring people together. And, it's just something that really makes community and makes people have fun.

I've been DJ-ing for a year or so. Last summer, I didn't really have anything to do. So my mom decided to just jump the gun without telling me and ordered me a DJ set. And I am very thankful for that. She really is great.

This is the first time I've ever had an actual gig. It was really, like, cool to see the look on the crowd's face when I started DJ-ing --- just to be able to look at them and see everyone else having a lot of fun. I was really nervous at first and I was having a lot of jitters. It was amazing, just bringing smiles to people's faces and seeing other people dance.

Being around the (other youth) was cool --- to hear all the stories and the poetry and, like, what made them them. But it was also kind of sad when they were talking with the poetry, because some of the stories were really tough to hear."

Jospin Mugisha

A Black young man

"I'm here because I am a youth facilitator with I am M.O.R.E. and I lead a group of males that are more part of the performance that you saw today. I drew the posters and the fliers and helped orchestrate some of the things, like the live screen printing. I brought my clothing brand, B proud. And then I was selling my art as well. I represented I am M.O.R.E during some of the planning meetings. 

I don't know too many events like this where it's specifically geared towards showing light on the creativity of the youth. Every single booth that we saw today was cultivated or ran by a youth person. Even from the emcees, the DJs, everybody was of color and they are of youth. And so this was a very special event. It is very rare to see that because they gave us the voice and let us plan it, they let us create some of the things.

I am M.O.R.E. is an organization focused on helping Black youth work through their trauma and then cultivate that healing into something productive in the community, as well as using their talents and showcasing them in any way that's possible. Like, for example, today, a lot of the people that came up in the open mics were from I am M.O.R.E. and that's basically what it's all about. It gives youth an opportunity to lead as well."

A quick recap of previous events

  • Vanport Mosaic hosted “We the People,” part of the 6th Vanport Mosaic Festival in June. This festival provides opportunities to remember, repair, reclaim and re-imagine our collective story.  
  • Darrell Grant created the “Soul Restoration Project,” using art to transform and embody spaces. The intention is to activate cultural activity in a space that is underutilized in the Black community and bring an artistic lens to the process of healing and transformation.
  • Theater Diaspora worked with Asian American and Pacific Islanders that identify as queer, trans or LGBTQI+ in writing workshops that culminate with a short digital performance of these written pieces accompanied by photography and artwork. 
  • Salomee Soaug conceived “Expression Against Oppression x Save Art Space billboard project” – bringing eight billboards to neighborhoods around Portland, fully designed by BIPOC artists and raising awareness about the fight for more justice and equality.
  • a movement for Black art was “a gathering and diasporic repast” on May 30th – an intimate gathering at Peninsula Park to memorialize the Black lives lost to violence and to celebrate Black art and artists.  
  • Friends of Noise planned “Rose City Rising Vigil.” Seven candlelight vigils were held in May in parks across the City, culminating in a larger vigil at Pioneer Courthouse Square. These vigils acknowledge the emotional toll of the loss of life due to the pandemic and other causes.
  • Portland in Color will curate and publish a multimedia interview series showcasing three BIPOC artists — their artwork, process and shifts spurred by the pandemic. Audio will be captured primarily for transcription purposes and as archival material.
  • We All Rise organized Alberta Street Market, August 28-29, featuring Wonderful, Virginia Marting, Radiantbling, Beautiful Me Skincare, Sofia Fabrics and Crafts, Hat wigs, True Melnanin PDX, Mildren's Sweet Treets, PDXurbangardens and other local retailers.
  • Historic Parkrose presented End Gun Violence, a partnership with Outside the Frame to provide film workshops for youth in Parkrose, ages 14-20, to unpack how gun violence has affected themselves, their families, their friends and their district.
  • Portland Playhouse presented a series of free, in-person and virtual interactive experiences exploring and celebrating the rituals of loss and grief – through performances, art installations, workshops and discussions in North Portland September 10-18.

Community Healing through Art events are funded in part by the City of Portland, the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, and the Oregon Community Foundation. Special thanks to the Office of Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Office of Commissioner Carmen Rubio for their support.