Dispatch #1 from CRCI

Some background: the CRCI mural project is a 12-week art workshop in which participants will design, create and install a site-specific art project inside of Columbia River Correction Institution (CRCI), a minimum security men’s facility in North Portland. Through reading, writing, and art-making activities, participants will explore the concept of place: from the specificity and regulations of inside (CRCI as an institution, the interior rooms and exterior yard, the bunk) to the physical and emotional dislocation from outside (Portland, home, location prior to incarceration).

CRCI looks a little like this:

José_Where I live now

José’s map: Where I live now

José made this drawing in our first workshop a few weeks ago. After a lengthy conversation on how he and his peers negotiate creative expression in their daily lives both during and prior to their incarceration – which in my mind, only confirmed that creativity is a necessary survival skill, not a superfluous lifeskill – I asked everyone to draw a map of where they live now. I did not get specific on what counted as a map.

Reiko and I go to CRCI on Wednesday afternoons to work with a group of men who are interested in making art and thinking critically about place. We’re ultimately going to be designing, creating and installing a series of flags – imagine the flags flying above used car lots, flags marking the end of the swimming pool, or Tibetan prayer flags, floating on the wind – and we have permission to hang them throughout the interior and exterior space of CRCI.

We have spent the first few weeks getting to know each other and making things with our hands. In addition to maps, we’ve made accordion books by collaging from two sources: the Sunday New York Times and the inmate newsletter. I asked participants to use the book as a platform for making a self portrait by using image (only) on one side of the book form and text (only) on the other. I love working in tandem with other artists: it is a moment where we can essentially eavesdrop on each other’s visual processes. It can be strangely intimate.

I witness Bryan and Julian methodically search through their source material, clipping, gathering, altering, organizing.

The beginning of Julian's accordion book.

The beginning of Julian’s accordion book.

Bryan gathers material to collage into an accordion form.

Bryan gathers material to collage into an accordion form.

I watch José go for it, cutting and pasting immediately with no hesitation, and see Dennis’ love of “realism and sensuous colors” (how he describes why Botticelli is his favorite artist) show up immediately as he begins to create meaning from shapes and images.

A text spread in José's accordion book.

A text spread in José’s accordion book.

Dennis has become a master gardener while incarcerated.

Dennis has become a master gardener while incarcerated.

In the meantime, Cliff independently heads in a completely self-driven direction, creating multiple layers in the book with craft and white paper before he even begins to add other content.

Cliff's first layer.

Cliff’s first layer.

 

Cliff's second layer.

Cliff’s second layer.

Dakotah is wrapping up another program, and can’t fully join us until later in November. Each week thus far, he runs in on his five minute break to see what we’re making and assures me, every time, that he’ll be here as soon as he can. Curt came for the first time last week and decided that he was going to try to rearrange his work schedule so that he could participate. Even though he “isn’t an artist,” he thinks this project “sounds like a good idea.”

While I am honored to work with this group of men and grateful for the support of Know Your City and the administration of CRCI, making art in a prison is hardly a new initiative: whether visual, written, theatrical, musical, you name it, someone is likely doing it somewhere (just Google “art workshops in prison” and you’ll see what I mean). I also have no illusions that collaborating on an art installation with men at CRCI is going to somehow fundamentally change the vast expanse of the prison industrial complex in this country. However, it is an opportunity to talk with this particular group of men about their experience of displacement from their families and communities and current lived reality of a totally different place. With and through this art project, we are going to to try and create meaning from this fragmentation.

Look for more updates on the CRCI mural project soon. Don’t forget: Know Your City is in the middle of our Fall Membership Drive and when you sign up to be member, you directly support our work like the CRCI Mural Project. As a member, you’ll be able to delve deeper into this project through a talk back about the project and we’re working to make the show open to all members. Make sure we can continue these critical placemaking programs – sign up to be a member of Know Your City now.

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East Portland Newspaper Project Report Back #2

Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer talks to kids in our East Portland Newspaper Project program

Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer talks to kids in our East Portland Newspaper Project program

Some background: the East Portland Newspaper Project is a collaboration between Know Your City, Tim Schulze’s fifth grade students at Harrison Park School and the surrounding SE 82nd Avenue community, a neighborhood known for its multicultural makeup. For the past seven weeks students have researched the history, sociology and changing demographics of the area, and are now currently working to produce 14,000 free newspapers informed by their study.

There is so much to report back since I started work on the program in August, where to begin…We’ve had an amazing set of professionals and community leaders visit the classroom to share their knowledge and expertise to help students prepare for the task of writing a newspaper.

In the first few weeks of the project students learned about interviewing and researching from Brad Schmidt, a journalist for the Oregonian. Brad worked with the students to prepare and guide them through an interview with Mychal Tettah from the Community Cycling Center. Watch excerpts of that interview below.

Brad’s visit was followed up by an amazing photography workshop facilitated by Intisar Abioto and Julie Keefe. The students were able to apply their newfound skills in interviewing and photography in the following weeks as they embarked on a research tour of community organizations.

Students began their research into the history, sociology and changing demographics of SE 82nd street by touring the neighborhood and interviewing community organizer Karn Saetang of APANO, Michael Liu, owner and CEO of Fubonn, and Rosalin Hiu, owner and editor of Portland Chinese Times.

At the same time, the students worked with their classroom teacher, Tim Schulze, to learn about the state and federal government and to prepare for a classroom visit by Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer. Alissa visited the class to talk about her role as an elected representative for the neighborhood and the legislative process. Students interviewed her and asked informed questions such as, “Why are you committed to investing in our youth?” followed up by “How are you going to do it – and be specific?” Alissa has some great ideas – look for the report in our newspaper!

"Tio Polo" Catalani addresses students

“Tio Polo” Catalani addresses students

We also had an inspired visit by Ronault LS Catalani (Tio Polo). Tio Polo gave a wonderful presentation about human migration and diversity. The students were mesmerized by his presentation and learned a bit about other things as well, like why we don’t get sick even though the Earth is spinning really fast through space. One of the more remarkable things was how much the students opened up about safety concerns in the neighborhood and their negative interactions with police, showing maturity well beyond their years.

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Students opened up about safety concerns around SE 82nd Ave, which included gangs, lack of sidewalks and violence in the community

Eight student groups are now at work writing articles for the paper, with profiles on APANO, Fubonn, the Portland Chinese Times and Alissa Keny-Guyer, as well as articles about safety, food deserts, diversity, an editorial about electronics, a column about being new to America and a profile on the Harrison Park Community Garden.

Students are deep in the writing process and are learning the nuts and bolts of writing informational articles (simple expository structure, creating an organized plan, writing topic and detail sentences). This week we’ve had volunteers, Harry Stein and Diana Kerman, visit the class to help students prepare an outline for their articles. We still need additional volunteers – if you’re free Wednesdays from 1pm-3pm please drop us a note!

The deadline for the paper is drawing near and the students are hard at work preparing their research. Look out for the published paper to appear sometime in early December.

Don’t forget: Know Your City is in the middle of our Fall Membership Drive and when you sign up to be member, you directly support our work like the East Portland Newspaper Project – plus you’ll get a copy of the paper mailed directly to your door! Your financial commitment enables us to bring critical programming like this into underserved schools. We have several more youth programs in development, but can only expand with your help. Make sure we can continue this work and get a copy of the final paper – sign up to be a member of Know Your City now.

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Membership Drive: 50 more members to go

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Know Your City Programs Coordinator Amanda Tillstrom and Executive Director Marc Moscato present a slideshow of upcoming KYC programs at a recent house party

In September, Know Your City started our Fall membership Drive, needing to enlist 85 new and returning members by the year’s end to meet our annual budget. We’re thrilled to welcome 35 new & returning members for helping us get closer to our goal:

Jan Dilg
Joey Moscato
Laura Lo Forti
George Nicola
Kenan Farrell
Heidi Guenin
Harry Stein
David Cress
Dian Odell
Katy Wolf
Elizabeth Kreutzer
Jacob Deatherage
William Weismann
Deirdre Atkinson
Kay Hutchinson
Kimberly Pendell
David Parker and Annie Popkin
Doug Blandy
Sophia Mitchell
Richard Engeman & Terry Jess
James Proctor
Maggie McSwiggen
Susan Glosser
Rachel Bridgewater
Pam Peck
Rebeca Beeman
Sarah Warren
Karen Gloss
Emily Squries
Sarah Schaack
Nils Tillstrom
Keith Tillstrom
Janet Young
Annie Fitzgerald
Will Elder
Anmol Madan

While this is a great start, we still have a long way to go: we need to enlist 50 members in just two months. We can’t stress how important this. We need to be able to reach our goal in order for Know Your City to continue its important community work.

With the help of our Board of Directors, we’ve adopted a grassroots fundraising initiative with each board member hosting a house party to meet these budgetary needs. So far, we’ve hosted 3 parties, reaching out to new friends and old, inviting future and former members to parties across the city. At each party, guests mingled and listened to presentations on our upcoming programs this winter. Hosts, program partners and board members talked about why they believe in the work we do, and answered questions about the value of membership and support.

We have two upcoming parties (Sunday, Nov 16 and Sunday, Nov 23); please email us if you’d like to attend and we’ll send you the details. Interested in hosting a member party with us? We’d love your help! Drop us a line and we’ll let you know how to become a host. We can provide instruction, food and spirits (thanks to Elk Cove, R. Stuart & Co. and Ninkasi).

What does it mean to be a member? Firstly, it means that you support our work of empowering and amplifying marginalized voices. Our projects, like East Portland Newspaper Project, our multilingual newspaper project in East Portland, and our prison art program at Columbia River Correctional Institute, are funded by grants, but are also only made possible only be the help and support of everyday people like you. We rely on individual contributions to help meet our budget – and we need your help!

Membership also entitles you to receive benefits, as outlined below…

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In addition, we’ve created some great incentives for our winter and spring programs, including:

Basic/ Individual ($50) + Basic/ Household ($85)

  • East Portland Newspaper Project: a community newspaper about SE 82nd Ave produced by fifth grade students at Harrison Park School and artist Travis Neel – receive a copy of the final paper mailed to your door
  • Renter’s Rights: a comic/ resource guide on how to avoid evictions produced in conjunction with artist Becky Hawkins and Community Alliance of Tenants – receive a copy of the comic mailed to your door
  • Off The Map: a map of alternative cultural spaces produced in association with Travel Portland and illustrated by Kate Bingaman-Burt – receive a free copy of the map mailed to your door
  • CRCI Prison Art Program: a 12-week mural-making workshop with inmates at Columbia River Correctional Institution, produced under the direction of artist Emily Squires – get exclusive access into the prison to see the exhibition
  • PDX Social History Guide: the second version of our free history app featuring 4 new themes – get early access to the app before it is released to the general public, with opportunity for feedback

Ambassador and above ($100 and up)

  • Invitation to quarterly members-only events including:
    • De-Gentrifying Portland: A reception/ talk back with artist Sharita Towne on her project with youth in Portland African American Leadership Forum, in which youth with create short videos about displacement issues in N/NE Portland
    • CRCI Prison Art Program: A reception/ talk back with artist Emily Squires and program participants, including previewing the mural before it seen by the general public
    • Two more quarterly members-only events TBD
  • A limited-edition new Know Your City Stumptown T-shirt, printed on American Apparel shirts, designed by artist Justin Scrappers Morrison

Join now and help us reach our goal of enlisting 50 members by Dec 31. We can’t do it without you!

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KYC/ La Bonita day, last walking tours of the year this weekend

Reiko walking

Dr. Reiko Hillyer leads a tour of Old Town/ Chinatown for Know Your City this Sunday (rain or shine!)

Know Your City’s calendar is full this weekend – no matter the weather! This Friday, La Bonita North hosts a benefit for Know Your City. Then, on Saturday and Sunday KYC will host its 2 final walking tours of the year – our popular Sing A Song of Portland! and Old Town/Chinatown.

Please join us this Friday, October 24 at La Bonita North (2710 N Killingsworth St), where all day long, 15% of sales will go to the organization – what a delicious way to fundraise! We’re honored and looking forward to sharing a meal (or 2 or 3!) with friends and family where you can show support for KYC as well as a beloved local restaurant. Giving to the community is a practice that this family-owned Mexican restaurant has done for years, whether by donating time, dollars or dinner, they believe in participating in their community by helping out in a meaningful way to them.  La Bonita was recently named “Little” Big Player, which recognizes unique arts-business partnerships from the Business for Culture in the Arts. They are a big player in our eyes – this partnership can make a huge impact to our budget, and it’s an easy way the community can help support 2 local treasures – Know Your City and La Bonita. More info on our Facebook event.

The very next day, Saturday, October 25, KYC hosts the first of its final two walking tours of the year: Sing A Song of Portland! The tour is a troubadour-led, free walking tour with local musician Lukas Borsten, that gives you music history, social history and song, all together.  For example, you are invited to stand in front of Portland institution, Powell’s Books and sing the Decemberists while you hear about the literary history of Portland. You’ll also learn the story of James Chasse, a local musician suffering from schizophrenia who died while in police custody, sparking a debate about police accountability and mental health issues in Portland. Alien Boy, by the Wipers, is sung where this event happened. It’s a song memorializing conversations Chasse had with the band earlier in his life. This active engagement with history is fundamental to the value of our programming and to the value you experience from our programming. Tickets are FREE with donation to troubador. RSVP by clicking “Get Tickets”.

Lastly, on Sunday, October 26th, KYC winds its tour season down with a walking tour of Old Town/ChinatownReiko Hilyer, pictured above, will lead a group on a tour she researched and wrote as a member and volunteer with Know Your City. She has since become an active board member and valuable contributor to our programs and fundraising efforts. Reiko’s interest in Portland’s working class and immigrant histories led her to Know Your City, and inspired her to become an involved partner, and create partnerships from her circles. When you sign up to be member, you are also becoming an involved partner – you are directly supporting our ability to create and produce programs. Tour tickets are $20 – purchase them at Eventbrite.

While this concludes our public tours for the year, we will continue offering private group tours of Multicultural Portland and DIY PDX. Tour groups need to have a minimum of 4 people to run. For more information about booking a group tour, call our office at (971) 717-7307.

Thanks for a great year of tours! See you next year!

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Fall Membership Drive: The Value of Membership

Photographers Intisar Abioto and Julie Keefe teach a photo workshops for kids in KYC's East Portland Newspaper Project at Harrison Park School

Photographers Intisar Abioto and Julie Keefe teach a photo workshop for kids in KYC’s East Portland Newspaper Project at Harrison Park School

This fall season of KYC programming, the impact of our work has become clear. For the last three weeks, we’ve been at Harrison Park School, working with 5th graders to educate them about the SE 82nd Ave community, discussing inequities in East Portland and leading media making workshops through our East Portland Newspaper Project.

The students get it. Last week, class discussed an article in the Oregonian about green spaces and parks in Portland. The article details that while 80% of people in West Portland can walk to a park within 15 minutes, that number is only 63% east of 82nd Avenue. ”It seems like they’re cheating…” said one student, “It’s not fair.”

The class provides the opportunity for these students to learn about and discuss issues affecting their immediate lives – while also providing the opportunity for artistic expression. These are things that a Portland Public School classroom would be hard pressed to offer. Each week, amazing community activists and artists such as Intiar Abioto (Black Portlanders), Julie Keefe (Hello Neighbor), Brad Schmidt (Oregonian) and Mychal Tetteh (Community Cycling Center) have visited the class. This will continue in subsequent weeks, with class culminating in the production and printing of 5,000 copies of a newspaper made by the students, that is informed by their study of SE 82nd Ave.

When you sign up to be member, you directly support our work like the East Portland Newspaper Project. Your financial commitment enables us to bring critical programming like this into underserved schools. We have many more youth programs in development, but can only expand with your help.

There’s never been a better time to show your support and join as a member
. Know Your City is currently in the middle of its Fall Membership Drive. We’re off to a good start and have already been able to welcome 15 new members. A few weeks ago we announced new member incentives ranging from new publications, like the one produced by students at Harrison Park, mailed directly to your door to exclusive access to programs and members-only events.

Mychal Tetteh

Mychal Tetteh, Executive Director of Community Cycling Center, talks to students at Harrison Park about bicycling on National Bike To School Day

Want to join us and find out more? Our board has decided to implement a grassroots house-party strategy to meet our budget – and you’re invited! We’re currently at work planning parties where we can meet new people, invite old friends to re-join, as well as hear about new Fall Programs. Every KYC Board Member has graciously offered to host a party from now until December, but we still have a way to go to reach our goal of 85 new and returning members. Please email us if you’d like to attend one of our upcoming event and we’ll send you the details. Interested in hosting a member party with us? We’d love your help! Drop us a line and we’ll let you know how to become a host. We can provide instruction, food and spirits (thanks to Elk Cove, R. Stuart & Co. and Ninkasi). 

Know Your City has come a long way in the past 5 years – from organizing field trips for grown ups, to growing into an organization that produces engaging and critical programs, partnering with local artists, activists, community leaders and stakeholders and like-minded organizations. We wouldn’t be able to realize this growth without drawing attention to the equally increased need for member support, what amounts to a significant piece of our annual operating budget.

Becoming a KYC member is an easy way to support this important work that’s making a direct impact in the lives of our young people. Please consider signing up and showing your support – we appreciate it!

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Renter’s Rights report back #1

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A sampling of storyboards from artist Becky Hawkins

Since January, the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) and Know Your City (KYC) have partnered on a new and exciting project, the Renter’s Rights: Evictions comic book. Due for publication in December, the book will include artistic illustrations, creative storytelling and important facts about different types of experiences and scary moments that tenants can face in an eviction.

With this project, we hope to engage and educate tenants and non-tenants alike. Tenants will be armed with information and helpful tips, so that they know how to respond if they ever receive a termination notice, get locked out by their landlord, or must go to evictions court. For many people, learning with words and pictures is a better way to understand and retain complex processes and information. Non-tenants will read fascinating stories with beautiful and thoughtful illustrations, both uplifting and heartbreaking, that they might share with friends and family who are renters. Hopefully, those who read these stories will come away with a sense that sometimes these evictions are not always fair or just, and can dramatically impact people’s lives and our communities, and that there are things we can do to to change it.

In May, we put out a Call to Artists, to invite artists to submit applications and bodies of work, so that we may select someone who is a good fit for the project. The response was great, and we enlisted some help from great volunteers and community leaders, to help us narrow down the field and ultimately select a winner. In the end, we selected Becky Hawkins, of French Toast Comix, due to her unique illustration style, creative storytelling abilities and personal background and story.

Becky was really excited to work with us, and we assembled an additional volunteer team to help us craft the narrative, and make sure that the publication is accessible, interesting and understandable to all different communities and audiences. We have been amazed at the thoughtfulness and creativity from Heather Morrill, Matt Kinshella, Susan Mund, Antonia Arciga and Dung Ho. Each brings a particular insight, expertise and personal experience to the project, and we are tremendously grateful for all their efforts.

The book is now in its first draft, and in the month of October, CAT and KYC will be checking in with different folks and groups for feedback and tips to make it better. If you are interested in participating, please contact Dung Ho at the Community Alliance of Tenants. Or you can join us at CAT’s member meeting (membership not required), on October 23rd, 6-8:30 pm at the Augustana Lutheran Church, 2710 NE 14th Ave. We will have posters of the comic book on display, so that participants can read it, talk about it and give feedback.

Interested in supporting this type of programming? Sign up to be a member of Know Your City! All members will be mailed a final copy of the Renter’s Rights comic. Your support ensures we’ll be able to provide these types of collaborative programs into the future – and helps us reach our goal of signing up 85 members by the end of the year.

Check out the promo video for Renter’s Rights below, and view some of Becky Hawkin’s sample storyboards on the book after the jump…

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