The Regional Arts & Cultural Council (RACC) in Portland, Oregon has operated an artist residency series with the Portland Archives & Records Center (PARC) since 2012, part of RACC’s public art residency program, Intersections. In this program, an artist or artist team collaborates with PARC staff to animate the archives and connect residents to this public resource.
The RACC is a publicly and privately funded nonprofit that serves artists, arts organizations, schools and residents. Since 2012, RACC & PARC has hosted five artists in residence over five years. With funding distributed from the percent for art budget, the City of Portland Percent for Art Program has determined which departments may receive artists in residence. Through RACC’s residency program, Intersections, they encourage artists to explore new working methods and develop socially engaging, interactive art experiences in community settings. They have initiated additional residencies with the Portland Fire Bureau, the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, the County’s Health Department, and others.
In this program, artists are in residence with both the lead archivist and the collections themselves. The artist works closely with the archivist to gain deeper understanding of the collections and receives interpretative assistance from the staff. The program is driven by the question ?how can artists become ambassadors between the archives and the community??
Most recently, Sabina Haque served as resident artist, focusing on the evolution of East Portland over the last 100 years. Through investigating archive material, collecting oral histories, and facilitating theater workshops, Haque constructed a multi-media art exhibition that highlighted the process of annexation and growth experienced by disparate communities east of 82nd Ave, a major north-south arterial on the east side if the city. The project, entitled “Annexation & Assimilation Along 82nd Avenue,” debuted at a public event at a neighborhood art space and included 20 ft. large-scale video projections or hand-drawn animation, poster installations, and presentations of oral histories.
Primary partners include the Public Art team at The Regional Arts and Cultural Council of Portland, Oregon, the Portland Archives and Records Center and selected artist(s).
This project is funded by the City of Portland Percent for Art program, and has an all-inclusive annual budget of $15,000. The budget is intended to cover a proposal fee, artist fees, fabrication and production costs, travel, insurance, documentation, and any installation costs. The selected artist(s) is required to carry general liability insurance for the duration of the project.
An initial Request for Proposals is distributed to invite artists living in the Portland metropolitan area producing work in visual, performing, literary and/or media arts to submit qualifications for the artist-in-residence project at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center. A panel, which includes the lead archivist, selects the artists. Because the nature of the role is highly collaborative, the selection team searches for artists who demonstrate strong collaboration skills.
The selected artist begins a phase of research, working very closely with the archivists and the collections for 2-3 months. Rather than entering the residency with a project proposal, the artist uses this time with the archives to determine the content for their artistic work.
After these initial months, the artist then begins to construct their artworks. For the most recent artist-in-residence, Sabina Haque, this process involved interviews, collaborations with other artists, and working directly with schools and students. RACC and PARC have hosted 5 artists or artist groups in residence over the last 5 years.
Artists present their work at the end of their residency with an artist talk and public exhibition.
This residency program has generated creative projects that connect citizens to their histories and archival resources. Some of the successes of this collaboration include:
- The participating artists and the Portland Archives and Records Center learn to see the content and use of the archives differently
- Communities of Portland began to understand the value of these archives, how to access them, and their potential uses within their own lives
- Resident artists generated new ideas for their own practices using the rich content of the archives, often beyond the tenure of the residency
- The agency reached a new community and audience (including artists, students, seniors)
Temporary Public Art. Regional Arts & Culture Council. (2017) https://racc.org/public-art/temporary-public-art/
Image Credit: Regional Arts & Culture Council.