FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

RESTORING THE heART OF BLACK ART AND CULTURE IN PORTLAND

Oregon has a fraught history as it relates to Black Americans. Known today as America’s whitest city with a white population of 72.2%, and Blacks making up only 6.3% of the population, the state of Oregon, upon entering the union in 1859, explicitly forbade Black people from living within its borders. Decimating small Black communities has been a repeated refrain in Portland, with so-called Urban Renewal projects (we know them as Urban Removal), and today, a drive through the Albina District, a historically Black neighborhood, makes one's head spin in amazement and wonder – where did all the Black people go? New development and new businesses have replaced much of what once constituted sacred gathering spaces for Black residents.


But the story doesn’t end there, instead, the story is being renewed as the fate of the Albina Arts Center, is now being determined by the Black community it has served since the 1960s.


Albina Arts Center, located at the corner of NE Williams and NE Killingsworth, is currently owned by the North Portland Economic Development Fund and is leased to several commercial tenants. Supported by the Oregon Community Foundation, a new strategic initiative led by a visioning committee, will now develop a path for transferring ownership of the center to a Black-led nonprofit organization. The committee is representative of the Albina community historically served by the building when it functioned at its best and highest use as a community hub, arts center, and meeting place before new development took harsh roots and displaced hundreds of Black families and businesses in the area.


The Albina Arts Center Visioning Committee's mission is to: Define and drive a community-centered visioning and development process that will promote mutual understanding and collective vision for the Albina Arts Center.


This new initiative is representative of the power of community collaboration, centering on the arts! Learn more here.


A hardwood floored room with paintings of black faces and colorful abstracts, a sign that says "SOUL" and various other arts objects
Iterior of Albina Arts Center, courtesy Oregon Community Foundation website