What an exciting honor to be entrusted with our City’s Arts Portfolio! It’s been a pleasure to work with Commissioner Nick Fish, the previous Arts Commissioner, and our collaboration is bound to continue in new and innovative ways through our newly assigned bureaus. By way of an introduction, I thought I’d share some of my background and experience in the arts, that of my staff, as well as a few of my priorities.
The arts have always been an essential part of my life. Family legend has it that I started singing before I could talk. I also had the good fortune of early exposure to the arts, including music and dance lessons, ceramics and art classes, music, theater, and other cultural experiences. I sang in choir all through school and played clarinet and saxophone in my middle school band. Although I am a lifelong bookworm, as a teenager and young adult, my social life revolved around music (followed closely by film). My first concerts were at legendary Portland venues like the Starry Night, Pine Street Theater, Satyricon, The X-Ray Café, and Blue Gallery. I also regularly attended First Thursdays (and Last Thursday House events). My favorite galleries in those early days included Jamison/Thomas Gallery, Blackfish, and Northwest Artist’s Workshop.
In 1994 I opened a small specialty bookshop called Reading Frenzy which was devoted to independent, small press, and self-published titles. It became a hub of activity for local writers, artists, publishers, and readers. A few years later my friend Rebecca Gilbert and I co-founded a space for Portlanders to produce their own printed matter called the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. I also exhibited monthly art shows featuring unknown, emerging, and sometimes established artists, as well as the occasional oddball collection. In the final years of the bookshop/gallery, the majority of our exhibits featured women, LGBTQ, people of color, and artists with disabilities. All told, I produced around 500 literary and arts events from 1994 to 2016.
Through Reading Frenzy I collaborated with many arts organizations and institutions including the Portland Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and PNCA - Pacific Northwest College of Art. I was also a flagship member of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, a group of artists, educators, and administrators entrusted with awarding grants funded by our Oregon Cultural Trust dollars, where I brought an emphasis on accessibility to the arts for people with disabilities and previously overlooked grassroots arts organizations.
The Arts Portfolio includes the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), the Arts Access and Education Fund, Portland'5 Centers for the Arts, and working in partnership with the City of Portland’s Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan. My hope is that as a city we can provide more funding, support, and opportunity for artists and institutions, especially for small organizations and emerging artists. Spaces to live, create and exhibit or perform work are obviously critical to a thriving arts community, so affordability will continue to be a significant focus of my work. And of course, equitable access and education are vital to our entire community, so I intend to expand the excellent work already being done in this arena with our public dollars. I look forward to advancing these causes to ensure that current and future Portlanders from all walks of life can continue to participate, enjoy, and benefit from our rich and diverse cultural landscape.
Finally, I am thrilled to be putting the decades of experience in the arts that my staff brings to City Hall to use. Marshall Runkel, my Chief of Staff, was the Arts Liaison for Commissioner Erik Sten and has served on the boards of RACC, Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center (previously Portland Community Media), DISJECTA, and helped numerous arts organizations and venues navigate our permitting processes. Robin Mullins, my Executive Assistant, has worked for nearly every presenting performing arts organization in Portland, including White Bird, Portland Taiko, and Portland Opera. And I’m delighted to announce that the Arts Liaison in my office will be Pollyanne Faith Birge. Pollyanne brings years of experience that ranges from her previous arts and culture policy coordination, outreach, and development for Mayor Sam Adams, to arts administration having served as Executive Director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center and the Oregon Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. She also has a wealth of experience in event management, having produced numerous arts-focused events for my office, from George Thorn Day to the Chirgilchin Tuvan Throat Singers to the Nat Turner Project to Dead Moon Night.
I'm so excited for our shared opportunity to serve, support, and shape the future of the arts in Portland, both inside and out of City Hall, with all of you!
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly