ART AT WORK is a national initiative to give municipal governments the powerful resource that comes from direct creative engagement. We begin by interviewing key stakeholders to identify critical challenges.
ART AT WORK employs creative intelligence as a vital tool for municipalities to leverage the talents of their own workforce as well as the communities they serve. In the face of increasingly complex municipal challenges and diminishing resources, ART AT WORK has successfully demonstrated that artmaking is a valuable, cost-eﬀective, sustainable tool to both address intransigent municipal problems and deepen the public’s awareness and appreciation of local government’s role in creating healthy, educated, engaged, economically vibrant communities
Health & Human Services Department with Artist in Residence Elizabeth Jabar
2 Locations • Immigrant & Refugee Services Challenges: increase city employees’ respect & awareness with regard to city staff diversity Strategy: create story & collage prints that reveal the staff’s diversity and love of Portland • Barron Center, City of Portland’s long-term care facility Challenges: increase retention rates of Nursing Assistants; improve teamwork Strategy: exhibit collage prints that reveal Nursing Assistants’ dedication and hard work
Ties That Bind is a series of art-driven workshops with employees of Health and Human Services, the city’s most diverse department. They are asked questions which stir dialogue and bridge barriers, and they respond with stories and images from their own cultural traditions such as maps, photographs, textile patterns, or iconic symbols. They explore their own heritage while learning about the cultures of their co-workers. Ties That Bind plays a powerful role in re-orienting city workers, politicians and citizens to the reality of Portland’s cultural diversity and in recognizing diversity as a strength and asset. The prints were exhibited at City Hall and now hang in offices and conference rooms throughout the department as well as being part of a blog where more stories and images can be posted.
How can neighborhood groups harness the power of art to help fulfill their mission?
From her position as an employee of the City of Portland, artist Marty Pottenger noticed that many public meetings were either poorly attended or did not seem to reflect the diversity of people that lived in each area. From those observations, the idea of Meeting Place was born. This project partnered with four neighborhood associations and a team of multidisciplinary artists to encourage new connections and relationships with residents who reflected the diversity within their own communities and to create artwork(s) that celebrate the people and places that make up each area.
The public engagement plan was the central component of the project. Monthly arts-based workshops were held on topics that aimed to increase civic engagement, pride, and unity and that would ultimately culminate in the creation of four separate neighborhood art projects, called “Gateway Arts Projects.” Each month Pottenger and supporting artists would organize one workshop in each neighborhood - all around a similar theme, which included: 1) Singing (leadership/fellowship); 2) Story telling (what makes this your community); 3) Photography (of locations that have meaning); and 4) Collage (visualizing demographics). Over the course of the year more than 38 neighborhood meetings were held, and each neighborhood helped raise the funds needed to support a public art installation, and create a neighborhood festival. At the end of the year, completely unique festivals were hosted in each of the neighborhoods – Libbytown, West End, Bayside, and East Bayside. These festivals included neighborhood open houses, guided trail walks, bicycle tours, BBQ, street pancake breakfast, storytelling, photography exhibits, Somali poetry reading, art exhibits, concerts and a (weather-canceled) neighborhood-wide soccer game.