Our Community Engagement Working Group, led by Portland Opera Board Member Hugh Harris, transformed the way we work during the 20/21 season, building connections and stronger communities as our region reopens from COVID-19 closures.
In a time when families, teachers, and students were adapting to online learning and restrictions for gathering—Portland Opera partnered closely with Portland Public Schools to produce our Opera Elements program and curriculum. Designed to be a joyful celebration of our art form and empower students to express themselves through song and storytelling, Opera Elements included all of the components of synchronous and asynchronous learning and leveraged technology to deliver our school programming when we could not be there in person. Since that time, we have continued to develop our educational offerings, working with the Portland Parks Lunch and Play program to bring Opera Elements to children and families; and applying our lessons learned towards planning for future Portland Opera to Go programming.
In 2021, the Community Engagement committee spearheaded the planning and facilitation of special digital events in conjunction with our production of Journeys to Justice. Then, in spring and early summer, Portland Opera collaborated with Prosper Portland, Latino Network, IdeAL PDX, City Repair, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation to bring a colorful, vibrant, and very beautiful street mural to life in the cul-de-sac in front of the Hampton Opera Center and the Eastbank Esplanade entrance. The artwork was designed by IdeAL PDX (Yathzi Turcot, Jessica Lagunas, Daniel Santollo "TEKPATL," Alex Valle, José Solis, and William Hernandez). Special events and activations on the Plaza occurred throughout the summer months, including weekly Opera a la Cart performances.
While these wonderful partnerships come to life, the committee and staff of Portland Opera have also been in conversations about strategic goals for ongoing programs, how best to measure engagement over time, and how to work with stakeholders and community members to develop a meaningful civic, social, and artistic practice for Portland Opera’s future.
The working group includes Jenny Stadler of PHAME Academy, Jonathan Garcia of Portland Public Schools, and Dr. Leroy Bynum of Portland State University. In addition, the working group is comprised of Portland Opera Board members Curtis T. Thompson, MD, Linda Brown, Hugh Harris, Christine Lewis, Carole Morse, and Greg Tibbles; as well as staff members Sue Dixon, Alexis Hamilton, and Tracy Wenckus.