Our Community Engagement Working Group, led by Portland Opera Board Member Hugh Harris, has been busy building connections and stronger communities as our region reopens from COVID-19 closures.
In a year when families, teachers and students were adapting to online learning—the good and the bad—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.
In April, the Community Engagement committee spearheaded the planning and facilitation of special digital events in conjunction with our production of Journeys to Justice. The first event was titled "Curating Songs of Love and Justice" and featured panelists Ithica Tell, Damien Geter, Chip Miller, and Derrell Acon. The discussion was centered on the curation of the six pieces making up Journeys to Justice, and explored questions around race within the experiences of both creating and observing art.
The second event, was titled "You Are Here: Our Journey to Justice in PDX." This panel discussion featured Leroy Bynum, Eliza E. Canty Jones, and Dr. Carmen Thompson. The focus of the conversation was about contextualizing Journeys to Justice within a historical perspective, looking specifically at the origins of white supremacy, Oregon's racist past, and how current racism reverberates in the Black community today.
Both events were recorded with full participants, and also made available to audience members and educators as part of the Journeys to Justice experience.
This spring and early summer, we've also 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 can be found here.
While these wonderful partnerships come to live, the committee and staff of Portland Opera have also been in conversations about strategic goals for ongoing programs, and how best to measure engagement over time.
This committee meets weekly with community members, artists, educators, and stakeholders to develop a meaningful civic, social, and artistic practice for Portland Opera’s future.
Current community partners in this working group include Lisa Riggs of Gresham Barlow School District, 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, Diana Harris, Hugh Harris, Christine Lewis, Carole Morse, and Greg Tibbles; as well as staff members Daniel Biaggi, Sue Dixon, Alexis Hamilton, and Tracy Wenckus.