Future Prairie Radio Season Three Episode Fifteen: Through Questions About Hands with Arcadia Trueheart
My name is Arcadia Trueheart, and I use she/her pronouns. I grew up in Portland, Oregon. The first and probably most significant influence on me becoming an artist was being raised by parents who are working artists. Art was always much integrated into my life. There was a seriousness about it because it was the work; it was how my parents made a living. I was involved in that. I was always on job sites with them and around their studio and making things on the sidelines. It was also integrated, and our relationship and are in play, and I'm an only child, I have a close relationship with my parents. We would go on road trips and spend a lot of time quietly drawing and painting wherever we were on the coast or in Eastern Oregon.
Art was also the unspoken religion of our family. By that, I mean looking closely, being observant, and appreciating beauty and truth. That was a big part of what they taught me or more, what they modeled to me, and my life growing up. Now I have a lot of gratitude for them for everything they taught me.
I wanted to be different than them and find a way to be my own person. I got into theater and performance, which to me, felt different than visual art. I was involved with circus theater with aerial dance and more traditional theater and acting as a teenager in my early 20s.
A big part of that was exploring my queer identity. I wasn't out at all as being gay at the time. I was curious about the different ways of being and how other people are. It felt this hidden something about myself that was different than other people. It made me curious about all the ways that people are, especially internally, and what we might not see about other people what their experiences are.
Over time, theater more became not this exploration of personalities for myself but learning about theater and social practices. I spent time living in Guatemala and Bolivia. In those countries, I had the opportunity to observe and participate in several different groups that use theater of the oppressed and theater in a healing modality. That has inspired my work, and it's important to me to have that social justice practice through theater. Stories should be amplified in that way and shared in that way, specifically by the people whose stories they are.
Handmade Stories, that project, the seed of that started when I was in college, and I went to Western Washington University up in Bellingham. I took this radical theater class, and we were supposed to create an assignment for ourselves that brought randomness into our work and chance. I made myself a series of clues to go around town and whoever I ran into a task if I could draw a portrait of them, but I quickly realized that it would be less intimidating for both me and the person I was talking to if I drew their hands.
The project was to draw their hands. I would do that, but while I was drawing their hands, they would start telling me about their hands. Through that, they would tell me all about their lives. There was one person, in particular, I remember who is a painter. He told me how two weeks earlier he had gone blind in one of his eyes and how, because his vision has had changed, he could use his hand, and his brush had also changed, which made what he made differently and changed what he painted. Stories like that fascinate me.
Several years later, I applied for a grant with Awesome Portland to do a project in which I interview people specifically about their vocation through the lens of their hands. I ask what their hands do in their careers and how their experience with that informs them. I began to see that hands could be a map.
I remember interviewing one person who is a farmer. He was showing me his hands and going through every scar or mark on them. Each of those held an entire story about his family — where he lived growing up, his culture, religion, healing practices. In that project, I displayed those drawings in public parks, and we invite whoever was walking by to come and write their story on the back of a pre-printed postcard. I sent all those postcards around. Everybody got a postcard from an anonymous other person in Portland with a story about their hands. It wasn't much part of that grant or that project between recorded interviews, but I decided to anyway.
When I applied for this grant with RACC (the Regional Arts and Culture Council in Portland, Oregon), Handmade Stories Live, the idea was to bring these recorded interviews to life somehow. I love interviewing and oral history, and that's part of what I studied in college. A transcript or recording that gets archived away somewhere doesn't do justice to the initial interaction's aliveness. Especially with that project, I was often interviewing people at their place of work. I was in the back of somebody's food cart, in their metal shop, or on their farm. Those were such rich encounters. I felt a selfish experience that I got to have this encounter and gifted with the stories of the people I was talking to.
I wanted to find a way to bring live performance, which I believe can bring much life and heart and energy to whatever the subject is. I can use these interviews as the inspiration for live performance using shadow puppetry, as well as live music and edited audio from those original images views and poems that I've written in response to them, and to combine that into a performance for the public to watch.
I started this project two years ago as a rebellion against technology or wanting to remind people of the importance of touch and physical connection and being in the same place as somebody. Also, to see more and more, jobs and skills that are done with the hands are undervalued and not paid in the same way, and jobs done with the hands touching a keypad are valued in such a different way. That was an essential part of the project for me.
How do I bring in technology? I do appreciate technology during this time, mostly, and that it's been important for many people. That's a question that I have going into the performance now: how to hold both of those things.
My work is connected to the body. It has been since I was 11 years old doing aerial dance and expressing myself through my body. Through learning about masks and puppetry, having an opportunity to create a body outside of a human, putting life back into an inanimate object, learning about other people's stories through their bodies, and asking people questions about their hands, I've developed my work.
This pandemic quarantine — I live alone — has made me look inward and start looking at my own body, which I didn't use to do. My art was always about understanding other people's bodies and stories. During this time, I started exploring, what is it to touch my body, and how does that experience look visually? I love painting and drawing as a visual language to describe an experience you can't express in words.
It's vital that audiences that the stories they are hearing will inform them in some way, which will inform how they are moving in the world in the future. My hope with that is for more curiosity and compassion, you know, hearing some people start understanding that these are people who live in Portland. Their hands hold a vast wealth of stories. Let's bring more curiosity into it. What are other people's hands like in this city and what do they know, and what have they experienced?
I want to continue along this path of exploring my body's interior experiences and sharing that technique — the way that I'm doing it. I'm exploring how it would work best for others to do it. Others can take the time to get them to get to know themselves physically and express that visually.
I've been working with a friend of mine who is a theater artist as well. We're exchanging images with experiences of touching our body and creating dance movement pieces inspired by those images. We're sending them back and forth to each other, which has been a beautiful way to connect that's not in-person or touching. It feels healing. It feels healing for my relationship with my body, as well. I want to bring healing into art. That's always something that I've admired in other artists.
I admire the artist Lily Yay, who's worked around the world. She's Chinese and has worked in places worldwide, creating art with people who have experienced a lot of distress. That experience of people being involved in their healing and collective healing, by going through that process with other people, is something that I'm looking forward to working on.
A significant influence for me is the theater of the oppressed, which is based on the idea that ordinary people — people who aren't necessarily trained actors or performers — are involved in practicing a future they want to see. Whether that is standing up to their oppressors, or interrupting discrimination and oppression, or creating better relationships with each other, you know, it's not a technique that I have spent a lot of time doing personally. It's something that I admire. that even outside of that specific technique, and it's a particular way of doing theater, but that all theater and performance should be a practice for reality. You know, it's improvisation, and it is real. It's this opportunity to create something real now, but that's a practice for life.
The biggest thing for me is having limits. By limits, I mean structure. Some of the limitations that, you know that are pretty easy are limits on what materials you're using, how much time you have to make something and how much space you have to make it in, and what you're making it about. If about, you know, if you had all the materials in the world in front of you, you can make something about anything. as much time as you want it to make it, it would be overwhelming. It also might not be poignant and specific. I would say to others that we all have these restrictions already. Be grateful to them, use them as a guide and structure, and limit it even further.
I'll make an assignment or an exercise for myself. I will listen to the news for half an hour, and I will make something for half an hour using only paper I find in the recycling bin. It's not the thing that I'm making is this masterpiece, but it is about the process of being creative. The whole debate about round process versus product, I do believe in a high-quality product. That is important to me. The process is about practicing, and it's about practicing being concentrated and absorbed in something and spontaneous within that and playful!
"Handmade Stories" was about limits and structure I made for myself. I was only going to draw people's hands, and I was going to ask them about their lives and talk about their hands. Having that limit, not asking about their experiences in general, brought up much more specific stories that illuminated who they were more extensively. Working on the "Handmade Stories Live" project for performance, I'm working on setting limits. I listen to the recordings. I'll type whatever words or phrases catch my eye and catch my ear and that I can type fast enough. I use all of those to put into a poem. I cut up small pieces of paper and make 20-inch drawings that are inspired by that poem. Maybe one of those ink drawings inspires a shadow puppet that I will make for the show. That can be done quickly, creating a limit of time and material and subject, and playing within those boundaries.
COMING SOON! :)
COMING SOON! :)
Hello, I’m Michael Davis-Yates. I’m a guy that makes audio stuff that I really like. And that’s my motivation for it. I was raised in Benton Harbor, Michigan as an adopted child of two really cool people. My mom was a teacher. My dad worked for the city and sang in the Lakeland Choral Society and St. Joseph Michigan. Through them, I got a real love for music. My dad was a jazz guy. And also, he worked with his vocal group. My mom was the president of our church choir for as long as I can remember, music was always a big part of my life.
As a kid, I was kind of an oddball nerd, and I spent a lot of time alone as an only child, even though I had pretty hardcore group of friends in my neighborhood. I always found time for myself to find things out by breaking electronics by accident and then taking them apart with a screwdriver to see what was inside. Junior High was a big one; I blew up my first speaker with too much power from an amplifier. The smell of the electronic smoking and the impact of the driver blowing out was pretty cool. I wanted to know more, and I kept with it.
I’m definitely not as outgoing as I’d prefer to project. My life as a DJ is an excellent example of that. It insulates me from the public aspect, because I’m out, but I’m not really out and available. I don’t have to interact that much. I’m a huge nerd. I still keep a day job, which was heavily brought to me due to Cstm Math and my speaker building. It all turned into a portfolio. Now I’m working for a company that I’ve been with for about four years that’s in Portland. We build studio monitor speakers for professional recording studios. That takes up a lot of my time. I’ve been DJing at night and on weekends (until COVID hit). Now I’ve gotten a lot more time to focus back into things and realizing that there is no rush. The ideas are there and working on them and making them better has been a great asset to me.
I’m making speakers and boomboxes. A lot of my boombox work now has been based around vector recreations of retro boomboxes, or imagination stuff that pops out. Yeah, that, imaginary stuff. I work with plywood mostly. Laminated plywood is my favorite thing to work with, stacking the layers of Baltic birch to get a really cool edge effect.
Cstm Math is a name that I came up with a couple of years ago for it. I’ve been building speakers since 2011. And at the time, I created a name, Leap — Lamar Exciting Audio Project. Lamar is my DJ name, DJ Lamar La Roy, and that was a thing. I kind of got jaded after a while of working with that, due to outside influences in my speaker building and decided to step away from that.
Cstm Mathematics came up during a point in time where I was reading up on the 5% Nation of Islam. They have a thing called supreme mathematics, which is the numbers one through ten with a symbol that represents a step of knowledge and learning, understanding. Reading through that, it felt kind of inspiring. It inspires me. Custom Mathematics means I do customized speaker work. I need to customize this because I definitely can’t focus on the pre-mathematics because there’s some problematic things with that whole ideology. But the ten parts were pretty prominent, and that’s where Cstm Math came from.
The public art showing was going to be in June, and it was going to be a straightforward showing of my works from the last seven years and up until the latest stuff that I’ve been working on. But over this time, I thought more about reaching out to other artists that I know from my experience in Portland to collaborate with work, and I believe that’s the direction that it will take. Now, as far as an in-person showing, I don’t know if that’ll actually be possible, the entire premise of that would be to have as much traffic as possible, and if traffic is going to be stifled by mandate, that’s kind of a non-starter. At the same time, not needing to produce this live event would open up a lot more time to dial in my website, which is in sad repair at this moment. That could be an excellent formal introduction to everything.
I will have a public showing. There are two parts that are going to be focused on in the showing, when it happens, in whatever form it happens. And that would be the retro design boxes, or things that are straight out of my imagination. When it comes to the ones for me, they’re a little bit more on the hi-fi side of things, where sound quality is the first concern, along with that cabinet construction being solid. And I laminated plywood, because it gives me the ability to mill out internal forms that you can’t make by gluing panels edge to edge, you know, traditional manufacturing processes. It gives a solid sound when you dunk on it, and I like that. Whereas the retro designs are more focused on the adornments which are...Well, it’s a combination of traditional table saw work, along with laser etching. I use a tiny laser in my basement to cut out single pieces. Imagine an old school JVC boombox has little silver buttons for tape deck, play, pause, and all that stuff, or tiny switches and small bezels over the speakers, all those parts, I’m cutting out singly with a saw or the laser, then reassembling them at varying levels of height to add a three dimensional element to the facade of these boom boxes. Vector art and tedious gluing.
As far as art making...the art part of it all is pretty much the main experience. If I can remember that far back, I’m getting pretty old now, I feel a professor actually mentioned that that might be the most essential part of any art — the process.
Living through things is going to be my lifelong art project. I’m a beautiful person inside and out. For the future, I have two things on my mind. I’m a strict nerd when it comes to what I desire. If I have a plan, I chip away at it until it’s finally executed. That’s what all this has been in roundabout ways that I didn’t predict. Hopefully, at some point, I will be creating a venue, but my central part is building a legally insane system that makes people feel something they’ve never felt before. And it’s mostly for that, not for profit, per se or the usual things. But I mean, the system is actually what it’s been called in my mind a lot, but it’s the space that would encompass a music venue, performance venue, with an insane sound system, hence the name. Al recording facilities. It would be a community hub type situation where people can do whatever they want without needing a gatekeeper’s okay to get in and perform or pay absorbing fees, or anything that. Kind of what Regional Arts and Culture Council does for people, except embodied in a tiny venue that’s a niche. That seems a farfetched goal nowadays with COVID dampening the parade. My biggest dream would be chilling somewhere, in a small manufacturing shop, making stuff.
My creative routine is not too creative at all. It essentially involves getting up for work early in the morning, going there, spending eight hours, getting off, taking about 30 minutes to breathe a little bit, and then going in the basement and looking around at what there is trying to get to it. I’m still in the baby stages of it, I feel, I haven’t really hit my stride. It’s more of a, I know if I can keep myself focused on the goal, keep on chipping away at it, I’ll get somewhere at some point. And the chipping away feels pretty good to me. I don’t have a problem with that.
We definitely need more art to get a lot of views across nowadays, especially for things that really matter, because we happen to live in a time where attention spans are very short. And it seems it’s something that’s done on purpose to keep people chomping at the bit of near insanity. To tell the truth, the last few years, culminating with now have been quite frightening. I wouldn’t say depressing, because it’s far too scary to get into a slump for me. It feels we need more art to like, allow people to speak without shouting over each other, and have a comment that actually lasts. You can walk away from your moment of anger and then see that again and say, “Hey, maybe I’ve caught a message here.”
Seek out help, because there’s a ton of support here. Portland is a beautiful city to live in. I can’t say that there’s any place I’ve ever lived in the United States that offers as much help towards its citizens trying to get a leg up doing whatever it is they’re doing. For a long time, I did not pay attention to it. It wasn’t until last year that I spoke with a friend who mentioned to me three or four more friends who had ideas and approached different entities and have their dreams come to fruition. If you have your passion, follow that passion, because that’s going to be the thing that drives you, no matter what.
Future Prairie, Wacom, and CreativeMornings/Portland are partnering to offer three Portland-based artists a creative basic income of one thousand dollars per month for three months.
Last night, we collected and reviewed 100 grant applications.
We will now spend the next couple of weeks discussing each project as a team. We hope to announce awardees by the end of September.
More info here: https://www.the-imagination-project.com/pdx/faq
My name is Ameera Saahir. I recently turned 74. I’m an African American woman, highly educated, I grew up in southwest Portland and was gentrified to southeast Portland; been here 16 years. I’m an artist and a business owner. I was looking into my ancestry. That's where the idea came up for the show that the Regional Arts and Culture Council funded. I’ve always captured stories and ideas. I found out from talking to family members that we have a narrative that has been circulating within our family at the family reunion. I took that information, the story, and I modeled my art exhibit after the milestones that the narrator had left for us. I took our family and I put it into historical references. Then I started looking into the story of the African migration. I’m from a large family. I saw family members becoming homeless, and I was like...oh, no. My own sister was living in terrible transitional housing; it became personal.
I went backwards instead of going forwards, and I traced through that story, and I looked at the housing. It started in Africa. I made some paintings of housing. There’s a slave ship called Minerva in my family history story. The woman who was captured and enslaved and brought here from Africa, well, her name was Minerva Jane. in my research, I learned—and I went, it took me months, but I traced it back—that was the name of the slave ship. That’s where our story begins. I have the narrative. I found records of the ship that carried my ancestors.
When my painting exhibit starts, it starts in Africa. Minerva talks about arriving in Virginia. She said she was put on the auction block. Slaves were being sold where Wall Street is now. I connect that to what we are seeing here now, which is squalid affordable housing. I was three months old in Vanport. I don’t have memories of it, only stories; I was only three months old. I was the first to go to college in my family. I finally made it. There I was in a private college in brand-new housing in my early 20s. Then they killed Martin Luther King Jr. while I was at Pacific University in Forest Grove and my dad said come home, come home...
It took me a while to get back to art school. When I finally went, I fell in love with oil. I’m an oil painter now, and I love to do abstract. As far as paint, there are all kinds, but I could never afford to use the best. I said to myself, I challenged myself. If I’m good, then I should be using the good stuff. When Regional Arts and Culture Council gave me a grant, they said, “What do you want?” I said, “All I want to do is to be able to use some good paint.” There’s nothing like it. I use brushes, but I also use the knife. It’s vibrancy, it’s color. I’m in love with color! When you put the good paint on the canvas, even a base coat, it’s like — bam, it’s staring at you! It affirms me, because now I’m confident in saying I am good. I deserve what I’m experiencing right now—feels good!
My name is Matt Manalo. I'm an artist based in Houston, Texas. I'm also a community organizer. I founded the Filipinx Artists of Houston, and I also run an alternative art space called the Alief Art House. Filipinx is basically the word that we are using to have inclusivity in our community from basically anyone who identifies themselves as Filipino, Filipina, and other genders.
I moved here in 2004, and when I had left Manila, I was already in college, and I was pursuing computer engineering. It wasn't the greatest. I felt it wasn't for me, and maybe I should think about another profession. I sought advice from my family, and they suggested that I should go into nursing. I did for two years, that didn't work out. I sit down with my parents, and I had to tell them that I wanted to switch to fine art. so around 2006, that's when I decided to get into the arts and get my education in that. Then in 2011, that's when I graduated with a bachelor's of fine arts and a minor in art history in painting at the University of Houston.
I've worked several jobs in the museum, doing install, doing some grunt work, security work, being a ghost painter. Finally, I decided to be a full-time artist and be working for myself, have my studio at home, and then building community through the Filipinx Artists of Houston and through the art house.
I mainly work in mixed media. I collect a lot of materials and, in a way, collage them to a single piece. I always try to include elements of drawing, photography, printmaking, and sculpture in them. My current work is, it also gives into the whole idea of breaking bread and being inviting. But at the same time, exposing some truths, ugly truths from history. Because I work in different materials, I have objects—and these are objects that are either made in the Philippines or use materials from the Philippines. I have a vintage placemat that was woven in the Philippines, and it was given to me by a good friend that I decided to reclaim and embroidery it with words that say "Not Your Brown Brother" on it.
I have two hardwood chairs, which my family and I brought from the Philippines when we moved here. But I started to carve on them and add encaustic wax on them as well, on the surface. There was a response to that poem by Mark Twain, which was a satirical essay titled, "To the Person Sitting In Darkness." it's those two chairs that are contrasting to each other. Then on top of the words that I etched out of the seat, then I put the encaustic wax on top of them. Inviting, but not.
A lot of my work act as a self-portrait, because I'm always identifying and researching about what the Filipino identity is. A lot of it talks about colonialism, being a victim of colonialism, having a colonial mentality as an effect of that. Then coming out of that, also trying to look back into pre-colonial history and how, I guess now we're trying to bring that back into our society, that wisdom and knowledge that we've used before we were colonized by Spain and the US.
I'm mostly focusing right now on the traditional way of tattooing, which was called batok. When Spain first came into the Philippines, they were surprised to see that everyone was basically tattooed from head to toe. We were called "Pintados." every pattern that was seen or that was tattooed on every citizen basically told them about their identity. That talks about their origin or their families or where their family originated from. It talks about their profession as well. To me, the whole idea of having like, your family tree basically tattooed on your body and what the body means, it brings so much excitement for me. I decided to also get a batok on myself.
One of the museums here in Houston, the Menil Collection, I was walking in there, and I decided to walk into their artifacts wing. It's in the museum that has always been familiar to me. But for some reason, once I started looking more into, there was a piece there that stood out, but it was a print of a Filipino covered in tattoos. , you know, his history or his story was basically, you know, he was from an Island in Mindanao, and he was brought to Europe as a slave, and he was shown like, in a human zoo. he was basically being exotified because of his tattoos and his—or the different language that he spoke, or his looks.
Unfortunately, he died with smallpox after a few months of being in Europe. Then they decided to skin him or take his skin off and display it in Oxford. I reached out to the Menil. Originally, I didn't get a response, but then I was already able to get in touch with their curator, and they want to do some programming around that artifact. Yeah, and I was super excited in finding it out, you know, that it existed there, because being a Filipino in Houston is, I don't know, strange, because Houston doesn't have a revolutionary moment in its history, like, the grape workers or the Delano strike in California for Filipinos in Houston, it's mostly professionals. We don't have anything to ground ourselves from other than not a festival in Houston where they brought Filipino natives and displayed them a human zoo, the ones that they did at St. Louis World Trade Fair. We as Filipinos here in Houston, we're trying to find something where it would — grounding ourselves as a community here.
Social practice hasn't always been a part of my art practice. It didn't start until last year when I founded Filipinx Artists of Houston. It's mainly a creative space in the community, organized for Filipinos, Filipinos and Filipin Xs who are looking for community and a sense of place to be creative here in Houston.
I had a conversation with Bridget Bray of Asia Society of Texas from an opening where they were showcasing Filipinx artists from different States. Around this time, I was meeting with Bridget, and we were having conversations about what it is, what does it mean to be a Filipino or Filipinx artist here in Houston. Then almost at the same time last year as well, I was also starting my Project Freeway Fellowship with DiverseWorks. The whole fellowship is basically about building an art project within different neighborhoods of Houston. So I chose Alief. That's also known to be the most diverse district here in Houston. It's also where I reside.
The Alief Art House is basically a communal space for artists or creatives, or anyone basically who wants to approach or communicate creatively. It's mainly for artists who reside or make work or have deep connections to Alief, which is a district here in Houston. DiverseWorks is an amazing arts organization here in Houston. It is run by five amazing women who are doing a lot of great stuff for the city, especially for artists. They put the artist first, you know, in terms of needs and making sure that the artists get gets paid and making sure that they're also getting a lot of other opportunities after fellowships or other projects that we've done with them.
I even talked about it on my last common field session on how Houston was a good place for an artist to be at because of where they're at, and, you know, there's funding, there's community, there's culture, but now that that's going to be a problem, what are the art institutions going to do to be able to support themselves? For me, you know, because I also run an art space and focusing on the live community, I feel in a way there's a silver lining to that. If you want to be progressive and you have to focus on where you're getting your money from because for myself, I'm not getting any funding. I mean, at the moment from fellowship, yes, but then to be able to run the space completely independently from all the things that we think is not good, is also paving the pathway for a more progressive approach into programming and how to be able to support other artists in the community.
An ideal future for me would be able to build a community that is able to sustain itself creatively and in ways where spaces are provided for everyone and by everyone, meaning people with disabilities, people who are immigrants, who are black indigenous people of color, people of different genders. Basically, a completely inclusive community that's able to sustain itself creatively. That would be the future that I am dreaming of.
I feel with my personal work, I'm making that for myself, from my own research and from my own—to satisfy that voice inside my head, because it is also my personal work and my way of decolonizing myself. that that's where my community, the Filipino Artists of Houston comes along and having a space the Alief Art House, you know, comes along as well, because with the Filipinx Artist of Houston, we're also trying to collaborate with other communities and not only with Filipinos and mainly Filipinos, but we're also trying to collaborate and do projects together and how we can together fight problems racism or transphobia, or homophobia. Especially for undocumented folks. Then for the art house, you know, basically providing a space, even for folks, you know, not being judgmental of where folks are in their career, being able to have a space where they can promote, or they can express their creativity with the guidance of a community that already exists around it.
Those are the two things that will achieve or help achieve that feature that I dream of. Before this whole pandemic happened, I was trying to work with local high schools within Alief and try to showcase like, whoever was going above and beyond homework in art classes, and be able to start that conversation of is art a career that you're looking into, and you're having problems with trying to convince your parents, you know, thing.
I'm trying to be a mentor in a way because I also have the backing of some art institutions here in Houston. Being able to be a source of guidance is one of the goals of the Art House and being in the community we're in right now. It's important that we dig into something that we're passionate about or a conversation that we've been having that we haven't had any type of courage to bring out.
I wanted to have an art space in Alief and, you know, I'm not a great writer either. Being able to reach out to some friends and see like, you know, having conversations basically, and then maybe help them look over whatever your application is, then go for that. Because it's always good to look outside of ourselves and seek guidance on a lot of things, you know, even like, if it's an art application or if you want a project done.
Anything personal is always the best way to express ourselves, because if it's not personal, then you know, that thing is going to exhaust itself quickly. I'm speaking from experience. I've done work that didn't speak to me at all, and I've quickly had to paint over them right away. It's the most that I've struggled with, but when it was something personal, you know, I knew the story. I know what I'm talking about, so my art comes up easily.
I'm Olga, a Slavic artist, live currently Manchester. And as you might notice, I'm from Russia. I'm full blood Russian from the center of Russia, where the three countries connect together. I really enjoy shamanic wisdom, shamanic knowledge, and I consider myself a shamanic practitioner. I do enjoy helping people to awake and manifest their full potential, full power through their senses, through their connection with nature.
Everything I work and everything I do come as intuitive channeling and intuitive download. Living in Mount Shasta, I started connecting with the elements naturally, purely, directly, it's all connected and intermingled together. My choice to spend more than 80% of my day in silence, which mean communion with the nature, communion with elements, seeing the micro movement of the leaves in front of my house, how the flowers become berries. This is my classroom; this is my university of life. And when I commune with all these elements, my own sharing becomes so strong, so I cannot hold this anymore, so I go ahead, and rest of the time, I spent time with the people to share this inspirational creative flow of life. And when I share with people, they're like, "Yes, I already know there's...It's something in me, telling me that’s true.”
The most luxurious, divine gift each of us can to your own self is to go sleep and wake up in silence. I make my fingers moving right now, because silence doesn't mean nothingness. The silence, it means no sounds of the cars, trucks, people voices’, Wi-Fi routers. Every random sound removed, and you just wake up with the sounds of the existence itself; with the sounds of the birds, wind, maybe water. This, for me, is a silence. If you spend a lot of time in silence, when you’re with the people, you’re sharing your communication, your co-creation with people, you'll be more pure, more divine, more full of meaning.
Experimenting with that. See how one day - what if you don't hug people, or you don't ask how are you? What if you just be in yourself, and see how you feel by the end of the day? The more you start working on yourself and tuning into your power, everything start making sense. How person look at you, how person approach you, how person greet you, everything start make energetic sense through the eyes, through the smell, through the body position, through the touch or not touch, through how long you spend time, how many seconds we spend together, it all make sense and affecting me or the other person energetically.
When I’m fully in me, fully awake, fully understand, then when I talk, communicate, or touch people, I experienced the energy. Either energy make me feel good, or feel drained after that. So now I become very conscious, if I don't want to do anything, I don't do it. Just talking about boundaries, everyone say, “Yes, we need to practice this more.” Especially, you as a woman, I'm woman, and it's always in trend to talk about spiritual trends, to talk about boundaries. And every time when you think you achieve something and you like, polish this, feel secure, something else come up to you to challenge your boundaries, to challenge the way you approach this, and then something again can happen. So there's always something different and something new come to life to test you about your boundaries with physical body.
With me being from Russia, living in certain cultural flow, I feel a little bit more awake maybe from everyone who may be born here, because my mind has not adjusted to…For example, people asking ‘how are you’ constantly, and I feel very sensitive to that, because I take everything so deeply and seriously and somebody's asking me how are you? I do want to experience and feel from this person the true asking of that meaning, and you have time to listen how I am. And if you're so sensitive and you feel my vibration, you don't need to ask how are you, you can scan and feel it, instead of asking. Everyone wants to hug each other. Sometimes I ask is this what it’s doing for you this moment?
[Drum Beat] Find a way to find your own way, your own way. Not my way. Not Lady Gaga’s way, but your own way. When you find your own way, there’s very little competition. There's no competition. There's abundance, no competition, and no comparison.
[Drum Beat] One day, I happened to be in festival, it’s called Firebrands, where at the end of the festival, they offered the fire walking ceremony. It was hundreds of people drawn in at night. It was a powerful experience. My first time walking by foot on the hot coils; it’s called firewalk, anyway. In that moment, I was very—was in dark state of my life suffering, and I screamed to the skies, screamed to the air, “Please help me, give me direction, make this happen!” I walked on the hot coils, and after I finished this walk, something changed in me.
I went to the people at the fire, I say, “I want to do what you do. Teach me, help me.” I go directly to the elements, to the gods, to the pure beginning of the beginning. And from that, now I manifest my life as this beautiful, abundant, happier, freer, purer, and innocent.
Fire element is the element that comes from the sun. Fire element is in us, so walking, walking, walking, talking, making love with the fire is a life-changing experience, truly devotion. Not just experience fire as a little camping fire, bonfire; devotion to the fire, learning about fire, approaching fire as a live being. I started living with the fire for a while. A few years ago, start holding the fire ceremonies in Mount Shasta. It takes time. I started seeing shift maybe after one year working with the fire. I started seeing the spirits of the fire with physical eyes. I started listening songs from the fire.
[Drum Beat] My music become music from the flowers, from the trees, from the birds. The music not coming through the ears, but music come in through all the skin, through all this…Every cell of the skin become a receptor, receiving the sounds frequency, and suddenly, you start listening music from flowers and it's very beautiful, angelic sound, angelic music.
I, Olga, I say thank you. I'm grateful for the time you spend with us today, because your time is a gold, your time is jewels.
My name is Claire Blaylock, and I'm the executive director of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon. I have a background in public history, museums, and urban spaces. I work on art educational programming for AFO, and it's an exciting time because we're transitioning to a lot more virtual programming. There are exciting opportunities for community engagement and access to architecture and the arts across the state. My pronouns are she and her. About the future from the perspective not only with the architecture field, and the built environment communities I'm sort of looking towards, but also a parent of three young kids. A lot of what I do, I'm thinking about what kind of world we're creating for them.
I've been super lucky to have the opportunity to have a pretty extensive background with education. Education is the silver bullet. So from that lens is how I approach not only what we do at AFO programming but also my values as a community member in Oregon.
I came to architecture sort of from the field of public history, which is a big catch-all area of study. General history is how events kind of leave a mark on the world around us. One of the pieces of research that I did when I was a graduate student was actually around sort of epidemiology and how the cholera epidemic shaped industrialized London. I used a computer mapping program called GIS, and I was on a team that looked at how infant mortality rates corresponded with slum clearance and changes in different areas of London.
There's this strong trend to see the built environment changing as a result of the kind of situation that we're in with a pandemic, but just with like, a public health mindset, what you're going to start seeing our communities focused on urban spaces and focused on environmental health.
You're going to see a lot more open-air buildings. You're going to see, from an office perspective, hopefully, people moving away from an open office plan and into slightly more boxed off spaces, which is both a good and a bad. But from a creative perspective, it will force designers and the architecture community to think about what people are after when they're using a space, and what's going to make them feel comfortable. That's something that I've seen a little bit talked about, is people are going to be nervous about being in large groups, and around people they don't know for quite some time, even after we get a vaccine for COVID, that kind of anxiety is going to linger there. With that in mind, how do you design a space? How do you change that experience so that it's something comfortable for people?
The Architecture Foundation of Oregon has been around for over 30 years, and we are made up of all the people who are involved in architecture, that's not just architects, that's architects, construction, engineering, artists, designers, the people who use the buildings that are created. Architecture is an all-encompassing term.
AFO operates from the point of view that our communities are healthier when more voices participate in creating our world. It's not just one point of view that should be represented in how our communities are designed. We believe that the sort of strategic thinking and the creative thinking that frequently goes into the design process is a transformative approach for both the designers and the professionals, but also community members involved in the process.
We take that idea and that mission of participation, and we execute on that through educational programming. Our third through fifth grade program, Architects in Schools, is our flagship, probably our most well-known. In the 2018/19 school year, we were in 174 classrooms across the state and served 5400 students. But we're also working on building our educational programming through Hip Hop architecture, which is aimed for middle and high school students. We also support our burgeoning professionals with our Hatfield scholarship, which is given to a college student, and then our sort of mid-career professionals through the Van Evera Bailey Fellowship. We do a lot—we do a lot.
We as an organization, from an AFO perspective, we've taken access to heart, and access as a key to something fundamental about our mission, because you can design all these beautiful buildings. You can create these fantastic communities and worlds, but if people don't have access to them, then it's elitist and more divisive than anything else. It's access to those kinds of spaces.
I firmly believe in access to architecture, design, urban planning, all of that, and its access to that as a career choice. You see so many students who don't even know that it's necessarily an option for them. the ones that do are pretty speaking for the architecture in the architecture realm, they take a look at the field and realize it's at the top levels, at least, very, what I jokingly say is "male, pale and stale." Education is the silver bullet. You know when you cannot be what you cannot see. It's such a huge responsibility, for us, as a community to go out and cultivate diverse voices and opinions and participation at an early age.
We are excited to work with third to fifth graders. Some folks would say, "Look, why are you starting that earlier? Why are you focusing then?" it's for so many reasons, but not the least of that—when you start this kind of creative problem solving, it is original, thinking early. When you begin presenting careers like architecture and design and urban planning, when you start giving that early as an option, you know, it sticks. You're cultivating that little seed, right? That's what you're hoping to grow because none of these fields will change unless you get diverse voices involved. That's important.
You bring in new perspectives. We're not just talking about ethnicities here. You're also talking about different social classes or economic classes, excuse me, and different abilities. What does it mean to design a building for someone who's differently-abled? What kind of skills do you need to be taking into consideration? Then also, just think about the user. As a mom, I spent a long, long time looking for places to either pump or nurse my kids when they were little. If you're designing a space that is ostensibly for families or anyone, always include moms. What do moms need? What do people want to see in the area they are using?
It's refreshing to watch the architecture community, which in some ways, and I don't feel bad saying this, is slow to change and can get set in their ways. But it's been exciting over my involvement with AFO to see how architecture as a practice and as a community, including more than architecture, is changing. You have some great leadership going on. Especially here, Portland, lever architecture is doing a lot with CLT and mass timber. you're seeing how companies like Adidas, double down on that and say, "Okay, if we want to take sustainability seriously, we've got to start designing like we're taking sustainability seriously." But even more than that, you're starting to see these conversations around how environmental justice is social justice. That's, I think, going to be a massive theme that we're going to see in design as we move forward. Environmental justice means access, right, access to a pleasant, healthy, clean environment, things like clean water, green spaces, fresh air, clean air, and the ability to get outside and feel safe in that kind of situation.
We as Oregonians feel proud that we have this vast, natural world that we get to go and enjoy. But that's not the case for everyone. We've seen a few events that have kind of highlighted it, not necessarily here, but as the Flint water crisis is undoubtedly a great reminder of that. But to have any sort of social justice or social equality, you have to have access to clean and healthy environments.
One of the pieces from an organizational perspective and working in the nonprofit sector, one of the things that you see is that a lot of sort of the up and coming generation, "millennials," one of the things that matters a lot to that generation according to the data is the mission, right? You don't want to support something that's just next, you want to help something that's going to make a difference. From a fundraising perspective, it tells our story and the impact that we have from an AFO perspective, we have a huge impact, and we have a lot to talk about with that. From an education perspective, AFO is trying to look forward when it comes not just to trends within the architecture and design community, but also like, what kind of world are we preparing these students to be part of? How does our programming reflect that?
We were getting ready to start a curriculum redevelopment when the pandemic hit, so that's going to change a few things, undoubtedly. But we also are... even before the pandemic. We wanted to go through the curriculum and update it to include more about equity and inclusion in the design process and environmental sustainability. It's vast—It's going to be the number one issue that the up and coming generation faces.
I hate to keep bringing it back, but one of the things that this situation has illustrated is that broadband and internet access is something that should be considered a utility. Once that is more equitably available to folks, regardless of who they are and where they are, the educational opportunities are pretty boundless, at least from our perspective, with kind of some of the virtual learning and the virtual teaching that we can do as an organization, especially into communities that don't necessarily have architects or designers who maybe live there. But if we can bring them virtually to classrooms, that can have a considerable impact. I'm hoping that when we see the future sort of arriving, it's a future that is far more inclusive and provides a lot of access to these fields using whatever methods we can.
You shouldn't be afraid to try things that don't work, experiments. That's a fundamental principle. When architects and designers are kind of sussing things out and puzzling things through, is they try a lot of things that don't work and a lot of ideas that don't pan out necessarily, but it's all part of the creative process, right? You have to try a lot of things to get to your endpoint.
But I also think designing and making choices for your life and your environment and your space, and all of that that meets the user needs is super important. That sounds basic, but think about what it is that you need, what is it that makes you function as a person? Trying to design around that, be it, making choices for your career and the people you surround yourself with, all the way to, you know, where you put your kitchen table, and how you organize your cabinets in the bathroom, those types of things. That perspective is valuable.
There are two pieces that I kind of go back to consistently. I have a background in theater, and it's something that I wish somebody had told me when I was a young performer, but I always go to Ira Glass' piece on: "It's okay to make bad things when you're first starting. It's incredibly essential advice. But it's about this idea that you can't expect to be…If you sit down to write a novel, you can't expect to be a genius right out of the gate. It's going to take some trial and error. It's okay, that is part of the process. Don't think of art, and don't think of your creative outputs as merely an end goal. The whole journey is essential. That's something that Ira Glass talks about just beautifully, beautifully. The second one is in times of crisis, make good art. in times of change, make good art. when nothing makes sense, make good art. It just speaks to the heart of what I want to be as a person.
The built environment and architecture, in general, have the opportunity to be so transformative in people's lives. Because we can create better spaces, we can create spaces that nurture and support and encourage people to be their best selves and to be happy, and to thrive. That's a critical concept. It's keeping that in mind in the design process. It's exciting to see how our folks are doing that. There's a fantastic project that is happening in Portland. It's a collaboration with a couple of architecture firms and construction companies called the Living Building. There's been some press around that, but it's one of the first living buildings in the country. It's going to have everything from composting toilets to green roofs and reusable and sustainable energy sources for all of the building's power. It's a pretty incredible piece of design that's happening right here in our state.
If that becomes the standard moving forward, I mean that every building has to meet a certain degree of sustainability right now. But what if we raised the bar? What if we asked people to reach even farther? It's always amazing to me how people rise to the occasion when presented with new challenges.
One of the development companies leading the way on that, and showing people how it can be done, works with our organization. We've seen amazing collaborations between the nonprofit environment and developers. You can do it. Kevin Cavenaugh, who runs Guerrilla Development, did a TED talk in Portland a few years ago, and he talks about the concept of "enough," like, what is enough? That's a vital mind frame when you're going into development in the future of, you know, what is enough? What is enough for you to meet your costs and to make an appropriate amount of capital, but that doesn't force you... but it will allow you to prioritize other things that are better maybe for the community and the environment and for the people you're building for, rather than the bottom line. It's a different way of thinking.
My name is Matt Dan; usually go by he or they. I’m 28 years old. I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada; lived there until I was about five. My parents moved around a lot. Moved up to Oregon and lived in different places around Oregon. I was homeschooled for a while. For some reason when I tell people that they’re like, “Oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.”
My dad worked in law enforcement,there was some, you know, conservative. We also took in a lot of foster kids, and that was wild to get a view up close of many other kids my age growing up and their sort of experiences, and also started the system that put them in the house. I grew up religious, under this sort of branded, very, commercialized, kind of Christianity with VeggieTales in the Bible men, and all this stuff. It was just a pattern in my life of , identifying these kinds of contradictions and trying to reconcile them in some way.
I’ve been making animation on and off in different contexts for probably the last 13 or 14 years or so. I got started making little Lego animations in high school, and then from there, I started making more and more elaborate things. I was lucky enough to be able to take an animation class during high school, and by the time I graduated, I finished my first hand-drawn animated film.
I went on this misguided mission’s trip to Russia and lost my religion through that experience. Definitely a culture shock experience and all that. It was weird because over there, it’sBaptists and Evangelicals are considered to be something of a cult there. You’re either atheist or you’re orthodox, and everything else is looked down on. Because they were trying to create American style commercial Christianity in Russia basically, we were passing around these things for this concert, you know?
Somehow, I guess, the FSB or some security agency, heard about them—next day, there's 10 cops outside of the church or something to send a message, but…I remember talking to random people on the streets , what they are ere having us do and just having a moment of , “Okay, what on earth am I doing here? What am I...? Who do I think am?” I realized, , I don’t know if I believe this stuff that I’m spouting out, and maybe I’m, kind of, my motivation was to go on a little adventure. I took a train ride south from Moscow — historical context, I guess, during World War II, that was one of the points where the Nazi invasion turned around. There are a lot of used AMS there for that sort of thing. It’s pretty, some big deal there. They had 20 million people die. From their point of view, “We did the work, and the US came in afterwards and swept that up.” It’s interesting to get that direct perspective there. I think I was somewhat disillusioned with Christianity or religion by the time I went there.
After that, I came back home. I enrolled at Portland Community College. There I kept on taking art classes because I knew I was interested in art. I wanted to continue pursuing being an animator. I had a pretty good time at PCC; I did a lot of painting, sculpture, theater. I got involved in the theater classes there and did a lot of video work for the theaters. While I was there, I also made another short film called Pinko Cowboyo. Sort of towards the end of that, I was pretty set on going to art school. So, eventually, I settled on PNCA. I started getting into doing a lot of interactive installations.
As an artist, I enjoy getting into sort of the technical aspects of making things. I made a lot of animated installations, interactive installations. I enjoyed that for a bit, but after a while, I started the novelty of it and just having it within an art space. It felt a one-liner to me. I knew that I wanted to do more narrative-based work, but there was a limit. You know, when you walk into space and play with the thing and then walk out, there is a limit to how much I could do with that. I finished my thesis at PNCA. I did it on ‘Environmentalism on Pause in the 21st Century.” It was a combination of sculptural work and some animated video that I had made. It is basically about that sense of..., that disconnect from this urgent thing that’s hanging over our heads that affects our survival.
Nighttime Science, we started around 2015. We originally started as sort of this community-oriented scene, we decided to focus it on Beaverton, Oregon. Because me, and Hector Estrada and Charlie Brewer (shout out to them) we decided to collaborate on this project. At first, we put up posts on Craigslist, and posts around town and just asking for submissions, social media and such. Hector and Charlie were born and raised there. I’ve pretty much spent all my teenage years there. We say, there’s nothing about this space, and we’re familiar with this space.
We did a few issues that were just compilations of poetry, art, short stories, things that. After a while, we switched gears and started focusing on making artists additions with artists who had submitted with us, sort of do, you know, focusing on , let’s give this to an artist and let them do whatever they want with it, and then we’ll pedal it around and do this, and started taking it little more seriously after that.
The 2016 elections were a big point for us when we realized, hey, politics is life or death, this isn’t just silly, you know, you can’t just be absurd about this stuff forever. But around that time, I had also wanted to, you know, after pushing other people’s things for a bit, I tried to make my own thing. One day when I was driving around, I came up with the idea of, oh, what if I recontextualize Beaverton, Oregon, as this futuristic cyberpunk place? What if I took Blade Runner and married it (or more particularly probably Akira) to Beaverton, to create this uncanny resonance between this familiar mundane place and fictionalizing it?
I spent a few years on that. The project grew bigger and bigger. Then we finished it, and it’s this eighty-page long graphic novel. We self-published it. Think while I was working with other artists, I figured out some things, oh, here’s how I can get an ISBN, here’s how I can contact different comic shops, and we just distributed it myself, you know?
Luxury Gulag is a two-part narrative project. It consists of 22 pages, well graphic novel, and then it continues on with a point and click adventure game on the computer. The premise of the game is that it’s set in the same sort of universe as Beaverton 2200, but set in the people’s utopia, Tacoma, and it’s set in this rehabilitation center for reactionaries, Nazis and jerks, you know, sort of people who can’t get along with it, or get with the program.
The game itself is stylized after a lot of point and click adventure games 90s games: Freddi Fish, Hot Pot, Secret of Monkey Island, stuff that. We’ve been working on it for the last three years or so, and through that process, it’s definitely evolved and grown quite a bit. At first, it was just going to be aa little 16-page comic. But as we kept writing on it, and elaborating on it, kept feeling. I felt I wanted to say more with it.
It’s Johnboy Booer on his journey through the Gulag. The goal of the game is to get Johnboy through therapy. As you’re playing through the game, you find you have a lot of other characters within the Gulag who are unsavory in their own ways, and you help them through some of their issues.
I hope people enjoy it, and, you know, maybe they’ll see some bits of themselves in the Gulag as well. One thing that I did when I was fleshing out some NPCs and stuff is I put out this post on social media and I made an announcement, , “Hey, I’m working on this game called Luxury Gulag, and it’s about this cybernetic futuristic utopian rehabilitation center for reactionaries and jerks and you know, would you to be in the Gulag?” I made a Google Sheet form for people to fill out. I put in a lot of questions in there, , describe a time when you hurt somebody, describe a time when you felt betrayed, and how you think about therapy? I actually got pretty surprised, because some of the questions were, you know, a lot of people started out filling out the forms as being jokey, and then by the end of the form, they’re , “Oh, my God, I feel tense.” there are a lot of people who I know in real life who volunteered to be put in a Gulag.
A couple of things that I find work for me, because I’m either in a sort of conceptual or planning mode or I’m in some more labor-intensive, you know, labor long, where I’m making animation or... When I’m feeling stuck, or I have an artist block. I think I’ve hit a wall, something that someone once told me is just to start writing down questions, not any answers, don’t try to answer anything, start writing questions and let the questions lead into another question and another question, and that’ll help open you up in a way, rather than trying to find answers and lock things up. I find that that helps loosen my mind up a bit. When I have a lot of work I have to do, then I’d be a little more redundant animation. I find that if I enter my workspace or the studio, I’ll immediately get started. I’ll set a timer for five minutes to get over that initial hump of you know, where I don’t want to, you know, make you don’t feel doing it. Then usually by the time the timer runs out, I’m in my flow.