Event: APEX: Sharita Towne & A Black Art Ecology of Portland

Date: March 1, 2022

Location: Portland Art Museum

Address: 1219 SW Park Ave Portland, OR 97205

A “true grandchild of the Great Migration,” Sharita Towne creates installations that are multi-voiced, poetic, and informative. As a transdisciplinary artist, Towne has built a practice steeped in the work of collaboration, cultural organizing, and arts infrastructure building. Towne’s exhibition for the APEX series is a culmination of this work that takes her to the most recent projects reflected in the city of Portland now. In the course of the year-long exhibition, Towne will change over some of the work to introduce new community projects in the winter of 2022.

The exhibition provides a glimpse into Towne’s burgeoning project “A Black Art Ecology of Portland” (BAEP), an initiative she launched in 2019 to bring together community organizations in support of creating, reclaiming, and redefining spaces for Black art and audiences in Portland. BAEP remaps historical and contemporary Black creative life in Portland and beyond. Activities have included developing co-creative spaces for art, murals, public art activation, video, COVID relief, residencies, DIY publishing, a comedy show, memorials for Black life, and more. Towne’s ongoing research has led the artist into Black geography and assistance in local organizations that center Black life. Towne’s artistic foundation and vision in working with neighborhoods align with Project Row Houses in Houston, Art + Practice in Los Angeles, Dorchester Projects in Chicago, and The Black School in Harlem and New Orleans. The work presented here shows projects within affordable housing, city streets, art venues, forged through institutional and community collaborations.

Addressing the transdisciplinary nature of her work, Towne states, “With BAEP I think of the city as form. And Ecology is used to counter the mid-century logic of blight—that Black people are a detriment to urban ecology. BAEP acknowledges the active, creative vitality of Black communities from the past, present, and into the future of Portland.”