RACC encourages Hispanic artists to show their true colors
By Nick Mattos, El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — The Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the Portland metro area’s premiere arts funding organization, has appointed Lina García Seabold as their new board chair and increased their outreach to support diverse artists and organizations, including such fresh talents as local painter Mónica G. MacKenzie.
A resident of the Rose City since 1969, Seabold has observed Portland evolve into a vibrant and diverse haven for creativity.
“I’ve seen this city grow, and I really like what I see right now!” she notes with excitement. “I just love living here, especially from an arts and culture perspective.”
In Seabold’s view, RACC has been intrinsic to this evolution.
“RACC has always been a leader in Portland’s art scene; we’ve overseen funding for the Portland Art Museum, the symphony, the ballet, Milagro Theatre, the whole gamut from large arts organizations and independent artists,” she says. “RACC has been a leader in the scene way before [my involvement began], and I hope that this leadership in the arts continues to extend to everyone who needs to be represented in the community, including the different [ethic and racial] minority communities and the LGBTQ population.”
In order to achieve this mission, Seabold intends to steer the council towards a more holistic embrace of diverse artists and art organizations, and to enfranchise all communities in Portland’s art and culture scene.
“RACC is increasing its outreach efforts to all minority communities, not just the Hispanic community,” Seabold explains. “Because I am Hispanic, my natural outreach happens in that community because, well, that’s my community. The institutional outreach, though, is broader.”
The council’s outreach takes numerous forms, and is aimed towards artists and organizations as well as the general public. One way RACC aims to make the arts accessible to all is by ensuring that admission prices aren’t prohibitive for members of diverse economic situations.
“RACC has tried really hard to work with different organizations to create opportunities for people with different income levels to ensure that they can afford the ticket prices for at least certain performances or dates,” she says.
The council also brings art to the people by funding the city’s public art projects, such as statues and murals, including one painted in the last year outside of the Cuban restaurant Pambiche. As another example, RACC recently announced their funding a large-scale bus shelter/sculpture designed by internationally acclaimed Cuban artist Jorge Pardo to be installed on NE Broadway.
The organization also offers funding to ensure that cultural festivals and events are able to represent their communities’ traditions and celebrations to all of Portland’s residents. “Cultural events are as important as a 3D-sculpture or 2D-painting …,” Seabold says. “To me, all such things are art.”
Finally, RACC offers grants to individual artists of all communities to ensure that their unique voice can enter the larger chorus of Portland’s art establishment. To facilitate this for artists of minority communities, Seabold explains that the organization offers assistance to those who may be intimidated by the grant-writing process.
“If something needs to be translated, it’ll be translated,” she says. “If someone needs technical assistance in understanding how to apply for the grants, we’ll have it available.”
One such Latina artist who has benefitted from RACC’s commitment to fostering diverse artistic voices is Mónica G. MacKenzie, whose upcoming exhibition, “Beauty and Power of Latin America,” opens Oct. 1 at the Beaverton City Hall Gallery.
MacKenzie started painting in her native Mexico in 2004 by creating images of the Virgin Mary on discarded boards she found at construction sites. As her style evolved towards the abstract, she incorporated more of the vibrant colors and themes that she experienced around her, and made a name for herself as a painter whose vivid and passionate work captured the essential qualities of Latin culture.
When MacKenzie relocated to Portland in late 2010, she saw that her work occupied a different visual niche than what she observed in the city.
“On my second day in the United States, I went to a gallery, and while I’m not criticizing the art scene here, I found that everything was grey — the entire ‘Pearl District high-end fancy art aesthetic’ was all grey and black,” she recalls. “The colors were just so sad, so grim! I thought there were a lot of people who were pretty depressed here!”
MacKenzie’s dedication to her vibrant vision continued, though, and she soon secured an exhibition at First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Portland.
“It’s a church full of wonderful folks — I’m a member there now, myself — but when I first showed,” she says, some of the older members of the congregation commented ‘I love your art, but it’s so bright it hurts my eyes!’”
The artist was encouraged by members of the Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to seek funding from RACC — a process that she found intimidating at first.
“I never thought I’d be able to write a grant,” MacKenzie says. “English is not my first language, I barely speak it! The guidelines were just so different than what we had in Mexico, format-wise. [However,] I thought that the art scene here needed color. Hispanics can feel left out of the art scene here — if you go to a gallery and see all these grey, dark, sad work that doesn’t relate to the Hispanic inspiration, it leaves out the community. The grant would give me the perfect opportunity to showcase my work and to assert that the art scene is approachable for Hispanic people.”
MacKenzie raves about the help RACC provided her in writing her grant.
“Even for me, as someone from another country, [they were] so helpful, so constructive,” she recalls. “The process was very easy; you just have to comply with everything, and have the discipline to do it yourself. That’s the way it should be, though.”
MacKenzie ultimately was granted $4,395 for her exhibition, an amount that stunned her. “I’m still in awe! I’m still in shock! I feel so honored and so happy,” she says.
MacKenzie praises RACC’s support of Latin American artists, because, she says, “they encourage us as artists and as a community to spread our work to the world, helping all of us enjoy, learn, grow and work together as the big human family we really are. I’ve found a heaven here in Portland as an artist. This is why I do what I do — I create for the community, out of love for them, with all my heart and strength.”
For more information about RACC, go to racc.org. Mónica G. MacKenzie’s exhibition “The Beauty and Power of Latin America” runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Beaverton City Hall (4755 SW Griffith Dr.). An opening reception with the artist will be held October 4 from 11 AM- 2 PM at Beaverton City Hall. For more information on MacKenzie, go to monicagMacKenzie.com/.
Este artículo también está disponible en / This post is also available in: Spanish
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