Portland Ovations grant to fund series featuring performing artists of color

Pending the pandemic, Step Afrika! will come to Portland in 2021 as part of a new performing arts series by Portland Ovations. Photo by Sekou Luke, courtesy of Portland Ovations

Portland Ovations will use a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to partner with Indigo Arts Alliance and Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center to present the work of artists of color in a new performing arts series that will launch in 2021 – from the stage of Merrill Auditorium, if possible, or by whatever means necessary.

The project will span two years and will include mainstage or virtual performances, or both, in-school performances, residencies, lectures, demonstrations and master classes. The series will include a co-commissioned contemporary dance piece by choreographer Emily Johnson and performances by Sphinx Virtuosi, a chamber orchestra of 18 Black and Latinx performers; Step Afrika!, a dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, a dance form that uses body as an instrument; and “Cartography,” a documentary theater piece about migration that features a cast of actors who are also U.S. immigrants.

The funding came through the NEA’s Grants for Arts program, formerly known as Art Works, which focuses on projects that encourage creativity and community and foster dialogue about cultural heritage and diversity. Aimee Petrin, executive director of Indigo Arts Alliance, said the project has been in the planning stages for many months and “builds on more than a decade of working together as spot partners, collaborators, contributing artists, scholars and co-conspirators” with Indigo co-founders Daniel and Marcia Minter. “This is a natural evolution of that work.”

Marcia Minter said part of the mission of Indigo is to present the work of underrepresented artists of color, in the visual arts, performing arts and other art forms. “We want to make sure Black and brown artists have access to platforms that enable them to not only stage their productions, but to actually talk about their practice, to actually share their experiences, their expertise and their excellence,” she said. “We tend to lean heavily in the visual arts. That is our wheelhouse, but we have a passion for multi-disciplinary art-making.”

Indigo will host artists as part of its artist-residency program at its East Bayside incubator space.

Petrin said she hopes the series will unfold over spring and summer of 2021, and into the following year if necessary. “My biggest fear is that we don’t get to do this,” she said.


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