Institute Program

Arts Leadership: In Search of a Radical Commonality


As artists and arts leaders we have taken up the challenge of pursuing meaningful change in the face of social divisions. This session poses the idea of radical commonality as a means of mining deeper and more diverse connections in communities. Can we follow the example of B Corps and social venture capital firms in creating new rubrics for success and shifting access to resources? How might we resist the dismantling and privatization of the Commons – resources and opportunities once accessible to all? We will look at examples of leadership, artistic inquiry, and creation that shift the ground in community-building, advocacy, place-making, education, outreach, and public service.

Darrell Grant │ Jazz Artist, Associate Professor of Music at PSU, Vice-President of CMA

Making Theatre / Building Community: Three Case Studies in How Producing Theatre Companies are Engaging Community 


In theory, theatre produced in place has community embedded at its core. But in recent years many producing theatre companies have become more intentional about how their work addresses specific community issues and needs. For this panel, staff from three of Oregon’s leading theatre companies, Artists Repertory Company, Milagro Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival will share examples of how engagement is challenging, changing, and advancing the relationship to their audience and public. 

Mica Cole │ Repertory Producer, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Kisha Jarrett │ Audience Development & Marketing Director at Artists Repertory Theatre
José González │ Executive Director, Milagro Theatre
Alyssa Tonsic │ Executive Director, Network of Ensemble Theaters and former Managing Director, Sojourn Theatre

Streets to Stage: How Law Enforcement Is Learning Through Theater


La’Tevin Alexander photo courtesy August Wilson Red Door Project

This session will open with a performance of How I Feel by Dennis Allen II, Performed by La’Tevin Alexander, from Hands Up. The frequent and ongoing conflicts between police and communities of color have scarred countless families, neighborhoods, and cities across the country, including here in Oregon. However, a Portland theater company and local law enforcement have collaborated on a unique response to help the Portland community to heal and connect. Through The August Wilson Red Door Project’s continuous productions of the New Black Fest’s Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments, actor/director Kevin Jones and his cast have ignited a conversation on racial justice that resonates deeply with many Portlanders - including communities of color and the local police department. Join us as Deputy Chief Robert Day of the Portland Police Department and Lesli Mones and Kevin Jones Co-founders of the August Wilson Red Door Project share the stage to discuss this production, its impact on both law enforcement and community, and this amazing partnership that began with a monologue.

Kevin Jones │ CEO and Co-Founder, August Wilson Red Door Project
Lesli Mones  │ Co-Founder, August Wilson Red Door Project
Deputy Chief Bob Day │ Portland Police Bureau 

Divertissements – Portland Style!



Option 1    Down-time/Work – Enjoy a little peace and quiet in your room or nearby café.
Option 2    A Tax-Free Shopping Spree – Shop tax free (!) at any of the Central Eastside’s charming shops and galleries.
Option 3    Willamette Riverwalk & Whistle Wetting on the Eastbank Esplanade

Walking the Soul District – Gentrification, Displacement & Reclamation in Northeast Portland 


Photo Courtesy Oregon Historical Society

Join us for a walking tour of what was once the heart of Portland’s African American neighborhood. Communities across the country struggle with gentrification and displacement. Sadly, the arts are often a party to this process, first as artists move into a “distressed” neighborhood looking for cheap rent, and later as arts facilities are used to “revitalize” a community. 

At the WAA Institute, we believe if you are going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. John Washington, Executive Director, Soul District Business Association will guide us on a walking tour of what was once the heart of Portland’s African American neighborhood. Decades of racist public policy, red-lining, and “urban renewal,” forced the displacement and disinvestment of Portland’s once thriving Black community. But now, a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists are reclaiming and reimagining Portland’s Soul District. 

John Washington │ Executive Director, Soul District Business Association

Community Engagement, Partnerships or Education: Peer-to-Peer Support & Learning Session


2014 WAA Institute, photo by Jennifier Stewart

Have a vexing question or situation with which you’ve struggled? Crowdsource it at the WAA Institute! In this session, small groups will support one another in a structured program of peer to peer counseling on the topics of Community Engagement, Partnerships or Education. Bring a challenge you are experiencing at your organization or in the community. Well ask you to outline the challenge, engage in clarifying questions with a small group of peers and then (silently) take in their assessment and thoughts. An advance briefing document will ask for a little prep-work ahead of the WAA Institute in order to deepen the experience.

Thinking, Making & Eating Chocolate: A visit with Sebastian Cisneros & Cloudforest


In a city of celebrated chefs, producers, and makers, Sebastian Cisneros stands out for his passion to reveal nuance in chocolate.  From the Cloudforest studio, just blocks from our hotel, Sebastian produces extraordinary chocolate from unconventional flavors: milk chocolate and bee pollen, gray chocolate with black sesame seeds and matcha, and the exquisite dark chocolate and palo santo, to name a few. Join us for a delicious taste, talk, and visit with Sebastian Cisneros and Cloudforest. 

Black and Tan Hall: A Model for Leveraging the Arts to Create Institutions for Social, Economic, and Educational Change 



Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons are international touring artists, educators, and grass roots activists. Tarik Abdullah is a chef, DJ, community activist, and teacher. Together they are the driving force behind Seattle’s Black and Tan Hall. We’ll join Ben, Joe, and Tarik for an evening of food, conversation, and music focused on how to leverage the arts for social, economic, and educational change. 

Seattle’s Black and Tan Hall is the culmination of a succession of arts and educational projects they pursued over the past six years in their neighborhood. The Hall takes its name and inspiration from Seattle's original Black & Tan Club, which operated from 1919 - 1967. In the spirit of the original club, Black and Tan Hall will serve as a space where people of all races, ages, and backgrounds can engage in cultural exchange at a community owned and operated restaurant and performing arts venue. Situated in the SE Seattle neighborhood of Hillman City, many of the diverse ethnic groups living there are--according to a 2015 study done by the city--at high risk of being displaced.

Ben Hunter | Musician, Educator, Activist, Co-Founder of Rhapsody Project, Black & Tan Hall 
Joe Seamons | Musician, Educator, Activist, Co-Founder of Rhapsody Project
Tarik Abdullah | Chef, DJ, Educator, Activist, Co-Founder of Black & Tan Hall 

State budget and fiscal policy: what do they have to do with art?  



This session will lay out facts and data that show the root causes of income and wealth inequality in Oregon, and how these issues disproportionately affect low income individuals and communities. Participants will discuss the role of the art community in policy advocacy and working with other advocates in pursuit of economic common cause.  

Alejandro Queral │ Executive Director, Oregon Center for Public Policy 

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