Multnomah County Library and Regional Arts & Culture Council announce community artist as part of diverse work at North Portland Library

PORTLAND, OR. — Multnomah County Library (MCL) and Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) are continuing their efforts to bring community-centered artwork to libraries throughout Multnomah County. This work is part of the voter-approved 2020 Library building bond which will build, rebuild or expand nine library buildings. Smaller upgrades to 11 libraries are also underway as part of the Refresh projects. Since the bond passed, Multnomah County Library has undergone major updates, with North Portland Library as one of the first projects. 

North Portland Library will be renovated and expanded, adding 1,500 square feet to make the library 10,200 square feet. The renovated building will highlight the diversity and history of the community. The design by LEVER Architecture preserves the historic Carnegie building on Killingsworth Street while providing greater space for community gatherings in the new Black Cultural Center. 

North Portland Library has long been the library home to the Black community in Portland. That's why insights from the Black community have guided the vision and purpose for the new Black Cultural Center. Exciting updates at North Portland include:

  • A Black Cultural Center for connection and a celebration of Blackness

  • Outdoor space for community members to relax and be together

  • Updated technology and internet

  • Art that represents the neighborhood’s diversity 

Public art for the North Portland community

As part of these updates, local artists are creating unique installations that represent the North Portland community’s history, culture and diversity.

“The historic North Portland Library has long been a cornerstone of the community, and specifically the Black community,” said Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries. “Through the library’s partnership with the Regional Arts and Culture Council, North Portland can offer vibrant new artwork that represents the community in a beautiful, inspiring space.” 

 Portrait of Sadé DuBoise. Photography by Olivia Renee (2020)

Portrait of Sadé DuBoise. Photography by Olivia Renee (2020)

At North Portland Library, Sadé DuBoise has been selected to create a site-specific, artist-designed glass wall which will create a backdrop for the west side of the new Black Cultural Center. This permanent glass artwork, measuring 12 ft. high and 16 ft. wide, will be based on an original painting DuBoise will create, grounded in her North Portland upbringing and influenced by North Portland Library community engagement events. Her work is currently featured in the Black Artists of Oregon Exhibition at the Portland Art Museum, curated by Intisar Abioto. 

In collaboration with Multnomah County Library and RACC, Sadé DuBoise will host two visioning sessions to welcome the community into the process of developing artwork for the Black Cultural Center. More details are below. 

This artwork is developed in coordination with the Regional Arts & Culture Council through the Multnomah County Percent for Art Program, allotting two percent of the construction budget for all county-funded improvement projects toward the investment in public art. Artists are awarded projects as part of a robust public process, which includes selection panels led by local residents, business owners, artists, library staff and project partners. 

Valarie Pearce, author, educator, and community panelist for the selection committee, celebrated the announcement, saying:

“As an educator, Portland native, and lifetime library evangelist it has been a great pleasure to be a part of the Multnomah County Library, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and community panel for the inaugural glass art and artist selection for North Portland Library’s Black Cultural Center.

“Art is a universal connector and the historical expression by which the Black Portland community has shared its story across time. North Portland Library’s Black Cultural Center is the legacy and enduring story of resilience, community, and beauty.

“I believe as a city it is important for us to invest in our values. With the focus of centering community voice, steering a broad and diverse artistic selection process, and curating community feedback forums, we have done just that. We have demonstrated our values for collaboration, community-centered voice, and the deliberate celebration of Black artistry in library spaces. Bravo!”

Artists and community working in tandem

Community engagement is at the center of the library’s building projects. The selection panel, made up of residents of the neighborhood, artists, architects, and library staff, prioritized artists with demonstrated experiences and connections to the North and Northeast community around North Portland Library. Most artists selected for these projects are seeking to create and host community engagement opportunities as part of their design phase, including the two events Sadé DuBoise will lead.

Design artwork for the Black Cultural Center at North Portland Library

Saturday, January 27, 2024

10 am - 12:30 pm

Portland Community College Cascade Campus
Margaret Carter Technology Education Building (TEB), room 218

565 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217

The first event will be a visioning event where community ideas and perspectives will help shape the artwork for the Black Cultural Center. This gathering is a chance for community members to engage in meaningful dialogue and contribute to the selection of Adinkra symbols that will be featured in the upcoming glass wall art project. Adinkra symbols originated in Ghana and represent concepts or aphorisms. This interactive session will be an inspiring blend of cultural exchange, artistic discussion, and community bonding. Presentations will begin at 10:30 am and there will be handouts and opportunities for engagement for anyone who might come after the presentation begins.

Date and Location TBA

The second event will be held in celebration of Black History Month where participants will have the opportunity to create their own symbols, drawing inspiration from traditional Adinkra symbols. This hands-on experience is a chance to explore the symbolism of Adinkra while expressing your personal creativity using ink and paper. Additionally, attendees will get an exclusive sneak peek at the latest developments in Sadè DuBoise’s artwork for North Portland Library’s new Black Cultural Center. All materials will be provided, and no prior art experience is necessary. Refreshments will be served.

Find more information on Multnomah County Library’s website and follow RACC on social media for updates.