Graduations 2018: A new life in a new direction

Jun 29, 2018

“We’ve started a new life in a new direction,” said Emily, “I wish everyone the very best!”

Her graduation ceremony was like many others: 39 grads clutched their new certificates and thanked the people who had helped them get through. But Central City Concern’s (CCC’s) Community Volunteer Corps (CVC) June 2018 graduation ceremony was different from most because the participants finished 80 hours of volunteer service that helped them get back into the working mode after disruption due to substance use, poverty, health issues or homelessness. And this particular celebration was special because it included two participants from CVC’s newly expanded Gresham program, including Emily.

Central City Concern's most recent group of Community Volunteer Corps graduates pose for a group photo following the ceremony.

CVC started in 2009 as a way for newly recovering people to get out in the community and practice soft job skills such as teamwork and time management. Through working with others and giving back, participants gain self-confidence and make a commitment to a new, healthy life. Since 2009, CVC participants have volunteered 131,317 hours to the community through more than 30 nonprofit partners and government organizations such as Portland Parks & Recreation, Free Geek and Oregon Food Bank.

One June grad, Dina, said “I really had fun. My drinking had killed me inside and CVC gave me back my self-confidence.” Daniel said, “CVC has been my favorite part of my recovery. I felt good about myself at the end of the day.”

CVC also recently began a partnership with Project Clean Slate, a program that helps people regain their driver’s license and expunge minor criminal convictions so they can get on track to meaningful employment. “I got my driver’s license back,” said one participant, proudly pulling his temporary license out of his pocket for all to see.

One CVC graduate actually took time off from his new job to be part of the graduation ceremony—it meant that much to him.

CVC participants range in age and come from a variety of backgrounds; for many, working with others on volunteer projects has changed their lives. “CVC has helped me learn to be friendlier and more personable,” said Donna. Jennifer said, “I’m grateful for the chance to develop close relationships with my peers.”

In addition to their certificate, CVC graduates receive a small cash stipend, photos from their time in CVC to remind them of the camaraderie they developed and a letter of recommendation to send them into the world of future employment. CCC’s Employment Access Center has employment specialists who work with CVC participants on writing resumes, interview skills and getting permanent jobs. One CVC graduate actually took time off from his new job to be part of the graduation ceremony—it meant that much to him.

About 100 people attended the event, including volunteers from Airbnb who had spent the morning at CCC’s Employment Access Center helping clients (including some CVC grads) with computer skills.



CCC's Art Task Force Pursues the Finishing Touches

Jun 28, 2018

One more finishing touch. Then one more. Maybe one more. Okay, just one more… Perfect.

Many artists experience this feeling of chasing closure. Similarly, in the year since Central City Concern (CCC) and our Art Task Force celebrated the “completion” of Phase 2 of our Healing Through Art Collection, the six-member volunteer group has continued to put their own finishing touches on this portion of the collection.

They continued to explore their connections to local Pacific Northwest artists and galleries, inquiring about or listening to offers to donate pieces of art that exude elements of calm and healing. The group also took second and third looks at pieces that had been previously donated but hadn’t yet been placed, each awaiting the right location and timing to be hung. Members even got together for "framing parties."

Working closely with CCC’s housing community and building managers, the Art Task Force recommended, received feedback about, and installed additional pieces in several buildings that they believed would add to the overall healing environment. Feedback from CCC staff and clients has been overwhelmingly positive; just the act of seeing a building’s set of artworks expand garnered positive attention.

Several pieces donated or on loan from Discover African Art and Dave Dahl: (Left, clockwise from top) Baule Tribe elephant mask, Luba Tribe Kifwebe fantasy mask, Suku Tribe Kukungu mask, Bamun Tribe mask, Chokwe Tribe Pwo mask; (Center) Bozo Tribe puppet; (Right) Dogon Tribe granary door

In late summer 2017, the Art Task Force received a jaw-dropping and unexpected offer. Dave Dahl, co-founder of Dave’s Killer Bread, expressed interest in deepening his generous partnership with CCC. Part of his plan to do so included donating pieces of African tribal art that he had been collecting over the last several years, a passion that had grown into one of the largest African art collections on the west coast. Dave converted his deep admiration for tribal art, his growing knowledge and research of African tribes, and his business acumen into Discover African Art, which collects, displays, and sells genuine artworks.

The Art Task Force quickly connected the timing of Dave’s offer to the remodel of the historic Golden West Hotel building, which is home to CCC’s Imani Center program. The building holds a significant place in Portland’s African-American history, while the Imani Center provides Afrocentric approaches to mental health and addiction treatment. Several members of the Art Task Force joined CCC’s Director of African American Services Linda Hudson for a tour of the Discover African Art warehouse, where together they selected two dozen pieces that Dave was delighted to donate, as well as several others given to CCC on loan.

A print of Julie Keefe's photo, taken in 1991, showing State Representative Margaret Carter leading the March Against Racist Violence through the streets of North/Northeast Portland.The Golden West’s new art was unveiled during an open house event to show off the remodel work. Guests also saw for the first time several powerful photo prints donated by local photographer Julie Keefe, who has documented local communities for The Skanner and beyond for more than two decades. Keefe’s photos were also installed at several other buildings.

Despite this incredible progress, the work of the Art Task Force isn’t done. With CCC’s three Housing is Health developments slated to come online in the next year, the volunteers are hard at work to find pieces that will live up to the name of the collection. Not only have they begun to reach out to their contacts, they’ve also started taking steps to expand and diversify the Art Task Force itself, understanding that the group has room to grow alongside the task ahead. And based on what they’ve accomplished so far—more than 250 pieces of original, high-quality, and healing work—we have every reason to believe they’ll deliver, even if they want to continue adding some finishing touches.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: June 2018 Edition

Jun 27, 2018

For the last two years, we’ve posted an update around this time of year as to the on-going work of Central City Concern's all-volunteer Art Task Force. In 2016, we shared about the project’s launch and how it has already had a huge impact on our two clinic spaces. Then, in 2017, the results of Phase 2, which included a large expansion of the collection into several other CCC programs.

This year we’re happy to share another update about the group’s work (coming tomorrow), but this year, we also wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the members of the Art Task Force for our monthly volunteer spotlight!

Paul Park, CCC’s communications and events manager, who helps coordinate the Art Task Force’s work, had this to say about the members: ”The amount of time and effort this group of volunteers has put in to opening up the world of healing, high-quality art has been inspiring. Every decision they make about the art they add to the collection always goes back to thinking about the people we serve. The CCC community is deeply fortunate to benefit from the Art Task Force’s dedication.”

We touched base with the members of the group to ask them a few questions about their work and the collection. Read their answers below to find out about favorite pieces in the collection, the history of the task force, and why it matters to have the art in our spaces.

Alice McCartor

"The idea of art as healing resonates with me, having worked in the mental health field during much of my career."

How long have you been serving with the Art Task Force? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I am the newest member, having participated for only one year. I am in awe of the early work of the task force members and am humbled by the artists, gallery owners and private donors who contributed to the first phase of the project that hangs in the downtown health clinic [Old Town Clinic (OTC) and Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC)].

I joined the effort when a friend on the task force asked me if my husband would contribute his art work, which he did. The idea of art as healing resonates with me, having worked in the mental health field during much of my career. I was hooked by the idea and I asked to join. Although I am not well connected to the art world in Portland, I enjoy doing what I can for this work.

What is your favorite piece in the CCC collection and why?
My favorite work of art in the collection is a piece by Rick Bartow. For me, his work comes from the soul.

Pam Baker

"I hope each client finds something in the art that feels good and makes them smile."

How long have you been serving with the Art Task Force? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I was invited to join the Art Task Force in early 2013, when it was just getting underway. My good friend, Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn, who was founding co-chair, recruited me. She and I had worked together on arts advocacy over many years, so she knew of my interest in the visual arts and my relationship with many Pacific Northwest artists.

What is your favorite piece in the CCC collection and why?
Wow! So many favorites! I’m particularly fond of pieces by artists I know, who have shared the backstories of their pieces, their processes, and their passions. I’m extremely proud that the collection includes major works by Katherine Ace, Laura Ross-Paul, and George Johanson, each of which tell stories that CCC’s clients, staff and visitors can interpret and relate to their own experiences—or simply enjoy for the sheer beauty of color and form.

How do you hope the art makes CCC clients feel?
Valued. Important. Worthy of beauty and fine art in their lives. Different pieces will evoke different feelings: peace, calm, excitement, energy, familiarity, curiosity, joy, wonder, love. I hope each client finds something in the art that feels good and makes them smile.

Dan Winter

"It reminds me of the courage that so many CCC clients draw on by using a “blank slate” to improve their lives."

How long have you been serving with the Art Task Force? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I was fortunate to be the founding co-chair of the Art Task Force, serving for three or four years alongside Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn as my co-chair.

In 2011, not long after re-locating to Portland from Kansas City, I heard of the great work being done by CCC. Several months later, I attended CCC’s fall luncheon, where I introduced myself to Kristie Perry, who is now CCC’s Director of Donor Relations. It was she who first talked with me about starting the Task Force.

What is your favorite piece in the CCC collection and why?
A favorite work of mine is in Phase 1 of the collection and is hanging in the OTRC: “Untitled (Notebook Paper)” which is by the Icelandic textile artist Hildur Bjarnadottir, who lived and worked in Portland in the early 2000s. It was donated by a very generous, anonymous donor.

It’s unexpected, visually delightful and slightly mysterious. It represents the possibility of “turning over a new leaf” and “starting from scratch.” It reminds me of the courage that so many CCC clients draw on by using a “blank slate” to improve their lives.

How do you hope the art makes CCC clients feel?
Numerous pieces of research indicate that art, when displayed in a healing environment, can inspire people to see the possibilities that occur when healing happens. Imaginations are sparked, attitudes can be adjusted and hope can be found.

Marcy Schwartz

"This was a perfect fit for me—an art lover and collector with an opportunity to share my love of art with folks who don’t often get to experience original work."

How long have you been serving with the Art Task Force? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I’ve been part of the “second wave” of task force members. A longtime friend, Linda Girard, has served on the CCC Board of Directors since its inception. From talking with her, I was extremely impressed with the organization’s work and actively looked for a volunteer opportunity. Linda introduced me to Dan who suggested I get involved with the task force. This was a perfect fit for me—an art lover and collector with an opportunity to share my love of art with folks who don’t often get to experience original work.

What is your favorite piece in the CCC collection and why?
One of my favorite pieces in the collection is William Park’s portrait of a friend of his who was homeless—can’t remember the painting’s title. I love Park’s style of painting—using almost abstract marks that come together to create extremely expressive faces. This fellow looks grounded, accepting, but resolute.

How do you hope the art makes CCC clients feel?
I hope the works in the collection provide an opportunity for CCC clients and staff to get out of themselves and experience other places, spaces, emotions, realities presented by the various artists. And to marvel, as I do, at the amazing creativity and talent of the artists to evoke those experiences in so many different forms.

Carole Romm

"I hope that the clients feel that they are worth having this art around them, and that they are inspired by it."

How long have you been serving with the Art Task Force? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I was the public affairs director at CCC when the Old Town Recovery Center was built. As the walls were going up, I could see that there would be many empty walls and thought it would be wonderful to have art for them. I retired from CCC before a solution could be found, but my successor brought together folks to form the Art Task Force and she invited me to join.

What is your favorite piece in the CCC collection and why?
It’s hard to pick one piece as my favorite. There are so many wonderful pieces. There is a Rick Bartow piece in OTC in the second floor waiting room. I love this piece and Rick’s work because of the luminous quality of the work and the way he included animal and spirit images from his Native American roots.

The William Park painting in the waiting room of the clinic [is another favorite]. I believe it’s called “I’m Ready to Talk Now.” I think Bill is a painter’s painter; you can see his love of the paint and the process of painting in his work. He has been painting Fred, the subject of the painting, every Friday for many years. I know many of the clients relate to this painting and think that Fred is homeless, but he’s not. According to Bill, he’s quite a character though.

How do you hope the art makes CCC clients feel?
I hope that the clients feel that they are worth having this art around them, and that they are inspired by it.

Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn

"I love the vibrant colors, its slightly graphic sensibility, and the reminder that the world is larger than Portland, Oregon."

How long have you been serving with the Art Task Force? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I was introduced to CCC’s former public affairs director. She and Carole shared their ideas about this project. I joined the committee, which at the time included my good friend [and CCC emeritus board member], Bing Sheldon.

What is your favorite piece in the CCC collection and why?
My favorite work is the large and bold work of Betty La Duke titled “Bali: Sunset.” I love the vibrant colors, its slightly graphic sensibility, and the reminder that the world is larger than Portland, Oregon and that people and animals all share our earth of sun, sky and water.

How do you hope the art makes CCC clients feel?
I hope that the clients and staff get great joy from the art at CCC. I hope the art makes them rethink their assumptions about the world and how they fit. I hope it makes them want to dance and sing!