"Transformation" Mural Brings the CCC Story to Life

Jul 30, 2019

The mural is located in the second floor lobby of Blackburn Center.Baba Wagué Diakité fills in a pattern. Portland artist Kendra Larson assisted Wagué throughout the project.Ronna Neuenschwander, a professional artist represented by Froelick Gallery and Wagué's wife, worked by his side and was a constant presence throughout the entire mural project.

"Transformation" is a wall-length mural in CCC's Blackburn Center, designed and painted by Baba Wagué Diakité, and partially funded by Regional Arts and Culture Council. The mural is based on the stories of CCC clients and staff. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.


The walk up the steps from the main lobby of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Blackburn Center to the second floor is an exercise in slow revelation. “Transformation,” a new mural created for Blackburn Center by renowned Portland artist Baba Wagué Diakité, is positioned at the top of the stairs to meet all visitors — less a gatekeeper and more a welcoming party.

Upon the very first stretch of the upper floor wall that comes into view, it takes a second to register the figure of a vibrantly colored tree, evaporating any expectation of a sterile, sparse waiting room. Your eyes can’t help but trace left to follow the procession of animals large and small, winged, scaled and legged. Bright music notes pop out from what you quickly realize is a mostly black and white, wall-length mural of a fantastical scene framed in earthy gold.

As you reach the top of the steps and approach the wall, you notice the impossibly intricate patterns that fill in the animal outlines. Only now do you find a mandala of words: “hope,” “caring,” “journey” and “joy,” among others. And as much as you want to press your nose up to it, you feel similarly pulled to take several steps back to take the entire mural in at once.

There’s no wondering what would be said if this wall could talk. This one proclaims the CCC story.

Months before Wagué first laid his brush to the wall, CCC Art Task Force volunteer Alice McCartor came across a Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) grant intended to support projects that invite the community to participate, including underserved communities. With the Art Task Force — an all-volunteer group of community members who procure donations of and curate fine art to beautify CCC buildings — already in the thick of procuring art for Blackburn Center, Alice immediately saw a golden opportunity.

“I thought a mural here could be a good match because RACC makes an effort to bring art to the public in multiple ways,” Alice shared. “I could envision many people walking into the clinic — people who don’t have easy access to galleries or the museum — and being able to see fine art in a mural.”

There’s no wondering what would be said if this wall could talk. This one proclaims the CCC story.

The rest of the Art Task Force agreed and began discussing local artists whose style and experience would be right for such a project. Wagué, whose work and reputation as a writer, illustrator, ceramicist and muralist is eclipsed only by his truest artistic identity as a storyteller, quickly became the group’s first choice.

Growing up in Mali, Africa, the power and magic of stories settled deep into Wagué’s bones as he listened to stories told by his grandmother and village elders. These stories often depicted animals as the characters to represent our human foibles, our strengths and our resiliency.

As an established artist, he developed a storytelling program called “What’s Standing on Your Soul?” that allows participants to exchange ideas based on their own lives. What better person, what better way, to bring to life a mural based on and in CCC’s community of clients who receive support to find stability and wellness, as well as the staff who offer that help?

“I first learned of CCC’s work when an artwork of mine was donated to the organization’s Healing Through Art collection a few years back,” Wagué shared. “I was absolutely humbled when I was approached about this project.” A few months later, RACC notified CCC that they would award the grant for a mural project.

CCC arranged three sessions for Wagué to facilitate his workshop: the first for a group of Old Town Clinic patients, the second for a group of CCC staff members and the last for staff members specifically from CCC’s Eastside Concern program, which would soon be absorbed into Blackburn Center to provide substance use disorder counseling and peer support services.

Over the course of a few hours, Wagué shared about storytelling’s capacity to connect and challenge, recounted stories he’d heard growing up in Mali and set the stage for participants to share stories based in their own experiences.

“It meant quite a bit for me to be a part of that,” shared Zibby, an Old Town Clinic patient. “To me, it meant that my story has value. It recognized my love for art.”

Though a skilled facilitator, Wagué knew that participants would have to meet him halfway to fully unlock the power of storytelling. “They have beautiful ambitions of many good things they want to accomplish, but I would have never learned any of that without them trusting me. So I’m grateful,” he says. “It was also evident how much pride they have in their daily progress. They are determined and grateful for the opportunity to become the best they can be. That really stuck out to me.”

"It meant quite a bit for me to be a part of [the storytelling sessions]. To me, it meant that my story has value. It recognized my love for art.”

At each session, Wagué was accompanied by his wife, Ronna Neuenschwander, an accomplished and well-known artist in her own right. She listened alongside Wagué, documenting phrases and narratives the participants shared. After the workshops, Wagué and Ronna reviewed her notes, identifying themes that emerged across the conversations. Then he got to work translating the collective story of CCC staff and clients into imagery steeped in Malian traditions.

“I focused on the positive direction people want to shape their lives toward, such as ‘being well and doing well in life,’ ‘being able to trust again,’ and ‘helping others so they will not experience what I went through.’

“Some things we heard are represented by words, others are represented with images of favorite animals and scenes of nature that have helped them through hard times.”

The resulting design was a sprawling, 30-feet by 10-feet mural, as bold in its entirety as it is delicate in its individual elements. Creatures of all kinds march, fly or catch a ride on others toward a lizard playing music.

“I wanted to include animals that are metaphors for the stories that they shared: in my culture, Elephant represents strength, Turtle represents courage and endurance, Hippo is the symbol of large vision, Birds are symbols of knowledge, Lizard represents welcoming and happiness,” Wagué explains. “All of them are carrying others on their backs, symbolizing diversity and acceptance. The bird’s nest shows nurturing and caring. The baobab tree carried on the back of the tortoise is the sturdy and long-living tree of life.”

Transferring the design on paper to the wall was a month-long endeavor that, like the best of stories, took a few unforeseen turns. Wagué and Ronna worked side by side nearly every day in June. They initially invited one other Portland artist, Kendra Larson, who wanted to learn about mural painting techniques.

“They have beautiful ambitions of many good things they want to accomplish.... It was also evident how much pride they have in their daily progress. They are determined and grateful for the opportunity to become the best they can be.”

As the weeks passed, many others came along to help, delightfully mirroring the caravan of creatures in the mural itself. Ronna recounts, “One of Kendra’s students was interested in helping, so he joined. Construction workers and electricians and CCC’s own tech people would comment on the job daily, explaining our mural to us as it progressed. Then they began asking if they could paint a little spot in the mural. We felt honored that they had taken on ownership of the mural and wanted to leave a visual mark of their hand in the building.”

Blackburn Center staff — in the building to prepare for the start of services— popped by between meetings and tasks, eager to fill in a pattern here, widen a line there. CCC’s Art Task Force volunteers joined in, too. Wagué hadn’t set out for the painting to be a totally communal task, but he and Ronna readily embraced it. “Many helping hands involved in the mural to me is a symbol of love and harmony and the mural itself is now a monument of our accomplishment together.”

No Blackburn Center staff member would take credit for more than the tiniest contribution, but the opportunity to make a mark colored how they view their own experience at the new program.

“Many helping hands involved in the mural to me is a symbol of love and harmony and the mural itself is now a monument of our accomplishment together.”

“I painted one tiny orange circle and one tiny blue circle,” says Lydia Bartholow, Blackburn Center’s Associate Director of Behavioral Health. “But painting these circles felt very much to me like my involvement in the overall Blackburn project: there was a larger vision that centered the stories of our clients, and I was lucky enough to get to contribute to something much larger and more beautiful than myself.”

Dalando Vance, a peer case manager for Blackburn Center Apartments, shares, “I felt a great deal of gratitude. Even though the part I painted was super small, I got a feeling of empowerment and togetherness.”

Wagué made his final dabs and strokes on June 28. Since then, scores of staff members, clients and community partners have stopped in their tracks in the second floor lobby, pausing to interpret the images for themselves. Often, what they hear is their own story spoken back.

Alice, the Art Task Force volunteer who first set this project in motion, couldn’t be more pleased. “Wagué's story-telling process, his resulting design and his welcoming of all comers to share in painting the mural is just what we hoped for — a joyous reflection of the healing process at CCC for and by clients and staff.”



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!



CCC Celebrates Addition to the Healing Through Art Collection

May 25, 2017

Laura Ross-Paul | Power of the Pacific, 1989 | Oil on canvas, 60”x72” | Donated by Laura Ross-PaulKatherine Ace | Conversation, 2007 | Oil/alkyd, paper, gold leaf and insect wings, 36”x36” | Donated by Katherine AceMike Newman | untitled (Pentecost) | Butterfly on metal with paint/acid, 15.5”x19” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanRick Bartow | Story (12/50), 2000 | Lithograph, 17”x14” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanBill Brewer | A Blind Knowing, 1993 | Acrylic on panel, 30”x16” | Donated by Bob Kochs & Phyllis OsborneFrank Boyden | LITH, 1993 | Etching (10/30), 18”x18” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia Engelman
Erinn Kennedy | Blue Gem, 2001 | Acrylic, 10”x10” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanGregory Grenon | Dahlias, 1999 | Lithograph (5/75), 18”x15” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanWhitney Nye | Riff, 2002 | Acrylic, alkyd, paper, glass on wood panel, 24”x24” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanSusan McKinnon | Interiors #4, 1992 | Watercolor, 26”x26” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanJules Olitski | Elegy, 2002 | Color screenprint edition 108, 34”x42” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanDavid Slader | Eulogy for a Pastrami Sandwich, 2014 | Oil/oil crayon on panel on canvas, 36”x48” | Donated by David Slader
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Phase 2 of the Healing Through Art Collection consists of nearly 100 pieces of original fine art. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow of select pieces.

• • •

On Friday, May 19, Central City Concern celebrated the completion of Phase 2 of the Healing Through Art Collection, which placed nearly 100 beautiful and healing artworks in CCC housing and program sites across the Portland metro area.

Since 2012, patients, staff members, and guests of CCC’s Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center, collectively known as our downtown health campus, have enjoyed our Healing Though Art Collection. By late 2015, the collection had grown to nearly 60 pieces of fine art (from 35 artists based in the Pacific Northwest), each curated, procured, and approved for its aesthetic, healing, and calming properties.

But the collection inside the health campus—the product of several years of work done by the all-volunteer Art Task Force—turned out to be just the beginning.

Because the Healing Through Art collection consistently received such enthusiastic and appreciative response from clients and staff alike, the Art Task Force was asked to continue their work in order to bring original fine art into several CCC housing communities and program sites, including Miracles Central, Madrona Studios, the Sally McCracken Building, the Estate Hotel Building, and the Puentes program. The volunteer Art Task Force spent more than a year on this addition to the Healing Through Art collection, dubbed Phase 2, carefully selecting, procuring, and placing works across the five new sites.

The May 19 celebration brought together the Art Task Force, donors to Phase 2, several artists whose works are represented in the updated collection, and representatives from several local galleries who have both donated and provided guidance for the collection. Members of the Portland Art Museum Northwest Art Council joined the event.

CCC Executive Director Ed Blackburn kicked off the evening by thanking donors, artists, and volunteers for their support while providing an overview of CCC’s care model. He also shared how the artwork hung on the walls of our clinic spaces and housing communities impact the wellbeing of the people we serve.

Art Task Force Chair Pam Baker provided the history of the collection and called out each Phase 2 donor. She also announced that work on Phase 3 of the Healing Through Art Collection would begin shortly to extend the collection into the historic Golden West Hotel building where our Imani Center program is based, as well as the two housing communities and the combined housing and clinic building that slated to be completed in 2018 as part of Central City Concern’s Housing is Health initiative.

Special guest Grace Kook-Anderson, Portland Art Museum’s Curator of Northwest Art, concluded the program by speaking about how specific pieces in the collection stood out to her. She also shared that she was thrilled that the Healing Through Art collection brought such high-quality work to the population CCC serves.

Find the full list of the pieces that comprise Phase 2 of the Healing Through Art Collection and their donors by downloading the Healing Through Art Phase 2 addendum.

The volunteer Art Task Force that worked on Phase 2 include:

  • Pam Baker
  • Alice McCartor
  • Carole Romm
  • Marcy Schwartz
  • Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn
  • Dan Winter


Finding Healing and Inspiration through Art

Feb 16, 2016

Katherine Ace, Curves of Juliet, 2012Katherine Ace, Love Letter, 2004Rick Bartow, Blue Jay 2, 2008Marlene Bauer, Sway, 1995Hildur Bjarnadóttir, Untitled (Notebook Paper)Rebeca Bollinger, Index, 2001
Rebeca Bollinger, Drive, 2001Sharon Bronzan, Waiting, 1999Carolyn Cole, Red (81003), 2010Baba Wagué Diakité, The Fishermen and the Helpers, 2013Shirley Gittelsohn, Triptych, 1974Cie Goulet, Yamhill Fields, 1992
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The Healing Through Art Collection consists of 58 pieces of artwork from 35 artists. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.

Ÿ• • •

On any given day, Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center is filled with surprises. An unexpected success story. Laughter following a particularly difficult counseling session.  

And art. Beautiful, high-quality, inspiring art from some of the most renowned artists in the Pacific Northwest, including the likes of Carolyn Cole, William Park, Laura Ross-Paul, Baba Wagué Diakité, and Betty LaDuke. 

Understandably, a community health clinic that serves vulnerable populations—people sleeping outside, enduring debilitating physical or mental health crises, and living with little or no stability—might be the last place you would expect a fine art collection. But thanks to the ongoing efforts of an all-volunteer group known as the Art Task Force, CCC’s downtown healthcare campus is now home to a curated collection—58 individual pieces from 35 different artists—that hundreds of patients can see each day.

The idea to bring inspiring artwork to Central City Concern facilities was hatched years ago by then-Director of Public Affairs, Carole Romm. Slowly, artwork found its way into several Central City Concern housing sites, a small preview of things to come.

Soon thereafter, Carole and others learned about the benefits of artwork in healthcare settings. A well-known study by Roger S. Ulrich, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist who conducts research on the effects of healthcare facilities on medical outcomes, supports the idea that patients with access to views of art, nature, and other inspiring visual images are less stressed and anxious, and more hopeful and optimistic about treatment options. Subsequent studies and reviews have come to similar conclusions.

With the knowledge that art could aid in healing, and the belief that the people Central City Concern serves deserve access to exceptional art as much as anyone else, a small but passionate team of volunteers was assembled with the goal of procuring donations of artwork created by some of the Pacific Northwest’s best artists. As they got to work, artists, galleries, and collectors donated pieces, while others provided cash donations to purchase art.

Each piece of procured artwork was reviewed by Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Art Curator, who volunteered her time to ensure that this collection would be of the utmost quality and reputation. Further, a panel of Central City Concern patients and health services staff members reviewed each piece before it was accepted into the collection.

As a whole, the Healing Through Art Collection complements the unique healing model developed by Central City Concern, as well as SERA Architect’s award-winning design of the two adjacent clinics. The collection has become a shared community asset that enriches the lives of the patients we serve, the staff members who provide compassionate care, and the many visitors we host each year.

And while it may not be a surprise anymore when patients and visitors comment on the artwork around Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center, it remains thrilling to know that art has the power to elicit feelings of hope, calm, and healing.

You can learn more about each of the artists and their pieces by downloading the Healing Through Art booklet, which includes information about the artists and artist statements.

Past and current members of the Art Task Force include:

  • Pam Baker
  • Jeanine Jablonski
  • Carole Romm
  • Marcy Schwartz
  • Bing Sheldon
  • Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn
  • Kate Wagle
  • Dedee Wilner-Nugent
  • Dan Winter
  • Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson (Curatorial Advisor)