Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Albina Arts Center reasserts itself

Ownership of the longtime Black arts center is transferred, and PassinArt Theatre will become a major decision-maker.

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Interior of the Albina Arts Center, which is also home to the Soul Restoration Project.

After many months of talks and deliberations, the Albina Arts Center has new owners. Ownership of the center, in the core of Portland’s traditional Black neighborhoods, will transfer to Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. and Rosemary Anderson High School on Sept. 1.

The arts center played a key role in Portland’s Black cultural life in the 1960s and ’70s, and at one point was shut down for about 30 years. It hadn’t been a full-time Black arts hub until The Soul Restoration Center moved in last February. The new ownership plan seems to assure it will continue to be a hub, with The Soul Restoration Center remaining and a major new partner added: PassinArt: A Theatre Company, the Black theater established in 1982, will become a core tenant.

The aligned Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School offer educational, employment, and mentoring opportunities to at-risk youth and adults; about 80 percent of people who use it are Black or Latinx.

The alternative high school has four campuses, including one at 717 N. Killingsworth Court, near the Albina Arts Center. “I have spent 90 percent of my life living, working and playing within 1.2 miles of the Albina Arts Center site,” Joe McFerrin II, the aligned groups’ president and CEO, said in Tuesday’s announcement. “Ownership of the Albina Arts Center will further our charitable purpose by allowing us to provide a much-needed community service to support the sustainability and growth of Black-led arts organizations and Black artists and artist spaces in Portland.”

Exterior of the Albina Arts Center, at Williams and Killingsworth.

PassinArt will work with POIC and the Rosemary Anderson School to determine artistic programming. The partnership should offer a permanent performing space for PassinArt, which spent many years performing at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (which is also undergoing long discussions to determine its future) and is performing its current season downtown in the Brunish Theatre of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts. “The Albina Arts Center has the potential to be our home base in the neighborhood where PassinArt was born,” company leader Jerry Foster said in Tuesday’s announcement of the center’s new structure. “It will bring the next generations forward by doing what we have been doing since 1982.”

“The process for envisioning the future for Albina Arts Center began well over a year ago and involved the authentic engagement of many key Black community elders and leaders from the arts, business, and nonprofit sectors,” Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, a leader on the steering committee that designed the process, said in Tuesday’s announcement. “By seeking out and listening to Black community leaders and organizations, we have yielded a very positive outcome for the historic Albina community. This highly collaborative and transparent process has set up future generations of Black Portlanders for successful opportunities.”

The Oregon Community Foundation played a crucial part in the transfer, acting under request from the State of Oregon to hold the property in trust “in a temporary, administrative capacity until the community-led process is complete.” Under the agreement, the building could be granted only to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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2 Responses

  1. So happy to hear that the Albina Arts Center continues on. As I child, I attended the Albina Arts Center. It was one block from my home. My experiences there influenced me for the rest of my life. I remember sitting out on our front stoop in the summer with my folks, listening to Thara Memory lead a youth orchestra who would play outside on the sidewalk in front of the Albina Art Center. It was heavenly to hear.

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