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Intisar Abioto – Black Art/ists Gathering

Stage & Studio podcast: Dmae Roberts talks with the artistically versatile Abioto about Black culture and her many projects.


Intisar Abioto. Photo: Renee Lopez

Intisar Abioto calls herself “an explorer-artist working across photography, dance and writing.” Since she moved to Portland as a young adult with her family, she’s been creatively highlighting and documenting the contributions and talents of Black Oregonians.

A prolific cross-disciplinary artist, some of her projects have included “Black Portlanders,” a photo essay and blog…

….the “In-Between,” a  public art series of artwork on utility poles…

…and “Sugar Lee”, an installation and solo performance.

Abioto was recently awarded a significant grant from Oregon Community Foundation’s Creative Heights Initiative to create Black Art/ists Gathering, a three-day retreat for Black artists, curators and arts administrators in Oregon.

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Hear past shows on Stage & Studio website. Theme Music by Clark Salisbury. 

In this podcast we’ll  hear more about:

–The Black Art/ists Gathering, slated for 2023

–Portland Black History such as the Historic Billy Webb Elks Lodge that was nearly destroyed by fire in 2019.

–Her upcoming exhibits such as Black Exteriors, Black Interiors, Opacity of Performance for Takahiro Yamamoto, public art such as the Black Portland Art & Placemaking Initiative featuring the work of photographer/activist Richard Brown, and a collaboration for Bobby Fouther‘s Culture+Trauma+Healing exhibit,

— Abioto’s passion to document the Black community.

“I think with any story, like once you get like the whiff or the tale of a story, you wanna know when you dig deeper and you broaden deeper. It’s just a human story. I think if I had ended up somewhere else, I would still be doing this because it, it very much comes from like a community-based love and seeking of Black life and living and fantasy and dreams.  That energy kind of got rooted down into Portland and somehow this specific place…Even The Black Portlanders is a Black diasporic story. Like we’re not just from here where there’s a, a flow of and full and forward, like flocks, you know, like, like a murmuration of those Starling birds…”

More about Intisar Abioto:

Abioto (b. Memphis, TN. 1986) is an artist working across photography, dance, and writing. Moving from the visionary and embodied root of Blackgirl Southern cross-temporal cross-modal storytelling ways, her works refer to the living breath/breadth of people of African descent against the expanse of their storied, geographic, and imaginative landscapes. Working in long-form projects that encompass the visual, folkloric, documentary, and performing arts, she has produced The People Could Fly Project, The Black Portlanders, and The Black. Co-created with her four artist sisters, The People Could Fly Project was a 200,000-mile flying arts expedition exploring realities of flight and freedom within the African diasporic myth of the flying African and Virginia Hamilton’s award-winning book The People Could Fly.

Abioto is the recipient of a 2018 Oregon Humanities Emerging Journalists, Community Stories Fellowship for which she began a continuing body of research on the history of artists of African descent in Oregon. She has performed and/or exhibited at Ori Gallery, Portland Art Museum, Duplex Gallery, Photographic Center Northwest, African American Museum in Philadelphia, Poetry Press Week, Design Week Portland, Spelman College, Powell’s City of Books, University of Oregon White Box Gallery, Portland State University, Reed College, and Zilkha Gallery among others. Selected for an Art in the Governor’s Office solo exhibition in 2019 she exhibited and performed with nine Oregon-based Black artists against the inner expanse of the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem. She is a recipient of the 2019 Women of Excellence in the Arts Award from the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and a 2020 Lilla Jewel Award for Womxn Artists from the Seeding Justice Foundation. Her publication Black Portlanders documents interviews with Black Portlanders alongside her photographs. She was a contributing photographer to MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora (2017) and her photographs illustrated the Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon 2015. With the five women artists in her family, she is the co-founder of Studio Abioto, a multivalent creative arts studio.

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Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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