The 8th Annual Festival Vanport Mosaic Festival is under way in Portland through May 29, 2023. It’s curated and produced by Laura Lo Forti, who calls herself a Story Midwife, and two artists who’ve worked with the festival through the years are taking on several community engagement events on Memorial Day weekend.
On May 27, 28 and 29, Chisao Hata and Aaron Spriggs have created opportunities for reflection on history and reclamation of past grief and trauma. Much of the work is through storytelling, movement, walking tours, and site-activated remembrance.
Dmae Lo Roberts talked with Hata and Spriggs about the need for living memorials and chances for remembrance and release. They also discussed the need to know our history, especially at a time when several states are banning books on African American history, LGBTQ+ stories and anything relating to historic racism.
Left: Chisao Hata, Reflection Photography. Right: Aaron Spriggs.
More info about the Vanport Mosaic Festival:
May 30, 2023, marks the 75th anniversary of the flood that destroyed Vanport – the United States’ largest World War II federal housing project and Oregon’s second-largest city in its time. The Vanport Mosaic Festival, in its eighth year, commemorates Oregon’s Katrina-like disaster with exhibits, performances, documentary screenings, oral history recordings, tours of the historic Vanport area, and a reunion of former Vanport residents and flood survivors. See the full schedule at: www.vanportmosaic.org/festival2023
Highlight for Memorial Day Weekend:
Day of Remembrance, Delta Park, Expo Center/ Hall A – former “Assembly Center” -Free and open to the public. Noon-4 p.m.: Memory activism, tours, stories, songs, exhibits, video/altar, all on the Indigenous land where Vanport once stood and where nearly 4,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in 1942.
Story Room, with story circles facilitated by artist and community weaver Chisao Hata, director of the Living Arts Program/ Community engagement with Design as Protest/Colloqate.
Remember Us, by Chisao Hata: a temporary memorial to Japanese Americans held at the Portland Assembly Center in 1943, honoring their history, loss, erasure and continuing reclaiming of culture, history and stories.
Architecture of Internment: The Build-Up of Wartime Incarceration/ Graham Street Production — a traveling exhibit exploring how Oregonians participated in the decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II.
Other events on May 27 happening in tandem:
- Song weaving and letterpress
- VIDEO ALTAR / by Joemil Santos
- Storytelling by Ed Edmo
- Drumming/Chanting by John Edmo
- History Is Now — Vanport Mosaic museum without walls
- Stories in Movement: paintings by Alex Chiu as part of VM story circles facilitated by Chisao Hata
Presence and Preservation at Force Lake (happening also on May 29). Meet at EXPO Hall A, 12 – 2:30 pm, $5-15 sliding scale. RSVP recommended.
Birdwatching and Historical Walking Tour with Marti Clemmons (PSU archivist/historian) and Han Lyons (BIRDHERS) – Note: 5/29 Queer-centered walk.
Presence and Preservation at Force Lake (happening also on May 29). Meet at EXPO Hall A; noon- 2:30 p.m., $5-15 sliding scale. RSVP recommended.
Soft Earth Hard Ground: 12:30 -2:30 p.m.; meet at the Vanport MAX Station parking area. $5-15 sliding scale. RSVP recommended. Walk with artist Linda Wysong. Slow down and examine history through ecology, art, and justice. Stroll along a slough and happen upon artists, storytellers, and the dancer Takahiro Yamamoto.
Guild’s Lake Walking Tour: Starts at Lovett Deconstruction & Salvage Shop, 4315 NW St Helens Road, 11 a.m.- p.m., $5-10 sliding scale, RSVP recommended. Join Sarah Taylor/Braided River Campaign and a longtime environmentalist and historian, Dr. Tanya March, as they take you to multiple sites associated with the former riparian marshlands of the Northwest Portland Industrial Area.
A Collective Altar For Collective Grief, Gratitude, and Grace: Historic Alberta House – 8:30 pm, Free and open to the public. Throughout the day, allow yourself to flow through the space, feeling your way through the various stories that are converging at this place. Honor those who have passed into the ancestral realms, deepen into the present moment, and dream into the future. Join a special sunset ceremony from 7-8.30 pm. Co-facilitated by Aaron Spriggs & ridhi d’cruz.
More about the guests:
Chisao Hata is the Creative Director for the Living Arts Program at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon. Hata is a performer, educator, and “community weaver.” Her original work and community engagement address themes of history, identity, place and peace through movement, drumming, ritual, poetic text and cultural wisdom. Her work has been highlighted at the Vanport Mosaic Festival and she is a partnering artist at the Dance Exchange in Takoma Park, Maryland. chisaohata.com
Aaron Spriggs is a transplant from Detroit, Mich., and has been living in Portland for almost 10 years. As a Black man who is queer and grew up in poverty, his experience and learning have developed into a deep calling toward being accountable to his community’s needs. For more than a decade, Aaron has spent most of his time as a community advocate, teacher, group facilitator, and artist. Aaron moves with a heart-center and a deep belief in possibility. He enjoys supporting self and community in connection, consciousness-raising, compassionate accountability processes, self-compassion meditation, somatic release, intersectional analysis, and recommendations toward people’s needs getting met. He is also a friend, a brother, a son, and an uncle who enjoys playing music, running, hanging out with the littles, talking on the phone, climbing things, and meditating.