Subashini Ganesan: Creative Laureate Checks In

Stage & Studio: Dmae Roberts and Portland's arts advocate talk about Covid relief, EDI initiatives, and what the next laureate might do

What is the current state of Portland’s creative community? One person who has had her finger on the pulse of the needs and challenges for Portland’s artists is Subashini Ganesan, and she’s checking in with Dmae Roberts.

Subashini Ganesan-Photo: Intisar Abioto.

In 2018, Ganesan was selected to become the Creative Laureate of Portland, the first woman of color to represent the city’s creative community. As the cultural ambassador of Portland, she conducted surveys to help artists define needs for affordable space, and organized arts and culture communities in an event, “Walk with Refugees and Immigrants.” She also co-founded and organized an emergency relief fund for artists during March through July in 2020 as the arts community struggled to adapt to COVID-19.

Creative Laureate is an unpaid position with a stipend for expenses. Ganesan became an advocate for arts practitioners as she has worked to bring together funders, business people and artists to improve the health of the arts community. She’s about to step down on June 30, and the city is searching for its next Creative Laureate: The application deadline at Portland.gov is April 30 if you’re interested.

Dmae Roberts has a frank conversation with Ganesan that addresses affordability, COVID-19 relief funding, community healing, the likelihood that EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) initiatives will stick, and the forecast for the next 18 months. Ganesan also gives advice to the next Creative Laureate. Listen in right now on this episode of Stage & Studio to learn more about her stint as Creative Laureate. Ganesan’s next plan is to establish a community healing space and portal on Portland.gov that will highlight for artists events and resource sharing for artists.

Theme Music by Clark Salisbury

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Subashini Ganesan is an artist, arts administrator, and the Creative Laureate of Portland. Ganesan choreographs and performs potent and universally relevant expressions drawn from her foundation in Bharatanatyam. Over the years, Ganesan’s original works have been presented by local arts organizations such as PICA, Conduit, Performance Works NW, Ten Tiny Dances, Portland Center Stage, Third Angle New Music, and Risk/Reward. Ganesan also collaborates extensively with many artists including Mike Barber, Anita Menon, Michelle Fujii, Sabina Haque, and Yashaswini Raghuram. 

Photo: Intisar Abioto.

In 2010, Ganesan founded New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), a performing arts venue in Portland that celebrates multicultural independent performing artists who teach, are in residency, and create new works. N.E.W. and Ganesan as its founder received RACC’s 2018 Juice! Award and White Bird’s 2019 Community Engagement Award for making affordable space possible to artists and arts organizations.

Ganesan is a member of the Teacher Advisory Council of the Portland Art Museum and is a Community Advisory Committee member of the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC). She serves on the Board of Directors for the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation and the Portland Parks Foundation. As the Creative Laureate of Portland, Ganesan serves as the official ambassador for the broader creative community in Portland.

About the author

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 StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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