Diana Marcela Cuartas

Colombian artist living in Portland, Oregon

Through multiple approaches, Diana’s practice reflects on the relationships knitted between a place and those who inhabit it. Her projects often scrutinize the discourses, aesthetics, values, common errands, and other idiosyncrasies of a particular context or subject, by breaking through the habitual readings of it.

Diana was Head of Public Programs for four years at Espacio Odeón, an independent organization that promotes contemporary artistic creation and performing arts in Bogotá, Colombia. Formerly she was part of the non-profit art space Lugar a Dudas(A place for doubts), dedicated to promoting contemporary art with a global focus in Cali, Colombia.  As an independent researcher, she has been an artist in residence in La Usurpadora (Puerto Colombia), Bisagra (Lima), Tatlelolco Central (Mexico City), and Beta-Local (San Juan, Puerto Rico), studying different popular culture phenomena.

In 2019 she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she has been working independently for the promotion and exchange of interdisciplinary projects between Pacific Northwest and Latin American artists.


Kiara Walls

Kiara Walls is a teaching visual artist, originally from LA but now stationed in Dallas, Texas. Her work is centered around increasing awareness of the need and demand for reparations to repair the injuries inflicted on the African American communityThis interpretation is seen through many forms including story-telling and site specific installations including audio and visuals.  


The Black Box Experience

The Black Box Experience (located in Los Angeles, CA)  incorporates visuals along with audio that recreates the black narrative in a large scale wooden box. By combining both visual and audio sensory,  the black box creates an experience that is similar to the subconscious mind of a minority.

“Through abstract form and visuals, I create a style that is representational of injuries African Americans have suffered during and after enslavement. These injury areas include people hood/nationhood, education, health, criminal punishment, wealth and poverty. I am focusing on the injury area of reparations that interconnects with wealth and poverty. It intersects with the negative effects of systematic racism that has resulted in the division of wealth and poverty among the African American community. I produce visual interpretations of the injuries through video and sculpture juxtaposed with spoken word.”

Black Box Conversation Series

Lucy Cotter

Lucy teaches Art Theory and Critical Theory at postgraduate level. A trained artist with a PhD in Cultural Analysis, she is passionate about art’s potential for expanding intellectual enquiry and rethinking social, political and institutional imaginaries and structures. She has taught visual artists, designers, architects and composers at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, the Sandberg Institute and the University of the Arts in the Netherlands, as well as guest lecturing internationally. She was founding director of the MA Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, where she developed an experimental curriculum with an expansive public program.

Lucy is editor of a number of books, most recently Reclaiming Artistic Research (Hatje Cantz, 2019), which foregrounds the agency of artistic thinking. A regular contributor to catalogues and journals including Mousse, Flash Art, Frieze and Third Text, she is guest editor of Art&Education: Classroom in 2019. Among her curatorial projects, Lucy was curator of the Dutch pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017, presenting Cinema Olanda, a project featuring a solo exhibition by artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh in Venice and a multi-authored exhibition and live program across several venues in the Netherlands, which examined the Dutch self-image in relation to rapid social and political transformations. Lucy’s latest projects experiment with the boundaries of the artistic, the curatorial and the theoretical.


Answers Without Words in Oregon Arts Watch

Beyond the walls: A social practice project goes global

Answers Without Words, a photography project, fosters creative dialogue between incarcerated artists in Oregon and photographers from around the world

I am watching a group of men set a scene to be photographed. Ben Turanski, one of the prisoners at Columbia River Correctional Institution, indicates I am witnessing “prison innovation” in the works. He and some others are turning one corner of a classroom space at CRCI into a faux hospice. He twists a long piece of plastic wrapper into a cord, like an IV, attaching it to the wrist of Joshua Wright, who is lying on a makeshift hospital bed. Now done setting the scene, Turanski sits beside Wright and takes his hand.

From several feet away, Ben Hall takes a photo with a digital camera. When I ask him about what is happening, he indicates that the scenario he is photographing is inspired by his time working hospice in prison.

Click on the link above to read more.

Amanda Leigh Evans

Amanda Leigh Evans (b. 1989) is an artist, educator, and cultivator seeking a deeper understanding of our social and ecological interdependence. She makes clay objects, gardens, books, websites, videos and sculptures, and participates in collaborative systems. Evans holds an MFA in Art + Social Practice from Portland State University and a Post-Bac in Ceramics from Cal State Long Beach.

From 2016-2021 Evans has facilitated The Living School of Art, an intergenerational art collective and alternative art school that she and her neighbors co-developed in their affordable housing apartment complex in East Portland, OR. She also was a lead collaborator at KSMoCA.

Harrell Fletcher: Notes On Claiming


What I wanted to write about today is the concept and practice of “claiming” in relationship to art and specifically social practice. I’ve always struggled with how much students and artists need to know about art to be able to function effectively as artists, sometimes I’ve felt like it might be better to know very little (so as not to be limited by existing frameworks and models), and when it comes to the MFA that I currently am in charge of I encourage people who don’t have undergrad degrees in art to apply, and we have happily accepted folks with degrees in lots of other disciplines, many of whom went on to make amazing art work. If it were in fact up to me, I’d also potentially accept people with no undergraduate degree at all just based on their work and life experience, but the university won’t go for that. 

At the same time my own knowledge of art history has been very influential on my practice and informs a lot of the work I do in a wide variety of ways both conceptual and aesthetic. Duchamp’s readymades, and Richard Prince and Sherry Levine’s work using appropriation have been very important to me in developing my own practice and projects. I was thrilled as a young student when I learned about those approaches, so it is always interesting to me how presenting those concepts to my own students can have such emotionally negative reactions, they seem to feel that those artists were cheating, and think that their success somehow undermines the students own skills in more traditional artist techniques. I’ve seen undergrads brought to tears when learning about Duchamp and his status in the world of contemporary art.

[The American War. Harrell Fletcher]

Anyway, what I wanted to write about here is the potential use of what I’m going to call “claiming” as an artistic method. What I’m talking about has all sorts of potential applications from ones that are just expansions of readymades and appropriation, which is in many ways what I was doing with my project The American War (though I added in site-specific participatory events as well), to other uses which start to operate further afield partly because they can function outside of the need to create some kind of object that can be bought and sold and displayed in an art world venue. I recall that Fischli and Weiss had a project in the late 90’s as part of the Munster Sculpture Project where they just claimed a community garden as their project and directed people to go see it. Actually, I just looked that up and it turns out it was a garden that they had constructed to look like a community garden and it was temporary just for the exhibition time, so that doesn’t work as an example of claiming in the sense that I’m talking about. (Though it does fit well into another topic I’d like to write about sometime which is how prior to the use of the internet it was sometimes hard to find out accurate details about temporary projects and through the reliance of limited documentation or even just word of mouth artists would often be inspired to create something new based on a misinterpretation or lack of details of something that had happened before. That might be something that is being undermined now by so much digital availability to vast documentation and information on the web.)

So let’s just say Fischli and Weiss had not created the garden, but had instead just claimed it, would that be valid? For me it’s no different than a photographer taking a picture of a garden (or any other pre-existing thing) and then presenting the print as their work. Some would say that the formalization of the photograph (composition, technical elements, printing, framing, etc.) are what makes the photograph art, which from my point of view (as a fan of appropriation) isn’t necessary to call something art. It’s really just the act of calling it art that makes it art, but in the case of an artist claiming a garden (or any other pre-existing thing) as their art, there are still various formalizing aspects to doing that.

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 8.36.21 PM
[photo credit: Fischli/Weiss: Garten, 1997/2016. Bild: © Fondation Beyeler]

Let’s once again take the garden as a hypothetical example even though in reality it wasn’t done in the way that I thought it was, but let’s suspend reality and pretend that it was. If that had been the case then the project would have been formalized by its inclusion in the program listing along with the other projects that were a part of the show, it would have been on the map showing where all of the sculpture projects were located, there would be a title, description, etc, it would have been included in the exhibition catalog, it would have been documented and re-presented, basically anything that would have happened to a constructed outdoor sculpture that was included in a major exhibition would also have happened to the pre-existing, site-specific, ongoing garden or whatever.

There is a potential problem with this approach that goes beyond just being valid or not as art. It could also be thought of as an imperialistic approach in that the artist without having actually made anything other than a claim, would be seen as the author of a project that someone else or some other group actually created and maintained. This hits on something I’ve also written about related to crediting, and I think it is applicable not only to conceptual claiming projects, but also to almost anything that involves other people’s un-credited contributions to art projects from assistants, fabricators, silent collaborators, participants, etc. In the case of the garden and projects like that it is simple enough to find out who actually created and maintained the garden and then to get approval from them to use the garden as part of an art project and credit them for their role. If it is possible or desirable to share funding then that can happen as well. My sense is that most people would happily have their garden (etc) included in a major art exhibition, especially if they are getting credit and potentially even payment.

Ok, so what if the claimed pre-existing thing isn’t part of a major art project. It can still work without any validating institutional approval or inclusion (though as with all art, that makes it easier to be seen as significant and valuable). There are still other ways for artists to formalize their claim. They can program their own event related to the site or object, they can document it, title it, etc. and then just put it on a website, make a zine about it, present it at a lecture, etc, etc. It could also be more than a single claim, imagine for instance a series of spots that an artist locates and formalizes to go together, like making a music playlist the artist could suggest that people check out a certain tree, talk to a particular person at a store, look at a specific book at a library, eat a suggested item at a food cart, etc. all in a detailed out sequence with potentially added information about each location, sort of like a walking tour of the senses. This selection of claimed spots could be made available in a variety of forms, for instance maybe published in a local weekly newspaper or put up as a flier, or just told to a set of people, and in that way becomes applied and no longer just an idea, then can be listed on a resume, presented in lectures, printed in publications etc, just like any other work of art.

[A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey by Robert Smithson (1967).]

A related example that also had a huge impact on me were two works by Robert Smithson, his 1967 photo article A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey, in which he describes in a very conversational tone a set of “monuments” which he observed which were in reality industrial units and piles that he was giving extraordinary significance to, basically treating things like art that weren’t intended as art. In a similar piece, The Hotel Palenque from 1972, (initially presented as a slide lecture, and later published in a Parkett magazine where I first encountered it) Smithson details with photos and more nonchalant but validating language a hotel in Mexico that he stayed at which was undergoing at the same time a process of literal construction and de-construction. The only real difference between the Smithson pieces and what I’m suggesting is the way that an audience can be invited to participate in experiencing the chosen claimed places, objects, sounds, etc.

I think the concept of claiming has all sorts of potential artistic and curatorial applications and would be a welcome addition or even substitution for much of the work produced currently by art students and other artists, who instead continue the largely futile production of studio based objects in the hopes of showing and selling in galleries, which is very unlikely given the high volume of art object production and the scarcity of status quo venues.


Mining Resources at the Crumpacker Family Library

April 10th, 2013

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Featured books on Activism in Art The Anne and James F. Crumpacker Family Library is the region’s most comprehensive visual art resource open to students, researchers, docents, staff, and free to the public. The Library’s collection of more than 35,000 volumes originated in 1895 and includes current and historical periodicals, art archives, and resources specific to the Museum’s history. Located on the second floor of the Mark Building, a former Masonic Temple, the Library’s comfortable reading room, much of the decor and furniture from the period, and irreplaceable, non-circulating collection provide an urban retreat for anyone interested in art.”

Special thanks to the Library Director, Debra Royer, who was very knowledgable and more than willing to help in searching and minging the Library for not just activism in art, but also the rest of the Journal’s themes and assisting the other Social Practice Journal’s editors. 


“Change is inevitable, growth is optional”

-writing on the wall

Originally I thought an anonymous bite of genius found scribbled on the restroom wall, but with more research found it has been quoted by John Maxwell, the evangelical Christian author, speaker, and pastor who has written more than 60 books, primarily focusing on leadership. I am not sure about the author, but the quote is pertinent. It is nevertheless one of many versions of quotes pertaining to this basic human experience. I believe that it is at that very first experience of change that provokes us to express our emotion and reaction to change.

Activism encompasses many qualities that function transcendentally in art; from traditional graphical forms, to performative, to participatory. There are many forms of art that have been used as tools in social movements throughout history. It has only been in the last century that art has been recognized as a used tool, other than for aesthetics for dissemination of information or education. Different forms of counter-institutional art, the Dadaists for example in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, have developed in order to incite a social conscious change. But there are other examples of activism within art that are not visual, as in the Theater of the Oppressed developed by Augusto Boal in the 1960’s influenced by the work of the educator and theorist Paulo Freire.

With these vast examples of activism manifesting within art it was hard to only pinpoint one word or one overarching phrase that would produce results in one find. I realized that this also means people have different in interpretations of what or how activism may be represented in art. This display is a result of that realization. I tried to initiate various searches using the Library’s Online Collection Database to produce this exhibition of books that either ARE examples of activism, represent social activism within their pages, or are collections of thoughts and works of artists. My hope is to introduce community to different forms of art and to invite community to run their own searches based on their own interpretation of what activism is to them.


Ault, Julie, Brian Wallis, Marianne Weems, and Philip Yenawine. Art Matters: How the Culture Wars Changed America. New York: New York UP, 1999. Print.
Chandler, Annmarie, and Norie Neumark. At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2005. Print.
Cushing, Lincoln, and Tim Drescher. Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters. Ithaca: ILR/Cornell UP, 2009. Print.
Doherty, Claire. Situation. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2009. Print.
Douglas, Emory, Bobby Seale, Sam Durant, and Sonia Sanchez. Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 2007. Print.
Fletcher, Harrell. The American War. Atlanta, GA: J & L, 2006. Print.
Frascina, Francis. Art, Politics, and Dissent: Aspects of the Art Left in Sixties America. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1999. Print.
Heyman, Therese Thau. “Patriots and Protestors.” Posters American Style. New York: National Museum of American, Smithsonian Institution in Association with H.N. Abrams, 1998. N. pag. Print.
Higgie, Jennifer, Hugo Ball, Henri Bergson, André Breton, Dan Cameron, Leonora Carrington, Hélène Cixous, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Alex Farquharson, Dan Fox, Sigmund Freud, Girls Guerrilla, Jörg Heiser, Dave Hickey, Hannah Höch, Jo Anna. Isaak, Mike Kelley, Barbara Kruger, Nathaniel Mellors, Tom Morton, Claes Oldenburg, Francis Picabia, Arnulf Rainer, Ad Reinhardt, Peter Schjeldahl, Carolee Schneemann, David Sedaris, Robert Smithson, Frances Stark, Kristine Stiles, Anna Tilroe, Hamza Walker, Sheena Wagstaff, and Slavoj Žižek. The Artist’s Joke. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2007. Print.
“Outrage And Sympathy: Artists on Injustice.” Des Moines Art Center: Gallery Guide (1991): n. pag. Rpt. in Gallery Guide. Comp. Lea R. Delong. Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center, 1991. Print.
We Need to Know Where We Have Been to Know Where We Are Going: A Collaboratively Written History of Art and Social Practice. LaVergne, TN: [s.n.], 2010. Print.



Lisa Jarrett

Associate Professor of Community and Context Arts

Portland State University’s School of Art + Design


Lisa Jarrett is an artist and educator. She is Associate Professor of Community and Context Arts at Portland State University’s School of Art + Design. She is co-founder and co-director of KSMoCA (Dr MLK Jr  School Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Harriet Tubman Middle School Center for Expanded Curatorial Practice in NE Portland, OR, and the artists collective Art 25: Art in the 25th Century. Her intersectional practice considers the politics of difference within a variety of settings including: schools, landscapes, fictions, racial imaginaries, studios, communities, museums, galleries, walls, mountains, mirrors, floors, rivers, and lenses. She exists and makes socially engaged work within the African Diaspora. She recently discovered that her primary medium is questions.

MFA, The University of Montana-Missoula, 2009
BFA, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, 1999
AAS, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, 1999

Roya Amirsoleymani

Roya Amirsoleymani is Artistic Director & Curator of Public Engagement at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), a multidisciplinary center for contemporary and experimental art, where she co-curates the annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA); year-round exhibitions, performances, and socially engaged projects; and critical, contextual, educational, community-based, and participatory programs. With PICA, she has designed and helps manage the Creative Exchange Lab artist residency program, the Crucial Bonding program for youth and artist mentors of color, and the Precipice Fund, a grantmaking program through the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program. She is PICA’s primary liaison to the Black Art Ecology of Portland project and is part of a PICA team supporting the development of the international Global First Nations Performance Network. In her work with PICA and beyond, she strives to foreground complex questions and concerns of access, equity, and inclusion for experimental art and its institutions.
Roya is a founding member of Arts Workers for Equity (AWE), which seeks to advance racial equity in Portland’s cultural sector, and is on faculty in the Art & Social Practice MFA Program at Portland State University. She has presented at international, national, and local conferences and convenings and has served on numerous national and regional grant panels and award committees. She holds a BA in Contemporary Visual Culture & Gender Studies (Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, California) and a Masters’ in Arts Management (University of Oregon).
As faculty in the MFA Art & Social Practice Program at Portland State University, she has taught courses in Critical Art Theory, Art History II, Writing & Research, and Directed Studies, and she regularly serves on students’ graduate committees.

Harrell Fletcher

Professor, Founder of the Art and Social Practice MFA Concentration


Harrell Fletcher received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from California College of the Arts. He studied organic farming at UCSC and went on to work on a variety of small Community Supported Agriculture farms, which impacted his work as an artist. Fletcher has produced a variety of socially engaged collaborative and interdisciplinary projects since the early 1990 ’ s. His work has been shown at SFMOMA, the de Young Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Wattis Institute, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Drawing Center, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Sculpture Center, The Wrong Gallery, Apex Art, and Smack Mellon in NYC, DiverseWorks and Aurora Picture show in Houston, TX, PICA in Portland, OR, CoCA and The Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, WA, Signal in Malmo, Sweden, Domain de Kerguehennec in France, The Tate Modern in London, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. He was a participant in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Fletcher has work in the collections of MoMA, The Whitney Museum, The New Museum, SFMOMA, The Hammer Museum, The Berkeley Art Museum, The De Young Museum, and The FRAC Brittany, France. From 2002 to 2009 Fletcher coproduced Learning To Love You More, a participatory website with Miranda July. Fletcher is the 2005 recipient of the Alpert Award in Visual Arts. His exhibition The American War originated in 2005 at ArtPace in San Antonio, TX, and traveled to Solvent Space in Richmond, VA, White Columns in NYC, The Center For Advanced Visual Studies MIT in Boston, MA, PICA in Portland, OR, and LAXART in Los Angeles among other locations.