A snippet of speakers and performers for the Disrupt conference October 19 and 20 at PAM.

Since 2012, nonprofit WeMake has fostered community art and design through hands-on workshops, creating spaces for dialogue, and fundraising. Founded by Yvonne Perez Emerson—who also runs graphic design studio the Study and owns maker space Tillamook Station—and led by a board that includes photographers, Wieden & Kennedy employees, community builders, and accountants, the group has donated more than $100,000 to local arts education so far.

“I was one of those kids once," Perez Emerson says. "If it wasn’t for art and a few people that told me I had something there, I could have taken a totally different path ... and probably not for good. Art is important, especially if you are struggling to fit in or you come from poverty. Art doesn’t judge who you are, it helps you express yourself. And with our current political climate, art is important to lift people up, share stories, and help people to stay woke. And it’s important to me to make sure that POC, women, and LGBTQ have a voice and are heard.”

Those values will be on full display at WeMake's fourth annual Disrupt event, which will take over the Portland Art Museum's Grand Ballroom October 19–20. Three keynote speakers—muralist Katy Ann Gilmore, 3D paper artist Tommy Perez, and illustrator Loveis Wise—will kick off the talks, followed by smaller, visual-heavy sessions with artists like Christina Lonsdale of Radiant Human aura photos and Kate Day of Dovetail women’s workwear. Though they come from a wide variety of backgrounds Perez Emerson says all the invited designers have one thing in common.

“We wanted to invite makers who might be shaking up their industry a bit, who maybe have a different way of seeing or creating," she says. "People with fresh perspectives. These speakers are all Portland creative entrepreneurs who have forged their own path doing what they love. They are unique and disruptive in their field.” 

WeMake: Disrupt Conference

Fri–Sat, Oct 19-20, Portland Art Museum, $90

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