Current Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan

Are you feeling creatively inspired? Artistically alive? Ready to tackle that blank canvas, heart open, eyes wide? Congrats on being the only one! Might we suggest you harness that superhuman strength for the good of our city?

On April 2, Commissioner Carmen Rubio’s office announced that the search is on for Portland’s next Creative Laureate, who will follow Subashini Ganesan and Julie O’Keefe as the city’s third. The position, created in 2012 by then-mayor Sam Adams, serves as a go-between linking Portland’s creative community to its policymakers. Laureates are the city’s most visible arts advocates, holding seats at the table with City Council, the city arts manager, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council, among others.

“[The last year] hasn’t necessarily changed what sort of candidate we’re looking for, but I would say [it’s] emphasized the needs to have a candidate with lived experience, who understands and is part of these experiences that artists in our community are dealing with: this racial reckoning, being priced out, the lack of both affordable housing and art space in the city,” says Mona Schwartz, a policy adviser for Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who manages the city’s arts portfolio. Schwartz is heading up the Creative Laureate search, and she identifies community relationships (especially with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Portlanders) as likely the most important prerequisite for an incoming Creative Laureate.

Beyond that, though, criteria is loose. Candidates should be able to present “consistent and meaningful artistic work,” per language on Commissioner Rubio’s website, and be willing to serve a full two-year term, but the doors are wide open otherwise. “This time and space has given more people the opportunity to dive inwards and maybe expand their creative sides,” Schwartz says. “I’m curious to see if we’re going to have new candidates who may not have thought of themselves as a Creative Laureate a year or two ago.”

Not sure that’s you? No problem! Current Laureate Subashini Ganesan, who was appointed by late city commissioner Nick Fish in 2018, will be holding open office hours on Fridays throughout April to help interested candidates understand the parameters and possibilities of the position. (If you’re interested in speaking with her, shoot an email to Schwartz at [email protected] to reserve some time.) The city is accepting applications through the end of the monththey consist of three essay questions, a resume, and three references—and the new appointee will be announced in late May or early June, with an anticipated start date of July 1.

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