Miles away from the Pearl District and the Alberta Arts District, East Portland may not have the same reputation as a hub of Portland’s artistic life. But it’s there, thriving at the intersection of art and social justice.
For the past five years, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) has put on the East Portland Arts & Literary Festival (EPALF) to spark conversations about the issues impacting the state’s Asian and Pacific Islander populations.
Previously hosted at Portland Community College’s Southeast location and the specialty Asian grocery paradise, Fubonn, the festival has gone virtual this year, but that’s not the only difference. EPALF is now QUEER-PALF, running from October 22 to November 12 and focusing on the voices and experiences of LGBTQ Asians and Pacific Islanders. The festival will center on the theme of “reconnection” as the world emerges from some of the more dire elements of almost two years of pandemic life.
For Garima Thakur, one of the event’s organizers, reconnection is all about asking “how are we responding, reacting, being inside the world right now? Not post-pandemic but inside of it, together.”
This year’s festival includes an online pop-up of BIPOC artists and makers selling books, ceramics, prints, illustrations, flower bouquets, and more.
Other events feature work from a huge array of mediums including film, poetry, prose, and visual art. There’ll also be author talks with Meenakshi Thirukode, Romi Morrison, and Ariella Tai; art and healing workshops for BIPOC parents of LGBTQ youth; and writing workshops, in partnership with Write Around Portland, that encourage participants to find their voices and tell their own stories.
Opening November 5, is an exhibition displaying work produced by the East Portland Art + Justice Lab, which paired six artists-in-residence with community members from the affordable housing project Orchards of 82nd. The opening will feature three projects that emerged during the collaboration: Forgotten Birds by Nikki Acevedo and Sabina Haque, Black Birth Matters by Felecia Graham and Roshani Thakore, and The Computer is OK by Myra Aldan and Cary Miga.
The organizers speak to the need to carve out spaces for LGBTQ people of color however they can. “I think a lot about how our are public and digital spaces are created, what our spatial realities are,” says Thakur. “Public spaces are not made for queer people, are not made for Black people, are not made for people of color.”
Events take place during lunch or evening and translations are available in a wide variety of languages.
For Kelly Novahom, another event organizer, accessibility is a key part of finding your community – and yourself. “The theme is not just about us reconnecting but connecting with ourselves, our bodies, and being present.”
You can see a full list of programming and register for events here.