For its postponed 10th iteration—the event was initially slated to go up in the spring of 2021, before COVID waylaid it twice—TEDx Portland will finally return on May 28. From 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., 21 speakers and performers will take the stage to share stories, make music, and (God willing) use a lot of pointed hand gestures. Big names, like Pink Martini and Portugal. The Man, will share the bill with lesser-known movers and shakers, oncologists and copywriters and engineers among them.
The full program makes for a long day, so we’ve plucked out six acts you can’t miss to help chunk things down to a digestible size.
Don’t hold your breath for a full identity reveal, but the anonymous, mononymed Canadian poet—who boasts 1.6 million Instagram followers and two New York Times bestselling collections—is scheduled to take the stage this year. If past appearances are anything to go by, he’ll be masked (in the Guy Fawkes sense rather than the COVID sense) and sporting easily digestible relationship wisdom in the insta-poet style of Rupi Kaur or Nayyirah Waheed.
The Oakland-born, Portland-based producer & jazz drummer has laid down rhythms for everyone from Prince to Rihanna to Janet Jackson throughout his long career. On a local scale, he’s a frequent collaborator of trumpeter Farnell Newton and saxophonist BrandonLee Cierley, and at TEDx, he’ll perform a hip-hop soul set alongside brothers John (“Jubu”) and Eric (“Pik Funk”) Smith. That’s our kind of arena show.
In 2018, Memory wrote a book for his kids about racism called (fairly enough) A Kids Book About Racism. Three years later, that project has grown into something of a Portland media empire: Memory has helmed a now-robust series of children’s books that tackle issues like gender, God, climate change, money, addiction, and self-love (the small stuff!), plus a program of podcasts and classes for older age groups. His achievements are many, but last fall, Memory got Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton to contribute to the series, and that’s the clincher for us. We will listen to anything the man has to say.
Parents, many of whom suddenly found themselves becoming teachers during the pandemic, might already be familiar with (and grateful for) Portlander Murphy’s work: she operates a successful YouTube channel as Crazy Aunt Lindsey where she’s been doling out kid-friendly science lessons for the better part of a decade. Her portfolio doesn’t stop there, though: she also hosts a web show for Travel Oregon, has worked in marketing for the likes of MTV, Nike, and Wieden + Kennedy, and is a certified veteran of TEDx Portland—this will be her fifth appearance at the event.
Viva Las Vegas
Often touted as Portland’s most famous erotic dancer, Viva Las Vegas (a.k.a. Liv Osthus) has lived a lot of lives, many of them summed up in the recent documentary Thank You for Supporting the Arts. She’s a writer and editor with two books under her belt (one of which was adapted into an opera), a vocalist, a sometime actress, a cancer survivor, and—hence her presence on this lineup—a speaker. Born to a Lutheran preacher before captivating Portland for nearly a quarter-century with her dancing and then her barrage of other projects, Osthus is no doubt teeming with stories that deserve your undivided attention.
Ever heard of Meow Wolf? The brain-bending art collective, which started in Santa Fe in 2008 and has recently expanded to Denver and Las Vegas, is known for its one-of-a-kind immersive installations that make Baz Luhrmann look like a minimalist. Think “George R.R. Martin-bankrolled haunted house where T Pain shot a music video” and “fully immersive anti-consumerist grocery store with a secret bar that sells piñatas of the seven deadly sins.” Kadlubek is one of the group’s founding members, and any opportunity to pick the brain of someone responsible for art this wild is more than alright by us.