Reimagining and reinventing public spaces
Last year Metro launched a program to support community-driven placemaking activities across the greater Portland region. The program provides grants and technical assistance to organizations seeking to undertake placemaking projects in their communities.
Learn more about our Community Placemaking program.
2018 Placemaking Projects
In partnership with Alberta Main Street, Diversa Edu will create a smartphone and tablet augmented reality app. Through these devices, people will see a historic record of Alberta that tells stories of the African American community from the neighborhood.
Free Arts NW
A mobile art studio will provide arts programming to children who live in Section-8 housing in Fairview and Wood Village. These children will be able to make mini art installations for their neighborhood gardens, fences and doors.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
The Autumn Moon Festival is the second most important festival in Chinese culture, symbolizing peace and abundance. Organizers will expand the size of the celebration and create more partnerships within local Asian communities.
Muslim Educational Trust
The Muslim Educational Trust will work with community members and local artists to create art murals. These murals will then become part of a mobile lecture series about Islamic art and culture.
New Year in the Park Planning Committee
The Southeast Asian New Year at the end of April is the most important traditional cultural festival for the peoples of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma). The grant helps organizers hold this festival at Glenhaven Park in Northeast Portland.
Portland All Nations Canoe Family
This all-nations tribal group will construct a 35-foot traditional dugout canoe. Over the course of three months the community will transform a cedar log into a canoe with the help of an Indigenous artist who teaches traditional carving.
Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc.
A community art project will be added to PCRI’s upcoming King + Parks affordable housing building. The art project will honor civil rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks and incorporate the stories of the African American community in Portland.
Tongan‐American Resource Committee
The greater Portland Tongan community will share food, culture and crafts at the second annual Tonga Day celebration in August 2018. The event strengthens relationships both within the Tongan community and the rest of the region.
Verde and partners will work with local artists and community members to create artwork for the Cully wayfinding system. This bilingual urban trail map connects neighbors to parks, finding safe routes to walk and bicycle.
A traditional dug-out canoe, hand carved from a cedar log. An augmented reality art project that honors neighbors displaced by gentrification. A festival celebrating the people and culture of the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga.
These are some of the projects selected this year to receive grants from Metro’s Community Placemaking grants program.
Metro has awarded grants to nine groups for its second round of grants, totaling $168,465 to invest in re-creating public spaces throughout the region.
Elissa Gertler, Metro’s planning and development director, said these grants fund community-led projects to create unique, culturally vibrant places.
“The Community Placemaking Program is built around the principle of putting communities in charge,” Gertler said. “It assumes that community members are often the best equipped to know what their neighborhood needs, and empowers them to help build the parts of their neighborhood that they want to see.”
The 2018 Community Placemaking grant recipients
- Diversa Edu: $20,000
- Free Arts NW: $8,465
- Lan Su Chinese Garden: $20,000
- Muslim Educational Trust: $25,000
- New Year in the Park planning committee: $5,000
- Portland All Nations Canoe Family: $25,000
- Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc.: $25,000
- Tongan‐American Resource Committee: $15,000
- Verde: $25,000
For its 2018 award cycle, Metro received 59 grant applications that requested more than $1.1 million in funding. Recipients of the Community Placemaking grants program support Metro’s racial equity strategy by promoting leadership from historically marginalized groups, such as people of color and immigrant communities.
"With the support of Metro, that's giving us a green light, thumbs up that we are accepted, that we are here to stay. It makes us feel like true Portlanders and true Oregonians," said Tonga Day event organizer Kolini Fusitua about what the grant means to the Tongan community.
Many of the grants support placemaking through improvements to neighborhoods or community gathering centers.
For children in Fairview and Wood Village, the grant means access to art in historically underserved communities. The Free Arts NW project will bring a mobile art studio to children living in Section-8 housing. These youth will be able to make mini art installations to beautify their neighborhoods.
In the Cully neighborhood, the grant will turn a community map project into a permanent fixture. The people who live there designed an urban trail system for an area that lacks sidewalks and finished roads. Advocates with Verde and Living Cully had long identified that area’s need for safe biking and walking paths.
Anna Gordon, the community programs manager with Verde, said neighbors recorded pot holes, gravel streets, sidewalk gaps and streets without streetlights. People wanted to know where the local green spaces are and how to get there safely.
“There aren't many [parks] in Cully,” Gordon said. “For the ones that do exist, how do we create more awareness and really help people?”
With the help of the placemaking grant, artists of color from the Cully neighborhood will work with Verde to design and install permanent bilingual map kiosks for the Cully wayfinding system.
“Our project is all about creating a community design system of signs and neighborhood kiosks that help people… develop a sense of place in our neighborhood,” Gordon said.
Art and education come together at the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard. The group’s placemaking grant will help pay for new murals in MET's community space. Three artists of color who specialize in Middle East and Islamic art styles will design these murals.
The murals will then be part of a mobile exhibit and lecture series about Islamic culture and art. This outreach is intended to highlight the diversity within the Muslim community and to break down stereotypes.
Other grants address housing displacements that have taken place in Portland. These projects honor the memories of people who have lost community due to gentrification, or who were priced out of their long-time communities.
In northeast Portland, the Alberta Main Street project has designed a series of historical art markers telling the history of the African American community that lived in the neighborhood for generations.
Diversa Edu takes this idea one step further with a proposal to create an immersive augmented reality application for these markers. Using cell phones or tablets, people will be able to see a digital history of Alberta layered on top of the present-day street.
Zoe Piliafas, the founder and creative director of Diversa Edu, said this project is the first in the nation to pair augmented reality with historical markers. The people in the Portland region will be able to dive into an inclusive history and celebrate the lives of the Alberta neighborhood.
“The Historical Markers Augmented Reality Project is our moment to broaden the voice of history, swing open the gates, and bring forth a larger truth by telling the stories that have not been told,” Piliafas said.
A few miles away, at the intersection of Rosa Parks Way and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc. is developing a new affordable housing building, the King + Parks Apartments.
PCRI plans to use the Community Placemaking grant to bring a community art project to Kings + Parks that includes an abstract map weaved throughout the outside and interior walls of the building.
The art project will honor the civil rights pioneers and the lives of Portland’s black community members. The design process will engage many multicultural groups that include youth of color, immigrant communities, such as the Somali and Ethiopian communities, and those with historical roots in the neighborhood.
Celebrating and preserving culture.
Many different cultural and ethnic groups call greater Portland home. These grants support communities to share their art, culture and traditions.
On the bank of the Willamette River, at Tryon Cove Park near Lake Oswego, the Portland All Nations Canoe Family will construct a 35-foot long dug-out canoe from a cedar log. The group, which includes more than 30 tribes, will use the grant to bring together their communities and pass on this traditional art form.
The intergenerational group, with members of all ages from elders to toddlers, will spend three months working with a master carver to learn this traditional technique.
Celeste Whitewolf, who co-organized this project, said the grant will help preserve culture.
"This is a lost tradition," Whitewolf said. "Making a dugout canoe from a cedar log is not something that everyone has done or can do."
Once it’s finished, the canoe will join the rest of the group’s fleet, which includes a traditional cedar strip canoe. These vessels help members of the all-nations group connect with their heritage when they’re navigating rivers.
Across town in Northeast Portland, the Tongan‐American Resource Committee will celebrate the second annual Tonga Day on August 18, 2018 at Gateway Discovery Park. Metro’s grant will help pay for musical performers and food for the festivity.
Event organizer Kolini Fusitua said Tonga Day is a way for the Tongan community to come together, share their culture and be a part of the region.
"With the support of Metro, that's giving us a green light, thumbs up that we are accepted, that we are here to stay," Fusitua said. "It makes us feel like true Portlanders and true Oregonians."
Bringing communities together
At Glenhaven Park in northeast Portland, people from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma) celebrated New Years at the end of April. The event is the most important traditional Southeast Asian cultural festival. Celebrating unites these immigrant and refugee communities who haven’t always gotten along.
The all-volunteer organization New Year in the Park planning committee has put together the celebration four years in a row, with attendance steadily growing every year. With the help of the placemaking grant, the event will continue to grow.
In Old Town Portland, Lan Su Chinese Garden will grow its annual Autumn Moon Festival with the help of the grant. The festival usually takes place within the grounds of the garden. But this year, the celebration will expand into the adjacent street.
Gary Wilson, the director of events and programs at the garden, said the larger space will allow twice as many partnerships with cultural organizations and performers than in previous years. In recent years, Lan Su has focused on becoming a community resource for Asian communities throughout the region.
“The more that we are able to pull the Chinese and Asian communities together to celebrate these holidays collectively, the more that we will be able to strengthen the community,” Wilson said.
The Metro Community Placemaking grant projects take many forms. Some fund day-long vibrant celebrations of communities in the region. Others will become permanent art installations, beautifying neighborhoods for decades. The common quality they share is how they strengthen connections between people and the places where they live, work and play.
“What matters is that the project engages the public and engages a wide variety of people in a way that will have a lasting impact,” Gertler said.
Visit our Community Placemaking grantees page.
Metro’s investments, such as these placemaking grants, are strategically focused to help local communities create or sustain the vibrant places envisioned in the region’s 2040 Growth Concept.
The work of the Community Placemaking grant recipients aligns with Metro's strategic plan to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion.
Read the strategic plan: