Coming To See Philanthropy Differently in Portland

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“Drawing with light” is both a literal and metaphorical description of photography. The Soul of Philanthropy draws inspiration from that definition as well as from the root meaning of philanthropy: love of what it means to be human. Each a potent concept on its own, combined, these ideas have fueled the design and programming for our exhibition. This exhibit illuminates the human impulse to show compassion, to improve, to progress, to connect and to love. We have composed an experience where the images glow, the stories enlighten and passions are set afire. In reframing portraits of philanthropy, we want viewers to embrace and act on the fact that we each have the capacity to give more and wiser.

From the Artist Statement for the exhibit “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited”

Photography from the exhibition opening on January 20, 2017, at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. And brought to the community by MRG Foundation.

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Soul-Full Synchronicity

TSOP exhibit pic at NCSU

Portland, Oregon is a city I’ve yet to visit (with the exception of a airport stop en route to Thailand years ago, but that doesn’t really count and I digress). Until recently it was completely off my radar. But over the last few months it’s been like a magnetic field, pulling me and dynamic, creative minds in proximity.

Last year, while working on a project with artist and designer Dimeji Onafuwa (a longtime collaborator with me AND graphic designer of my book and exhibit), he said his family was relocating to Portland. Surprised, I pressed him to tell me about Portland and its appeal. Dimeji spoke fondly of the civic culture, scenery and opportunities. He offered to host me if I ever found myself in the Northwest. 

digital display_VFThen weeks later, while working on a project with artist and designer Marcus Kiser (also a longtime collaborator), he was excited to share that his exhibit, Intergalactic Soul, might have a showing in Portland. Marcus’s art exhibit brings together science fiction and social awareness—imagination x consciousness. He asked about my experiences with a touring exhibit, and I shared some vendors and wisdom gained from The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.

Within days of that conversation, an inquiry about “The Soul of Philanthropy” arrived from Portland’s MRG Foundation—a philanthropic institution working for social change in Oregon communities for 40 years. A few days after that, a second Oregon foundation called about hosting my exhibit in Portland. [cue theme music from The Twilight Zone] “Whoa…what’s up with this reoccurring Portland thing,” I mused.

To cut to the chase: It’s now March and last month Marcus, along with artist Jason Woodberry and performer Quentin Talley (who’s another super-longtime collaborator and whose poetry is featured in The Soul of Philanthropy) traveled to Portland for an “Intergalactic Soul” exhibition at Portland Community College, in conjunction with a panel discussion and performance. “The Soul of Philanthropy,” pop-up edition, will be hosted by MRG Foundation and community partners in August—Black Philanthropy Month. Together, MRG Foundation and The Oregon Community Foundation will then host the comprehensive version of “The Soul of Philanthropy” with community-wide programming for three months, starting in January 2017. Whoa, indeed.

We’re picturing social change.

— VF