As we approach the end of Precipice Fund’s third grant period and get ready to announce our Round 4 grantees on December 13, we’ve been checking in with a few groups from our current round of grantees to see how their projects are progressing. This update comes this month from People’s Homes, a collaborative project from Molly Sherman and Emily Fitzgerald.
People’s Homes is a collaborative project that honors Portland’s longtime residents and investigates expanded notions of home. The project explores the often overlooked experiences of Portland’s oldest homeowners and the local histories they carry.
We paired local artists with longtime residents to share their life stories and draw attention to the city’s quickly changing landscape. These artist/homeowner teams include Lisa Jarrett with Thelma Sylvester, Nolan Calisch and Nina Montenegro with Sharon Helgerson, Michelle Swinehart with Jean Mitchell, Travis Souza with Connie and Paulina Thorne, and Patricia Vasquez with Paul Knauls.
Each team has worked together to create small-scale billboards that represent the elders’ experiences of home. The signs signify the artists’ interpretations and homeowners’ perspectives, the relationships they formed with one another through this project, and the ways in which their lives intersect. The signs are installed in the residents’ front lawns—asking passersby to reflect on their communities, interact more intimately with their neighbors, and acknowledge the past while recognizing the urban changes taking place around us.
In addition to the front yard billboards, we created a People’s Homes newsprint publication featuring conversations between the artists and homeowners, project documentation, a map of the signage installs across North and Northeast Portland, biographies of the project participants, and interviews with art writer Lucy Lippard about her examination of art, place, and social engagement, and Norman Sylvester about his strong commitment to community and honoring the history of North and Northeast Portland.
As artists, we are interested in using creative practices to humanize, visualize, and reflect on complex, socially charged issues and explore the implications often associated with issues of gentrification, economics, and urban growth. As residents and neighbors, these concerns are present in our daily lives. While Portland is experiencing accelerated growth and rising housing costs, lack of affordable living continues to grow across the United States. Through this project, we consider the dynamic ways that artistic research, intergenerational exchange, and storytelling can illuminate the subtleties of a lived experience.
For more information and project documentation, visit molly-sherman.com or efitzgerald.com
Precipice Fund is administered with lead support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Calligram Foundation/Allie Furlotti, as part of the Regional Regranting Program of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.