APANO & Placemaking on Portland’s Eastside

In Foster-Powell, Lents, Montavilla, South Tabor by Sachi Arakawa

APANO and The Jade District

The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) was founded in 1996, and serves as one of Oregon’s leading advocates for Asian and Pacific Islander communities, especially recent immigrant and refugee populations. APANO is headquartered in Portland’s Jade District, a Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) area designated by the City of Portland in 2011. The Jade District has now been adopted by APANO, which focuses on community development work in the neighborhood around Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street. Three Portland neighborhoods make up the Jade District: South Tabor, Montavilla, and Powellhurst-Gilbert, with the Lents and Foster-Powell neighborhoods directly adjacent. According to APANO, the Jade District is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the Oregon, with a large population of people of color and recent immigrants. APANO’s programming focuses on four core pillars: community organizing, policy advocacy and civic engagement, leadership development, and cultural work. Cultural work is what we highlight in this story, looking at APANO’s creative placemaking work which began in 2015.

Creative Placemaking for Portland’s Eastside

The Jade-Midway Placemaking Projects are community engagement projects that cultivate community building and consciousness raising among residents that make up the Jade and Midway Districts. APANO’s manager of cultural work programming, Candace Kita, says that their projects are designed to create opportunities where community members and artists can work with local organizations and small businesses to develop a series of temporary performances, exhibitions, and installations, focusing on placemaking, social justice, economic development, and community collaboration. The goal of APANO’s placemaking efforts is to challenge displacement and gentrification in the rapidly changing neighborhoods around 82nd Avenue that APANO serves.

To view more videos of APANO’s placemaking projects and cultural work, CLICK HERE.

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Between 2015-2018, fifty-four (54) creative placemaking projects have been funded, spanning 12 neighborhoods in North, Northeast, and Southeast Portland. The projects range from interactive workshops to theatrical productions.

Placemaking project highlights

The Jade-Midway Placemaking Projects aim to support artists, cultural workers, and community members who lead grassroots creative projects focused on issues of transportation, anti-displacement, and other issues specific to the two districts. The projects incorporate a range of creative mediums, including music, film, poetry, visual art, and multimedia. The selected grantees participate in the Resident Artist Collaborative, a program of 4-6 workshop sessions to build an interconnected cohort of skilled cultural workers who serve as important partners in the work for social justice. Below are some highlights from three placemaking grantees.



Jennifer Phung and Tommy Larracas’s Youth Photo Essay Project and Exhibition captured young people of color experiences, challenges, and their changing environments in the Jade and Midway Districts. Over the course of several months, youth from the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA) explored and documented what it’s like growing up in Portland and living in East Portland communities and captured their families’ experiences of displacement and resilience. This project culminated in an “Eastside ‘Just Us’ Stories Photo Exhibition” which featured multimedia story-telling and creative performances by youth. Candace Kita says that this project challenges the notions people have of Portland and of young people of color. She says that the artists’ work flips the dominant narrative and empower young people of color, and creates a safe space for the APANO community to celebrate their diverse identities.


Sabina Haque’s Our City, Our Voice creative place-keeping project addressed the east/west disparities in Portland, highlighting that over 40 percent of Portland’s children are growing up east of 82nd Avenue, in the heart of the Jade District. Haque says that 82nd Avenue is a street which historically has been a line of physical and psychological division between inner and outer east-side Portland, despite being the actual geographical center of the city. She says that this part of the city is the most diverse, underserved, and rapidly growing section of Portland. Madison High School (MHS), situated on that line, draws students who reside along and east of NE 82nd Avenue.

Haque partnered with a MHS history teacher and his twenty students to explore the historical record of how annexation, city policy, and investments in East Portland have affected the community. During eight weeks of mini workshops, students led their own round-table discussions on six major issues that impact them: direct representation at city hall, affordable housing, jobs in their neighborhood, paved roads and a more equitable city for all Portland residents. The youth created their own documents, writing, art and oral histories culminating in 400 printed zines, 100 silkscreened posters, multiple 10-foot murals, and a 100-foot text banner that asked the question: How will we as a city find a more inclusive voice and a sustainable future? This creative place-keeping project not only shed light on invisible and lost histories but gave a voice to the needs and aspirations of this vibrant neighborhood.


Hampton Rodriguez’s Division Street Playing Cards project is an artistic study of the entire course of Division Street in Portland, Oregon, presenting its transportation, the human characters who make it what it is, and its businesses, street cafes, and major intersections. Through 200 or more initial sketches, with some developed as study drawings, Rodriguez created a deck of 52 fine art playing cards, each bearing a full-color illustration taken from his artistic investigation of Division Street. The project produced 50 decks of playable full-color cards. With local collaborators, exhibitions of the playing cards were held, featuring larger format prints of the card illustrations and some initial drawings and sketches, with the aim to stimulate the public and catalyze the creation of further urban art by communities along the Division Street corridor.

Images, clockwise from top right: (1-2) Sabina Haque’s Annexation and Assimilartion: East 82nd Avenue project, (3-4) Jennifer Phung and Tommy Larracas’ Youth Photo Essay project, (5-7) Sabina Haque’s Our City, Our Voice project, (8-10) Hampton Rodriguez’s Division Street Playing Cards.

Confronting gentrification and displacement

The Jade District is uniquely situated along SE 82nd Avenue and is at the intersection of three rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods: Montavilla, South Tabor, and Powellhurst Gilbert. APANO staff also understand the complexity involved with their community development efforts and gentrification. As they work to make the neighborhood more livable for their community, APANO staff say that they acknowledge amenities make the Jade District more desirable for private developers, investors, and a wealthier, whiter demographic, but that doesn’t end the conversation. APANO staff fight for investments and policies that improve the neighborhood in a way that supports current residents and businesses. The Jade District believes that the most vulnerable residents deserve the same public investments and resources as the rest of the city.

APANO’s work will continue to address socioeconomic and environmental disparities within the Jade District. In the near future, they anticipate more parks, a bus rapid transit line, and safer streets, all of which they believe will drive up property values. This coupled with a current lack of public affordable housing in the Jade District, and desirable real estate markets makes addressing gentrification and displacement an uphill battle for the organization. There are no magic bullets in solving gentrification and displacement, however, the Jade District has developed an anti-displacement tool kit which outlines policies and practices they support and contribute to in an effort to mitigate the effects of gentrification.

The creative placemaking program highlights the organization’s continued commitment to robust community engagement in all public investments with a focus on building community capacity. APANO staff say that they believe all public investments must have the support of the community. Community engagement should not be one-off exercises, but must build the community capacity to meaningfully engage in the public decision-making process over the long term.

Candace Kita says that by elevating members’ stories and connecting them to issues, APANO is advancing a long-term cultural strategy to impact beliefs, actions and policies. Cultural work programming does this by centering the voices of those most impacted and silenced, resisting and shifting harmful narratives and ideas, and moving beyond defensive strategies to envisioning alternatives. APANO believes that telling their stories, speaking truths, imagining alternatives and shifting social narratives matters as a strategy for cultural change. Kita says that this strategy has captured the interest and excitement of APANO members. She and other APANO staff are working to create a vibrant space where artists and communities are shifting perceptions and re-envisioning an equitable world through the tool of creative expression.



Image Credits: APANO

Special thanks to APANO’s Cultural Work Manager Candace Kita, for providing content and graciously sharing her work with us.