Portland artist LeRoy Goertz, co-curator of “Celebrating Diversity: An Exhibition of Many Cultures,” now on display at Concordia University, wasn’t expecting inspiration when he visited a prehistoric earthworks site in northern Louisiana.
He had just come from Vicksburg, Mississippi where he had a haunting experience at the site of the famous Civil War battle.
In contrast, at Poverty Point National Monument, Goertz saw the remnants of an ancient Native American culture.
“I saw those wonderful images they made, and they appeared to be a peaceful people; I just had this vision to call artists of all races together and let these pieces influence us.”
Goertz’s vision resulted in the Art of Reconciliation (AOR), an organization that aspires to bring a diverse group of artists together to focus on racial and cultural healing.
“You can use thousands and thousands of words to try and convince someone they should accept someone that’s different [from them], but it’s not until they get to know someone different that their heart is changed,” he explains.
Goertz didn’t seek out artists to join the AOR, but through a series of random encounters, discovered a number of individuals who were interested in joining the organization and promoting its goals.
Recently, Goertz began to collaborate with Concordia University’s Linda Church. Concordia’s Arts and Culture Program, currently in its third year, supports and promotes local Portland artists while educating and inspiring their students as well as the wider community.
Their latest project, “Celebrating Diversity: An Exhibition of Many Cultures,” features 23 local artists and 13 different cultures, including Goertz, as well as Oregon Art Beat alumni Ed Edmo, Kanaan Kanaan, Farooq Hasaan and Hampton Rodriguez.
The work of the AOR won’t be done when the show finishes. Goertz is planning to create a book of the artists’ work, and together with Linda Church, also dreams about connecting with students.
“[The hope is] that some of them may find a calling for a lifetime of service and being passionate about working with people who are different [from them],” says Goertz.
“Enabling creativity — and it doesn’t mean just with art — enabling people to be involved in creativity is a holy and sacred act. Finding a way to deal with conflict, find[ing] a way to reach out to someone and help them, that’s all part of the creativity.”
“Celebrating Diversity: An Exhibition of Many Cultures” is on display at Concordia’s F.W.J. Sylwester Library through March 22nd.