Musician, educator and visual artist Jason Graham, aka MOsley WOtta, has been chosen as Bend’s first creative laureate.
The two-year position, newly created this year, comes with a $5,000 stipend and a broad mandate to serve as liaison between the community and artists in the region.
Graham said he sees Central Oregon engaged in an ongoing search for its identity. Newcomers with little root system come to enjoy everything Bend affords, while those who grew up in the region find themselves pushed out and the lifestyle they’ve known disappearing.
“In towns like Bend, Oregon — or anywhere people come to get away from it all — there is no getting away from it,” Graham said. “What are you trying to get away from, and then paying attention to how that exists here in this community.”
Graham said he’s benefited from the guidance of other artists, like painter Bill Hoppe or writer and English professor Cora Agatucci, who taught him about the role of artists in the world. He said he’d like to help make similar conversations happen for others.
Organizers with Scalehouse and the Arts and Culture Alliance patterned the position after Portland's creative laureate. Its function, under the leadership of laureates like photographer Julie Keefe and choreographer Subashini Ganesan, has ranged from youth and business outreach to political advocacy.
Graham said he imagines the first few weeks will look a bit like journalism as he reaches out to individuals and groups, and thinks about how he can be most effective.