It’s all about perspective. Does anything ever really change, or do we — the observers — merely shift our thinking? On this week’s show, we examine how Oregon’s artists, historians and public employees are rewriting our collective story. From pioneer history to contemporary arts policy, big changes are underway.


George Washington — pictured here with his dog, Rockwood — was a black pioneer who traveled west on the Oregon Trail and founded the town of Centralia, Washington. 

George Washington — pictured here with his dog, Rockwood — was a black pioneer who traveled west on the Oregon Trail and founded the town of Centralia, Washington. 

Courtesy Oregon Historical Society

Forgotten No More: Oregon’s Black Pioneers

When Oregon became a state in 1859, it was the first to include a “whites-only” clause in its constitution. Oregon’s track record of overt racism involves not only exclusion, but erasure — the systematic removal of non-white people from the state’s historical narrative. Fortunately, a new documentary is taking important steps to rewrite the record, focusing on the trials and tribulations of Oregon’s early black settlers. We spoke with Kami Horton, a writer and producer for OPB’s “Oregon Experience,” about working on the film. “Oregon’s Black Pioneers” airs on OPB-TV on Feb. 25; OPB is also hosting several free screenings of the documentary in Portland, Bend and Corvallis ahead of the release. 


Walidah Imarisha is a Portland-based writer, educator, activist, and historian. Her research is featured in OPB's new documentary, "Oregon's Black Pioneers."

Walidah Imarisha is a Portland-based writer, educator, activist, and historian. Her research is featured in OPB’s new documentary, “Oregon’s Black Pioneers.”

Courtesy Walidah Imarisha

Walidah Imarisha On Radical Revision

Portland-based writer, activist and educator Walidah Imarisha is among the historians featured in “Oregon’s Black Pioneers.” As a writer, Imarisha has explored journalism, literary criticism and science fiction, but she’s always had a special affinity for poetry. In recent years, she’s also earned recognition for her studies of black history in Oregon. This week, we revisit our 2014 interview with Imarisha, in which she reads from her collection of poems, “Scars/Stars.”


The Regional Arts and Culture Council funds many kinds of arts programs in the region. Its residencies at the city archive gave rise to installations like this one. But external grants are a lifeline for dozens of arts organizations.

The Regional Arts and Culture Council funds many kinds of arts programs in the region. Its residencies at the city archive gave rise to installations like this one. But external grants are a lifeline for dozens of arts organizations.

April Baer/OPB

A New Direction For Portland’s Arts Policy

This week, Portland’s Regional Arts and Culture Council announced a new plan for its general operating support budget. That budget distributes funding to several dozen local arts groups. Before the changes, the majority of RACC’s dollars were allocated to just five of the city’s arts organizations, including big names like the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Symphony. With the new funding model, however, these larger institutions will see cuts to their funding. RACC hopes to redistribute money to arts organizations focused on measurable public impact — especially those that work with under-represented communities. 


"I think the challenges facing RACC are the challenges facing Portland." Madison Cario started work as executive director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council on Jan. 14, 2019.

“I think the challenges facing RACC are the challenges facing Portland.” Madison Cario started work as executive director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council on Jan. 14, 2019.

April Baer/OPB

Madison Cario Takes The Helm At RACC

After a year and a half of searching, RACC selected its new executive director last November. Since then, Madison Cario — an artist, curator, writer and Marine Corps veteran — has been settling into their new role. Before making the move to Portland, Cario served as the director of the Office of the Arts at Georgia Tech, where they worked to forge creative collaborations on campus and in the city of Atlanta. As an artist and a professional, Cario is committed to inclusion and equity, which have played a central role in recent critiques of Portland’s art scene. 


In "Pontypool," Todd Van Vorris stars as Grant Mazzy, a local radio DJ in small-town Clatsop County. The new play by CoHo Productions runs from February 8 to March 2.

In “Pontypool,” Todd Van Vorris stars as Grant Mazzy, a local radio DJ in small-town Clatsop County. The new play by CoHo Productions runs from February 8 to March 2.

Courtesy Owen Carey

Apocalypse On The Oregon Coast

If Clatsop County is the last place you ever expected zombies to stalk the streets, think again. A play premiering at Portland’s CoHo Productions tells the story of a small Oregon town gripped by a cannibalism-inducing virus — and all the action takes place in the DJ booth of the local radio station. “Pontypool” is a pulpy, satirical take on our many contemporary crises. CoHo Productions is one of the organizations that receives funding from RACC. The theater company sources its projects from proposals submitted by local artists. You can catch “Pontypool” onstage until March 2.


Writer and filmmaker Arthur Bradford (left) and musician Matt Sheehy (right) are two of the artists who participated in the 2014 collaborative project, "SEED: Words + Music." 

Writer and filmmaker Arthur Bradford (left) and musician Matt Sheehy (right) are two of the artists who participated in the 2014 collaborative project, “SEED: Words + Music.” 

Courtesy Literary Arts, Lost Lander

Cold Feet: A Creative Collaboration

In 2014, we spoke with Courtenay Hameister of Live Wire Radio, who’d recently launched an innovative project, “SEED: Words +Music.” SEED paired up some of Oregon’s most compelling writers and musicians, asking them to create new work based on each other’s previous material. The fruits of these creative partnerships were then performed for a live audience. In the spirit of Portland’s recent weather, we’re revisiting one of our favorite pairings from the series: musician Matt Sheehy and writer/filmmaker Arthur Bradford. You can find our complete coverage of SEED here.


Music Heard On 'State Of Wonder'

A Spotify playlist to share all the music we feature on our show and anything else that inspires us while we’re making it.