‘Colored Pencils’ draws many cultures together in East Portland

See what it was like when this ‘traveling ethnic arts feast’ landed at IRCO, a couple of weeks ago …

Chhunny Sok, vice president of Cambodian American Community Oregon, and Robin Hibbs, a volunteer who works with youth programs at IRCO, welcome visitors to the outer East Portland edition of “Colored Pencils”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“Colored Pencils” is a monthly, art and culture gathering that started in January. The event has “toured” Portland, stopping on the last Friday of each month a different location.

On September 25, Colored Pencils landed at 10301 NE Glisan Street, at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) Skills Center.

Colored Pencils brings together fine arts and performing arts with family,” said IRCO’s community development coordinator, Joseph Santos-Lyons.

Joseph Santos-Lyons, Aimee Santos-Lyons, and Carmen Madrid — Colored Pencils’ program director — pause for a photo, before the formal program begins.

Fused glass artist Terry Batte shows of some of her handiwork.

“This event brings together a broad sector of society,” Santos-Lyons explained. “It’s an event that is inclusive of folks that are refugees and immigrants, and new arrivals. The idea is to give them a place to share, not only living here in America, but also giving back to sharing their own cultural capital – their art, music, dance and foods.”

Portland hosts the fastest-growing communities of people of color in the State, Santos-Lyons observed. “But we have very few places to connect deeply and authentically. This space is good, because it brings together both multicultural Portland and more-mainstream Portland.”

Greeting card artist Bobby Fouther says, of his artwork, “I’ve always been a designer.  I’ve designed clothing, paint, and graphics. It’s just one of my natural inclinations to just create something.”

For just a few dollars, guests enjoy a dinner prepared by Michoacan Mexican Restaurant, and served by Mario Navarete and Maria Estella Aguilar.

Specifically, Santos-Lyons continued, the event “sets a new tone” of cultural acceptance in Portland. “By creating this space, it says that we’re able to have a multicultural group of people come together, and support leadership from different communities. This shows the next generation that we can live in harmony.”

Gary Marschke, one of the Colored Pencils MCs, sings one of his favorite Tony Bennett songs.

Inside the hall, we were greeted by Gary Marschke, one of the Colored Pencils MCs, as well as VP of Northeast Portland Business Association, and inveterate community event promoter.

“I bring a piece of Americana to the events,” Marschke told us. “I was there when the discussion for this first started, and was asked to become part of the team. This is a truly inclusive group: Look! I’m here!”

To learn more about this fascinating cultural program, visit the website: CLICK HERE.

The Colored Pencils events provide a comfortable setting for multicultural intermingling.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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