The mission of the August Wilson Red Door Project is to change the racial ecology of Portland through the arts.
We envision a Portland where people from diverse racial backgrounds and experiences live, work, play, and create together, and all people have the confidence, capacity, and opportunity to fulfill their highest human potential.
All people, regardless of personal, cultural, and social history, internalize values and beliefs of the world they have been raised in. While some of these values and beliefs enable creative achievement and success, others create a sense of profound limitation and self-doubt.
This doubt can be described as “internalized oppression” – a process by which people come to accept and internalize the inaccurate myths and stereotypes they have been exposed to. No one is immune from having to wrestle with a sense that something is holding them back, regardless of background or privilege.
The Red Door Project is founded on the belief that the right education, exposure, and support, everyone is capable of growing their capacity to create, to achieve, and to thrive. And this belief is our driving philosophy – the core of everything we do.
Response to a Need in Portland
The Red Door was formed to respond to both a challenge and opportunity in Portland. For too long, one of America’s most progressive cities has assumed an ostrich-like position, lacking intentional strategies to create a city where all people can thrive. The result is a set of conditions that reflect an inequitable community, a place where race and class determine how one will fare in life.
With the creation of the Office of Equity and new mandates to diversify, Portland is poised to make big changes. We have an exciting arts community with a downtown that serves as a vibrant center of arts and culture. Yet, if one attends theater and art events regularly, the absence of diversity is all too abundantly clear.
Audiences and patrons in no way reflect the almost 28% people of color that would mirror the general population. The same is true for the age of audiences. Theater is most often attended by affluent white people over 45. While Portland is not alone in this predicament, it would be a shame to not address it.
The Red Door sees a moral imperative to create an equitable city. We see, as well, an artistic imperative to ensure that what theater can add to quality of life is accessible to everyone. There is also an economic urgency to keep Portland’s theaters vital.
According to a 2012 study conducted by Americans for the Arts, “[N]onprofit arts and culture are a $253.5 million industry in the Greater Portland Area.” Arts and cultural organizations create jobs, generate local and state taxes and leverage “$101.5 million in additional spending by arts local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages, and other businesses.”