Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

PCC’s inaugural artists-in-residence

In the summer of 2019, President Mitsui contacted HARTS with a visionary idea: to have artists participate in the administrative process. Inspired by a similar program he had seen during his time serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges in the US Department of Education, he hoped these artists would bring their creative perspective to the Strategic Planning and reorganization process the school was about to begin.

HARTS loved the idea, and over the next few months, they worked together with President Mitsui and Vice Presidents Sylvia Kelley and Katy Ho to make it a reality. After a decision to call this the “pilot year” of the residency and a brief search process by HARTS, Sandy Sampson was selected as the inaugural Artist-in-residence and Justin Rigamonti was selected as Poet-in-residence. This inaugural cohort saw their terms derailed because of the surprise onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but undeterred, both residents participated in numerous virtual meetings and made vital artistic contributions to the PCC community.

Sandy Sampson

Sandy Sampson is a Portland based artist and educator. Her primary art practice engages with the public to reveal connections, and highlight the value of community members. Her projects employ a variety of media and techniques, however conversation and collaboration are consistent key components. She works with members of specific communities and affinity groups as well as the general public.  Her work at Portland Community College as an instructor and until recently as director of the Paragon Gallery (Cascade Campus) is an extension of this practice. She is an active boardmember of Public Annex; an all-volunteer-run non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon that provides accessible and arts programming, focusing on inclusivity of artists who experience developmental disabilities. Sampson’s publicly engaged community based work includes commissioned projects for: Midway Alliance, Portland Art Museum, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art: TBA, Bétonsalon, Paris, and Apex Art, New York.

Read more Sandy and her residency project “We Make the World” in this interview with HARTS.

Justin Rigamonti

Text of poem Be A Gardener by Justin Rigamonti with colorful patterns along the borders
Justin Rigamonti began teaching composition and creative writing at PCC in 2011, a few years after graduating with his MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from the University of California, Irvine. Besides teaching, he currently co-directs a literary nonprofit called Poetry Press Week and he serves as the Managing Editor of Portland-based literary press and record label, Fonograf Editions. His poems have been recently published or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, New Ohio Review, and Thrush Poetry Journal, and his website is here.

Below are three poems that Justin composed for PCC during his residency, the first of which was written for, and read at, the 2019 PCC In-Service, and also appeared in the 2021 PCC Virtual Fundraiser, Tomorrow Together. The second was shared in an all-college email by President Mitsui at the beginning of the global Covid-19 pandemic, as was the third, which was also featured in an OPB Article, Pandemic Poetry: Oregon Poets Offer Reflection In Time Of Crisis. His essay about the PCC’s reorganization and the college’s mission, At the Living Edge: Toward a New Philosophy of College Access, is published here on the HARTS website. Finally, a link to an interview Justin did with HARTS and an entry of Two Deep Breaths, the poetry blog he’s published on Inside PCC on a weekly basis since the beginning of the pandemic.

Be A Gardener

When the world is on fire, be a gardener.
When thunderclouds of flame blister the hills
and dim our future, when smoke and worry
whirl over head, do something tender.
Go to the garden bed and press a seed
into the soil. Give it water, give it light
despite the rising heat, despite the fruit
it might not ever make. Help someone reach
for the life they thought they couldn’t have, a life
bright with leaves. A blue horizon. Don’t wait
until the time is right, don’t let fear
draw you backward from the garden bed.
When the world is on fire, be a gardener.
Defy the rising darkness, and plant a seed.

Vernal Equinox

The sky has tipped
its vase of daffodils,
and here we are, together,
huddled at the window.
Not together-in-body
but together-in-heart.
Equal day, equal night, life
doles out a cup of loss
for each cup of light.
For every winter,
a sunny flower
behind your eyes.

Praise Where Due

First, let’s marvel
at the protein capsule,
the viral envelope.
How its bulbous spikes
bob like thistles
on a shrunken globe.
The way it sails
the warm wind
between two faces.
The way it sticks
to your body’s clothes.
And did you know
your cells
split the seed open?
Pull from its husk
a scrawl of code?
They do, but the story
goes south from there
so instead,
let’s marvel at soap—
ordinary, humble soap
waiting patiently
at the world’s sink,
simple, work-a-day
blue-collar soap,
which can, in just one
song’s length,
scrub the rival kernel
back to chaff.

Amid the fear,
let’s take a breath
to wonder at the world—
the little-minded villains,
the ordinary heroes.