A collaboratively crafted movement of possibilities in Portland, Oregon. Planted inside of a sheltered workshop (a factory like institution for 'people with disabilities', segregated and exploitative) it housed an art studio, gallery, and event space. The organically, non hierarchically organized community advocated for the arts, for disability rights, for everyone's right to be connected to the world.
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The Project Grow community space was an experiment in revolutionary ambiguity. We took over an unmarked warehouse, whose windows were permanently barred from the community and faded blankets hung limply to keep out the light. The community surrounding the warehouse feared its inhabitants, and its inhabitants were kept hostage by an unstable, unjust, and exploitative system. Retard, feeble minded, disabled, whatever word people used to describe the inhabitants, these words and those who spoke them imprisoned the individuals within. In order to liberate ourselves, we chose to abandon labels. It began by blurring the lines separating categories. We blurred the lines separating support and supported. We blurred the lines separating teacher and student. We burred the lines between work and life. We blurred the lines between the leader and the led. We blurred the lines between inside and outside. We eliminated hierarchies. We became a performance everyone wanted to be a part of it and a performance no one wanted to end.
No longer was this warehouse a prison. Strangers, neighbors, friends were drawn into the dance. Everyone was a choreographer. We spoke, we listened, we danced, we created, we curated, we questioned, we ate, we grew, we scared the system and those who sought to protect it. Through the power of ambiguity the imprisoned was liberated and the stifled artist was free to create.
It was radical advocacy and flourishing creativity, it was organic education and for many, the first time they felt the ecstasy of belonging. It was an art studio. A community space. A gallery. A concert venue. And our workplace.
Glimpses of life at Project Grow, here.