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An Interview with Jason Graham 

Bend's first Creative Laureate reflects on his tenure

In 2018, Bend became the second city in Oregon—after Portland—to name a creative laureate. Jason Graham, aka, MOsely WOtta, has served in the role since then. I checked in with him to talk about what the position meant for him.

Jason Graham, Bend's first Creative Laureate. - JESSE LOCKE
  • Jesse Locke
  • Jason Graham, Bend's first Creative Laureate.

Source Weekly: Did you enjoy your time in this position?

Jason Graham: YES. And then, NO. AND THEN YES AGAIN.

YES, having renewed reasons to ask questions have conversations and listen and speak up on behalf of a community that is as intelligent and ignorant as this one is fantastic.

NO, crushing doubt, self-importance garbage, insomnia, Uncle Tom complex, savior complex, full-contact ego wrestling.

YES, Clarity. I am an artist, not a politician or civic leader or teacher, etc. It's as an artist that I will continue to serve this community.

SW: Did you feel this position had value in it?

JG: This is a shift away from hierarchal power structures, a nod toward the spectra of responsibilities. Once again this takes all of us. F*ck the titles. If you can help, help. Don't wait for permission.

SW: What do you feel Bend needs to address?

JG: We are dealing with a town that is openly confronting its closeted classism, racism, denialist history, etc. We are fragile in the face of this confrontation. This is an ecosystem; everything is connected. I felt devastated when Bright Place Gallery closed. That was a massive failure and speaks volumes to what the priorities of this community are. In the wake of that loss a tangible response is growing. You (Teafly) are part of that.

SW: How do you think the arts can help that?

JG: Folks need to understand the value of that bright vanguard that is the act of pushing... pushing things forward; it is the only direction. We need soft-form hardcore artists to help us do that. We want people to feel they can do the art they are called to do without the need to play it safe. We should be paying more artists to share their vision, not suppress their views. Diversity is unity; unity is dynamic.

About The Author

Teafly Peterson

For the last 20 years, I have been working as an artist and an educator. Some days I am better at one than the other. The good days are when I am excellent at both simultaneously. I love those days. I teach a variety of mediums– painting, drawing, photography, writing, film making. Mostly what I teach is how to...
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