Yale Union was co-founded by Photo/Media Assistant Professor Flint Jamison in 2010 and held its first public programming in 2011. Jamison is currently president of the Yale Union Board of Directors. The organization has occupied an historic building in Southeast Portland, Oregon. It has presented the work of hundreds of artists, hosted numerous events, provided subsidized studio space to local artists, facilitated community programs, housed a publicly accessible art library, and published ten books through its imprint.
On July 16, 2020, Yale Union (YU) announced that it will cede ownership of the land and historic building to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF). "NACF is a Native-led national organization committed to mobilizing Native artists, culture bearers, communities, and leaders to influence positive social, cultural, and environmental change." NACF President / CEO Lulani Arquette says, "Together, the NACF board and staff believe that this free land and building transfer will set an example for recognizing the value of Native ownership of property in urban areas across the nation."
The ownership transfer began with discussions between Jamison and then YU Executive Director Yoko Ott in mid-2018. Ott was also an alum of the UW School of Art + Art History + Design. They talked about the potential for art institutions proposing models of restorative social change. Ott contacted Arquette with the initial idea of ceding the land and building to NACF. By late 2019 the NACF Board of Directors approved moving forward with the transfer after NACF conducted a feasibility study. It is worth noting that the NACF board chair at that time was Sven Haakanson, UW Associate Professor of Anthropology and Curator of Native American Anthropology at the Burke Museum.
This new national headquarters for NACF will be called the Center for Native Arts and Cultures. "The building will be a vibrant gathering place for Indigenous artists and local partnerships. It will provide space to present and exhibit, places to practice culture and make art, and areas for cultural ceremony and celebration. There will be opportunities for broad community learning, including workshops and seminars covering pertinent issues relative to decolonizing space, anti-racism, and environmental justice."
YU and NACF will collaborate on artistic programming in 2021. Later that year, YU will dissolve its nonprofit. "I am proud of what we have accomplished with Yale Union over the last decade. Having been able to fulfill our mission through the unearned privilege of property ownership, it's now time that we hand over the keys!" says Jamison.
- Yale Union press release (source of quotes above)
- Native Arts & Cultures Foundation website
- ArtNet article
- Hyperallergic article
- Article in The Oregonian
- Think Out Loud podcast (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
- Street Roots article
- Oregon ArtsWatch article
- Article in The Stranger
- Article in The Seattle Times