What began as a participatory oral history project in 2014, has evolved into a collective of memory activists that for the past three years have offered the Vanport Mosaic Festival and on-going programming, celebrating community histories through artistic and educational tributes. Through theater, oral history recording and screenings, music, tours, exhibits, dialogues, we have been engaging Portlanders in stories of resistance and resilience from the multi-racial community in Vanport City; the rural town of Maxville; the Native American fishing site Celilo Falls; Nihonmachi, Portland’s Japantown, once the heart of the Japanese community in Oregon, erased by their forced removal in 1942; and Albina, the redlined NE Portland neighborhood where a tightly knit-black community moved in the Vanport Flood aftermath, destroyed by decades of disinvestment and by 1970s urban renewal.
We were awarded the Spirit of Portland Award, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council’s Achievement Award, and the Oregon Heritage Excellence Award.
The story of Vanport city is an essential and often forgotten chapter in Portland’s history. Built in 110 days in 1942, Vanport was meant to be a temporary solution to Portland’s housing shortage during WWII. On Memorial Day in 1948, one of the dikes surrounding Vanport broke, flooding the city and wiping it out in less than an hour.
Through oral history recording and documentaries screenings; theater, poetry and exhibits; presentations, tours and community gatherings, we