Portland Tropical Gardens (PTG) is a project space being created in collaboration with Director Ralph Pugay, Lead Horticulturist Shawn Creeden, Tropical Correspondent Salty Thunder, and Center For Art and Public Wellness run by Erika Dedini and Rachel Hines.
PTG is an indoor tropical garden located at Director Park in Portland Oregon. The space features an atmosphere of humidity, warmth, and a forest of tropical flora.
The space is a setting for various programs and events focusing on tropical culture, wellness, sharing of horticultural expertise, and other more nuanced interpretations of essence of PTG.
My role is of Events Coordinator and Historian. The fist event I was responsible for was a popsicle eating contest at the opening. I'm currently working on curating a few lectures, a collaboration between Hawaiian born artists, and various youth oriented programs.
Follow us on Instagram for more details as they develop!
Collaborating With Elijah
My practice has come to have a major emphasis on engaging and collaborating directly with young people. Elijah is a young person with whom I am connected through my work at King School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMoCA).
Together we explore ideas and activities that are of common interest to us both. Taking turns leading the explorations so that each of us is coming away with new skills and understanding.
Currently we have an exhibition up at KSMoCA of a collaborative project featuring Elijah's drawings in response to prompts, and my interpretation of his drawing of his favorite toy.
Right now we're working on a collaborative drawing of a bridge to submit to a juried show at Longview Public Library.
PlayTime is a project that centers an audience of young people and involves setting up a workshop where young people will be. As young people approach the workshop they see a treasure trove of thrift store toys and become intrigued. Once their attention is captured I engage and share that I will make a custom toy just for them if they fill out a PlayTime order form.
I interpret their inputs on the form, but also closely monitor which toys they are being drawn to. We start a dialogue and pick a few items from the smorgasbord that reflect their interests. I take the selected toys and begin to synthesize a new one by sewing the various selections together. This is quite the amazing event as the young person observes their innermost desires manifested before them.
Once the toy is complete their parent and/or guardian finalizes the transaction with the signing of a contract. There are fields for both the young person and parent/guardian to sign promising to commit to invest time and attention in each other.
Through this practice PlayTime offers young people exposure to the ability to subvert what is accessible and manifest their dreams. As the parent/guardians watch their child interact with me they have the opportunity to see just how easy it is to give their children a portrait of actively engaging, believing, and manifesting their greatest dreams. And finally the contract helps everyone to see the agreements they need to make with each other, and themselves, to have infinite access to this incredibly form of power and prosperity.
Rock HOUNDing with Fred
Rock HOUNDing with Fred is a project centering Fred Tschida as an audience, and myself as a secondary audience. In the research for this project I was sent on a mission to go to various rock shops in Oregon and ask "What does only Oregon have?"
Leading with the inquiry given to me by Fred, I followed up with inquires regarding a favorite rock hounding story and what does only Oregon have in a non geological context.
Going from rock shop to rock shop I discovered that Oregon has various unique geological forms, including its own unique opal. Which, given that opal is my birthstone, I am on a personal mission to find and unearth my own specimen.
I met some interesting characters who had knowledge of various mineralogical phenomena. The research has been presented at the Portland Public Library with the intention continue our research indefinitely.
Once the weather permits, I will be scheduling rock hounding journeys with Fred, and Dusty Rocks! a rockhound from Washington I met at the Portland Convention Center Gem Faire.
Belated Birthday is an event with the precedence that I've thrown "myself" birthdays in the past having made the traditional meals of my family heritage.
The impetus behind this activity is to draw together the people I care about and provide for them. Providing for others is an activity in which I hold in high regard, and my birthday is the perfect time to summon those important to me together for the purposes of relaxation and enjoyment.
The first installment of this ongoing practice involved preparing the traditional meal for the PSU Art and Social Practice cohort of the 2017 - 2018 academic year. The meal was prepared in the home of and in collaboration with Shoshana Gugenheim Kedem and family. The family keeps a Kosher Kitchen, which required an alteration to the traditional recipes including the omission entirely of dairy, and the requirement that the meat used be Kosher.
In addition to specific guidelines regarding the ingredients, we also had to Kosher the kitchen utensils and cookware. This process involves running boiling water over each instrument and container. Once this process has been done we created a "Meat Kitchen," which allowed for the preparation of the meal.
While cooking the meal I taught Shoshana's children about a tradition of my own called "Stealing a Meatball." Often conducted by a matriarch of the family a process of permitting a young person to have one meatball before dinner while the sauce slowly simmers to perfection. This meatball was their first ever, and later we sang the meatball song that up until Belated Birthday was their only knowledge of meatballs.
The event continued on as guests arrived and the meal was shared with the larger community of the Social Practice program. The intention to bring people together, share a meal, and exchange time and attention together under one roof was satisfied.
Once the meal was done leftover packages were made for members of the community that could not make it to the event. All of the instruments and containers were Koshered once more returning the kitchen to its Kosher state.
Chosen Family Dinner Series
Chosen Family Dinner Series is a project facilitated in direct collaboration with Carissa Burkett and indirect collaboration with their partner Jeremy Smith.
The Dinner Series will take place in their home and feature 8 guests (including the hosts) participating in a Round Robin Story Share.
The events will occur on every other Sunday beginning on Sunday March 4th.
Antisocial media is an ongoing project that involves writing personal letters to friends and love ones. Once I've written the letter I document it and send it off. I take the documentation of the physical letter and digitally redact all of the information.
This project is meant to critique our current cultural paradigm of over use and addiction to social media platforms.
I find that while everyone is "there," during my time using the software I find myself feeling increasingly alone. While I can voyeuristically view the happenings of my friends and loved ones, I don't feel closer, or together, with any of them.
Conversely when I am writing to people I find that they occupy my mind and time much more presently. And when they receive the letter they feel much closer to me and my life than they had prior.
This project has included hour+ long phone calls, and will eventually include an antisocial media tour where I visit people physically.
The intended format for the documentation of the project is a publication.
If you're seeing this and would like to receive a letter, please request it by phone 301 641 8004, or by letter written to:
Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. 2000 SW 5th Ave Portland, OR 97201
I spent five months in Standing Rock North Dakota, camped out at Oceti Sakowin, the prayerful resistance camp in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I arrived one day after the incident at Backwater Bridge which was the scene of one of the most severe physical injuries inflicted on a human member of the prayerful resistance.
I was intending to be present for about a week and a half, but when it was time for my convoy to leave, I didn't. I remained through the end of the camps, and witnessed the militantly armored police force smash and destroy all that was created by the Water Protectors.
The entire time I was there I carried a Cannon Rebel on loan from friend and artist Miranda Ellis Hontz. Without any official account, I am nearly certain I have themostcomplete documentation of the social and sociopolitical environment during that time. This claim comes from the fact I was one of the only people with a camera for weeks at a time.
The circumstances in which this documentation was captured is precarious at best.
Not knowing exactly what to do with this content, it is currently on ice. I have ideas for its use, but until the appropriate people and groups sign off on its use for this purpose, it will remain closely guarded and inaccessible to the public.
Ice Cream Speakeasy
While living in Western New York I began to learn about whole foods from various sources including the farms from which they came. I developed a very close relationship with Jerry of Sunny Cove Farm, a local organic and raw dairy farm. Sometimes we would talk for hours about the precarious legality of the harmless and healthy product coming from his farm. I did a lot of promotion and product design for Sunny Cove Farm, but the one thing I couldn’t do much of was serve the raw milk. Due to state and federal law, in New York the sale of raw milk must be conducted on farm only. Furthermore, the milk could not travel across state lines or be used to create any product for consumption outside the home. In a brazen disregard for the laws, I began to prepare and share my homemade ice creams made using raw milk. Each event would occur with the knowledge that the product being served was illegal and therefore may be “unsafe” for consumption. Each iteration of this project was met with happy faces, delighted bellies and a rich discourse on food security and freedom. *No individuals were made sick by serving this illegal substance*
Tables for Two Florida
The second iteration of Tables for Two occurred in the home of Amy Lovett and John Messer in Inverness Florida on February 14th, 2015. Reservations were taken in advance of the event and people arrived the evening of during their reservation time. The dinner menu consisted of four courses featuring fare sourced from local vendors.
The event was co-facilitated with Amy, John, their children Madison, Riley, Blakely and Turner, Stephanie Joan Arthur (Giera), and the members of the larger Hernando County Community.
Tables for Two Alfred
Tables for Two Alfred was a pop-up style event featuring multiple tables set for two in the lobby of Harder Hall on February 14th, 2013. Reservations were taken in advance of the event and people arrived the evening of during their reservation time. The dinner menu consisted of four courses featuring fare sourced from local vendors.
All throughout college and beyond, I modeled for figure drawing classes. I began to explore a method of modeling that involved dynamic movement during each pose. Through this process I came to meet Dang, an accomplished illustrator from China. During a meeting between Dang, myself, and Dang’s wife Lillian as a translator, I described my plan to do a performance in Manhattan where I fought the bull on Wall St. After an exchange with Dang in Chinese Lillian simply said, “When you do this, Dang will be there.” I coordinated with Dang and Lillian to meet in Manhattan to illustrate the debut of the Urban Shaman. The experience was rich for myself, Dang, his family, and hundreds of passersby. Dang produced four drawings telling the story depicting the Shaman’s Journey for the American Dream.