The Living School of Art

Five-year life/work collaboration between neighbors in an affordable housing apartment complex
East Portland, OR

︎ Click here to download the book (project archive)

The Living School of Art (LSA) from 2016 to 2021 was an intergenerational, neighbor-led social practice artwork located within a preexisting 120-unit affordable housing apartment complex in East Portland, OR. The project drew inspiration from the concept of a living school, which was described by author bell hooks as a space for teaching and learning occurring simultaneously at all moments of a community's life together.

Over the course of five years, LSA operated like an artist collective rather than a traditional school, emphasizing collaboration and mutual exchange in self-initiated art projects. Our creative work revolved around the diverse knowledge, talents, identities, and life experiences that each neighbor brought to our community. Neighbors of all ages taught workshops based on their own creative practices and participated in neighbor-led activities such as cooking workshops, garden building and planting, music, art performance, crafts-based practices, and visual artmaking. The project's themes and identity evolved over time based in response to the interests and knowledge held within our community. No LSA event was compulsary. Neighbors opted in to whichever activities resonated with their artistic interests. 

LSA included rotating exhibitions in the complex’s 8 laundry rooms, a visiting artist residency program (artists were chosen by apartment youth), a community garden built by neighbors, a medicinal herb garden planted by neighbors, group-directed weekly programming for youth and mothers, a shared art studio space, and dozens of field trips, off-site exhibitions, and community meals.

The project was founded and facilitated by artist and neighbor Amanda Leigh Evans, who lived and worked in the apartment complex for five years. This residency was organized and funded by Community Engagement’s Creative-in-Residence program from 2016-21. 

To read about this project, visit LSA’s website or Instagram page.

The photos below represent some highlights from our five years together. For a full project archive, download the book