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Artists sketch a better life for typhoon victims

Portland 4 the Philippines plans fourth fundraiser


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Portland 4 the Philippines organizers Djo Fortunato and Riannah Weaver check out their art auction during last Saturdays fundraiser.Riannah Weaver was supposed to be in the Philippines when Tropical Storm Haiyan struck in November.

The 30-year-old Northeast Portland artist had been invited by her pastor’s family to teach art at a Philippine orphanage.

After the trip was postponed, however, Weaver was shocked to hear that a devastating typhoon had hit the Philippines, leaving more than 6,000 dead, millions homeless, and major logistical challenges for relief operations.

“I was glad I wasn’t there but (I thought) there’s something I can do,” she recalls.

So she set up a Facebook page to collect donations for her pastor’s organization, Christian Frontier Ministries. Within 48 hours, her social media community was so supportive that the effort took on a life of its own. It turned into a group called Portland 4 the Philippines, a collaborative of artists, dancers, musicians, performers and other creatives who’ve produced three fundraising concerts so far and have a fourth scheduled for later this month.

The events include lineups of at least five bands, spoken-word performances, art auctions, raffles and education in the form of updates, photos and blogs from contacts on the islands. The Portand creative community has embraced the effort.

“There’s a definite family here. We’re all really driven to do something with our arts that actually make a difference,” says Joseph “Djo” Fortunato, a 34-year-old musician and visual artist who is one of three other co-organizers. “We’re all trying to survive off our arts, but everyone wants to have a purpose for it.”

Fortunato, who is half Filipino, grew up on the East Coast but has several hundred relatives in the Philippines and has been there twice for family reunions.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Portland 4 the Philippines organizers saw a good turnout for their art auction and musical performances at last Saturdays fundraiser.He says he’d never thought much about the Filipino community in Portland before, but this tragedy has helped bring many of them together.

The events have been family-friendly and affordable, with tickets on a sliding scale of $5 to $20. Local and international artists have donated their work for auction, and local venues and others have pitched in.

The three events so far in December and January have raised more than $2,000.

The fourth event (they set one in each quadrant of the city) is set for Jan. 25 at the Dublin Pub. Artists Colton Carnahan, Jessica Rose and Kenton Clow, 1000 Fuegos, Jordan Harris, Jesse James with Drake Carnahan, and Erick Valle are some of the acts set to perform.

All of the proceeds are going to two on-the-ground charities in the Philippines that are focused on relief efforts.

“It’s an opportunity to remind ourselves why we pick up an instrument, a paintbrush — which is to make the world a better place,” Fortunato says.

Long-term plans

Raising money is just part of the goal. The group wants to keep a spotlight on the disaster for years to come, as the nation rebuilds.

They plan to sponsor the extended recovery efforts, which Fortunato’s uncle is helping to lead through his organization, Soft Power Philippines.

That group formed after the earthquake that struck a month before the typhoon. They offer trauma counseling, education and sustainable materials to the disaster survivors as they rebuild their communities with a 21st century model.

They want their efforts to be sustainable, not just a flash in the pan.

“This horrible tragedy creates the need and opportunity to build a better world,” Fortunato says. “It wouldn’t have been as devastating if they would’ve planned better, and they know it.”

Most Americans would have a hard time comprehending the scale of the devastation, which has been called far worse than Haiti endured after its 2010 earthquake.

That’s why Tom Finch volunteered to help, despite not being an artist or a musician.

“It’s forced me to confront my own Eurocentrism, that I need to open my eyes to more than just this Eurocentric paradigm,” says Finch, 39, a longtime teacher at Portland Public Schools, on sabbatical this year.

Finch says he’s been amazed by the energy of the movement, as Portlanders realize what’s going on and how they can help. “In a city like this, it’s encouraging eyes to be more open, to take a more global perspective.”