A community-guided music and film project inspired by Oregon’s Black history, funded by Oregon Community Foundation’s Creative Heights grant. Douglas Detrick was the creative director, grant writer, and producer of this project.

Project Components

  • Community engagement events in Portland and Wallowa County
  • Commissions for new music, lyrics, documentary and short narrative films
  • Studio recording and album release
  • Touring across Oregon

Douglas Detrick’s role in the project

Douglas Detrick was the creative director, grant writer, project manager, and a performer in the ensemble. The Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights grant that supported this project was a transformative award for Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. It has given the organization a tremendous boost in reputation, and set the organization permanently in a higher category of revenue. It has resulted in repeated performances over the course of several years beyond the year of the award, and the organization has plans to expand the piece so that it can make impacts on larger audiences even beyond the Pacific Northwest.

The project was successful because it made a creative connection to issues that are vital to many Oregonians from across geographic, political and cultural spectrums, and did so with joyful, inventive music that moves the people who hear it. Most importantly, the piece brought attention to a chapter of Oregon’s Black history that has been misunderstood or discounted by many Oregonians for a long time.

About the Project

“Maxville to Vanport” is a multimedia concert of songs and short films with live music performed by the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble featuring vocalist Marilyn Keller. It tells the story of two historic blue collar Oregon towns with a special focus on the African American Oregonians that made them unique. With a joyful score of jazz, blues, R&B, and gospel-inspired music with music by Ezra Weiss, text by Renee Mitchell, video by Kalimah Abioto, and historical consultation by Gwendolyn Trice of Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center created in a community-guided process in 2018, this project celebrates a little-known part of Oregon’s history.

Maxville, a logging town built in 1923 in Wallowa County, and Vanport, built in 1942 just north of Portland for shipyard workers, were multicultural communities that housed workforces with significant African American and immigrant populations at a time when many Oregonians were openly hostile to them. From Maxville to Vanport looks honestly at the prejudice these people faced and celebrates their resilience, courage, and important contributions to Oregon. It tells stories of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the face of remarkable adversity; stories that deserve to be better understood by all Oregonians.

“The hardship and joys of this period of Oregon’s history, as viewed through the eyes of its earliest Black citizens, informs the work of Weiss and Mitchell. The music is austere and stately, evoking the landscape of the eastern part of the state and the period when Portland was more spacious.”
– Robert Ham, Portland Mercury, May 23, 2018

“Marjorie” short narrative film by Kalimah Abioto