Our Story

For the past 35 years, Literary Arts has built community around literature, books, and storytelling, and the essential ideas and issues they raise.

Our mission is to engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with great literature.

Literary Arts began in 1984 as Portland Arts and Lectures, an event series designed to bring leading authors and cultural thinkers to Portland. Now a Portland tradition, the series brings the world’s most celebrated writers to present original talks about their art, as well as the most compelling political, social, and cultural issues of our time, before one of the largest literary lecture audiences in the nation.

Portland Arts & Lectures merged with the Oregon Institute for Literary Arts (OILA) to become Literary Arts. OILA was dedicated to supporting Oregon’s writers and publishers through grants, awards, and public recognition. The mission of OILA lives on through the Oregon Book Awards and Literary Fellowships program, which honors and supports Oregon writers and publishers through fellowships and awards.

In 1996, we launched Writers in the Schools (WITS), which employs local writers to teach semester–long writing workshops in all local public high schools and several alternative programs. Today, our Youth Programs serve over 4,000 students annually through transformative literary experiences, from the classroom to the concert hall. 

In 2014, Literary Arts officially acquired the Wordstock festival, a nine-year-old program that was created by the Portland-based organization Community of Writers. The Festival, renamed the Portland Book Festival in 2018, brings thousands of readers and writers of all ages together to share in and exchange stories.

Strategic Framework

Literary Arts is committed to remaining a dynamic and responsive organization that will continue to evolve with our community’s needs and deepen our equity work across all our programs. The Literary Arts Strategic Framework will guide the organization’s decisions through 2022 and beyond.

Read the Strategic Framework and find a full Program Assessment.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We at Literary Arts recognize that a public commitment to equity is crucial to both our own growth and that of the Portland arts and culture ecosystem.

It is our hope that by addressing racial inequity in our community, we will create a space in which readers, writers, and youth of any and all identities feel welcome.

We commit ourselves programmatically to:
  • Define our mission broadly to include all forms of literature and storytelling.
  • Support more writers of color and highlight their stories.
  • Build a diverse, intergenerational audience for literature.
  • Create equitable access to our programs.

 We commit ourselves administratively to:
  • Create a staff, board, and volunteer base reflective of our community.
  • Apply the best practices and tools to ensure that the organizational systems are equitable.

In all of the above, we strive to work with humility and in collaboration with our community to be adaptable and responsive, and to better accomplish these important goals. We are committed to doing this work for the long term. 

Latest News

Stay up-to-date on our latest news and happenings in your community.

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Our Supporters

Thank you to our supporters! Our programming is made possible by support from individuals, foundations, and businesses.

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Programs

Our programs create opportunities for readers and writers of all ages and walks of life to engage with books and stories. Join us and explore our programming in concert halls, in classrooms, in our community space, and on the radio.