For more than 36 years, Literary Arts has built community around literature, books, and storytelling, and the essential ideas and issues they raise.
Literary Arts is a nonprofit literary organization based in Portland, OR. Our mission is to engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with great literature.
Literary Arts operates on the unceded land now known as Portland, Oregon. The Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Watlala bands, the Tualatin Kalapuya and many other indigenous nations of the Columbia River occupied this land long before western colonizers arrived, and many continue to do so today. Despite attempts of removal and erasure, these nations remain a strong and vital part of our region. Literary Arts recognizes that this acknowledgement is only a small step in affirming the ongoing presence and contributions of native communities, and we commit to engaging with these communities more fully as we fulfill our mission
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.
Our radio show and podcast The Archive Project debuted on local NPR station OPB in 2012 and the podcast began in 2014. The Archive Project features the most sought-after recordings from more than 36 years of events. Each week, new lectures are available to stream for free. Episodes also air every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. (Pacific) on OPB radio.
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.
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.
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.
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.