T. Lulani Arquette and Yoko Ott
President and CEO of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation; Executive Director of Yale Union
This summer, Yale Union, a contemporary art center in Portland, Ore., announced the transfer of ownership of its land and historic building to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF), a Native American-led nonprofit that promotes Native culture. Born out of conversations between then-Executive Director Yoko Ott and board president and co-founder Flint Jamison about gentrification and the role art institutions should play in “restorative social change,” the title transfer represents a model for community building across the nation. The space will become the NACF’s national headquarters. “I was stunned into silence,” NACF CEO T. Lulani Arquette recounts at being approached by Ott with the idea. “I was shocked. Pleasingly shocked. This has been a really amazing experience and very profound for all of us that are involved.”
The building sits in a unique location, with a creek running through the basement. Originally an estuary serving as hunting and fishing grounds for Native peoples of the region, Arquette will create an area near the creek where visitors can connect with the land and contemplate the past.
Tragically, Ott died unexpectedly a month after proposing the plan to Arquette in 2018 and was unable to do the work of the transfer herself. But the board stuck by the original proposal and honored Ott’s idea. Her presence on this list is an homage to her work and an honor to her memory. “Yoko was an inspiring and uncompromising leader. Yale Union was incredibly fortunate to have her guidance and leadership as a board member and executive director, and it’s been our honor to execute her vision for this property transfer,” Jamison told Oregon Live recently. Yale Union will be dissolved in 2021.