About BLERG (Black Life Experiential Research Group)

BLERG is a think tank. Instead of dry analytical reports, it produces transmedia experiences. It anchors itself to a Black geography of Portland, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s porous and collaborative with diverse artists, thinkers, audiences, and cityscapes. It can fly through neighborhoods that were razed by slum clearance, exhume voices and documents that unsettle our understanding of what happened then, now, and can happen in the future. It gives language, shape, and form to Black imagination through public art and intervention, augmented reality, print, and video, to breathe possibilities back into sites of Black Life in Portland and beyond.
Sharita Towne is an transdisciplinary artist and educator based in Portland, OR, born and raised on the west coast of the U.S. along Interstate 5—from Salem, OR, to Tacoma, WA and down to Sacramento, CA.  She is also known as “Mariah Carrie Mae Weems,” one-fourth of the post-colonial conceptual karaoke band Weird Allan Kaprow. Towne holds a BA from UC Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies & Art, an MFA from Portland State University in Contemporary Art Practices, and teaches at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

Lisa K. Bates is an activist scholar who uses research, art practice, and spatial intervention to develop new visions of Black history, present, and possibility. Bates is Associate Professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University.  She has a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In 2016 she was awarded the Dale Prize for urban planning scholarship that advances community self-determination and racial justice.