Vanport Mosaic is a participatory media project that aims to capture and preserve the memories and stories of the men and women who lived in Vanport. The project teaches people who come from the communities where former Vanport residents now live basic media production skills so that they can capture and produce the stories of former Vanport residents. Many of the producers have never touched a camera or thought about how a story is crafted. Production Manager Meredith Lawrence and Project Director Laura Lo Forti teach the community members how to put a story together through a series of workshops. After the first workshop in which producers learn a little bit about Vanport and are introduced to story, interviewing, and basic camera set up, they pair up and head out into the community to interview former Vanport residents. When the interviews are completed, the producers come back and together and we discuss each story, deciding what is the strongest way to honor that particular narrative. Producers then are introduced to the fundamentals of video editing and begin to piece together the stories of the people they interviewed. Meredith and Laura act as Senior and Executive Producers to the stories and see each one through from start to finish of the incredibly collaborative, labor intensive, and rewarding process. The completed stories are shown at packed screenings around Portland. In May 2016, the Vanport Mosaic held the inaugural Vanport Mosaic Festival. The four-day festival drew more than 2000 people and included screenings, a play, an educational symposium, and tours of the site where Vanport once stood.
Vanport was a housing development built outside of Portland, OR during World War II to house shipyard workers. It was affordable housing and one of the few places that African Americans could live. At its height the city of Vanport was home to 40,000 people. On Memorial Day 1948 a flood broke through a filled in railroad barrier and wiped out the entire city in less than an hour. The culture in Vanport and the people it brought to Oregon changed Portland and yet few people talk about it or even know it existed. The Vanport Mosaic project is working to ensure that the city of Vanport and its people are remembered. For more information about the project visit the website.