by Anne Richardson
Bill Crawford, OCI secretary-treasurer, looms over a model of 1970s Portland.
Q: What is Oregon Cartoon Institute?
A: Oregon Cartoon Institute is a two person think tank, comprised of director Anne Richardson and film archivist Dennis Nyback. We investigate Oregon’s film, animation and print cartooning history, using every possible tool we can lay our hands on.
Q: What do you do?
A: We ask questions, and share the process of pursuing answers.
Q: What questions?
A: We’re interested in “Who makes Pop?” Exploring this question sometimes makes us wonder “Where is the West?” or even “Is there a West?”
Q: Why are these questions important?
A: Once upon a time there was a decaying blue collar town one thousand miles from Hollywood, and two thousand miles from New York, which produced artists who changed American culture. What happened? Where did Portland’s film, animation, and print cartooning artist-entrepreneurs come from? Pursuing a deeper understanding of this strand of our regional identity illuminates American history and culture, not just our own.
Q: Who are your colleagues?
A: So many! We’ve received guidance, encouragement, information, and occasional collaboration on live events from radio historian Craig Adams, artist Carye Bye, economist Larry Bissett, political scientist Richard Blue, archivist Libby Burke, producer David Cress, poet Walt Curtis, cinematographer Harry Dawson, filmmaker/inventor Walt Dimick, musician Tim DuRoche, UX designer Damon Eckhoff, pillar of moral support Bill Failing, historian Gus Frederick, journalist Richard Gehr, educator Lisa Groening, pop genius Matt Groening, writer Gretchen Harmon, historian Maurice Isserman, filmmaker James Ivory (thank you, James!), scholar Brooke Jacobson, historian Robert Johnston, radio historian Ronald Kramer, archivist Michele Kribs, film preservationist Gary Lacher, bookstore owner Fred Nemo, archivist Elizabeth Peterson, scholar Heather Petrocelli, animator Bill Plympton, artist-entrepreneur Mike Richardson, comics historian Patrick Rosenkranz, graphic journalist Joe Sacco, urban designer Tad Savinar, journalist Norman Solomon, theater historian Steve Stone, educator Ellen Thomas, filmmaker Gus Van Sant, filmmaker Will Vinton (thank you, Will!), librarian Rich Wandschneider, filmmaker Chel White, graphic designer Josh Winsor, artist Monte Wolverton, technician Robert Zurcher, and untold others.
Q: Who runs OCI?
A: Our board of directors is comprised of Portland historian Carl Abbott, urbanist Bill Crawford (see above), designer/Design Week co-founder Eric Hillerns (president); educator Anne Richardson, and Southern Oregon historian Ben Truwe.
Q: Who advises OCI?
A: Artist David Chelsea, animator Bill Plympton, and writer Sheldon Renan, longtime informal advisors, recently became our advisory board.
Q: What does OCI bring to knowledge production?
A: We open the definition of Oregon film history to include films made by Oregon artists outside state boundaries, and we research that history from a statewide perspective. We access two new data sources: oral histories from artists and archival films, sometimes on loan from private sources. These shifts/expansions in data collection lead to a deeper, more accurate understanding of our regional strength.
Q: Who supports OCI projects?
A: OCI’s public history/arts education events have been supported since 2010 with grants from Kinsman Foundation and the James F. and Marian L. Miller Foundation. And with the skilled labor of many volunteers!
In 2018, Oregon Film, Oregon Film Museum, Dark Horse, James Blue Alliance, and UO Knight Library/Special Collections supported OCI’s annual Oregon Film History Conference, held in UO’s White Stag Auditorium in Portland.
Q: What’s next for OCI?
A: OCI became a 501c3 non-profit organization in 2017. We’re looking to add a paid, professional, non-profit administrator to our staff. If you are interested in our mission, and can see yourself in this role, contact us and tell us everything you’d like us to know, including your salary requirements.
Founded in 2007 by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback, Oregon Cartoon Institute uses new media, archival film, research, networking, and cross disciplinary discussion to explore Oregon film, animation, and print cartooning history. It has no brick and mortar presence, and always works in partnership with organizations which do.