Cheryl and Fred followed their adult children to Portland, knowing they wanted a condo. They were more than ready to give up the big house In Kansas City with the even bigger yard where they raised their family.
We asked Cheryl how they chose their Pearl District home, why she started walking with the Women's Wednesday Walkers, and what she does to flex her creative muscles and support the arts.
"We looked for a place for one full day in Portland and the McKenzie unit was the first one we saw. I loved the open space and since we collected art over the years, it was great to see a condo that had lots of room to hang our collection.
We also knew we could entertain here and hold our annual 30-40 person Passover Seder. We saw other units in other buildings, but they were pretty much chopped up into separate rooms and seemed more like the apartments we lived in growing up in New York City. We wanted something different!
We bought the McKenzie loft on that first day. It's been a great space for us. In addition to having a large, flexible space for entertaining, we have been able to hold theater events for local non-profits, as well as musical theater cabaret fundraisers for PHAME, an organization that provides arts experiences for developmentally disabled adults.
We bought the loft in 2006 and rented it until 2011. We knew we wanted to make the space uniquely our own, so we hired architect Chris Soderbergh, explaining to her that we needed more kitchen counter space and a little more separation between rooms. BUT, we did not want to take away from the openness of the unit.
Both the plans and the construction were done while we both still worked in Kansas City. Fred was flying back and forth trying to build a psychology practice in Portland. He brought back possible color choices, design ideas and questions from Chris. It was a long distance back and forth, but by the time we moved to Portland permanently, the work was nearly done.
I knew that when I moved to Portland, I would be on a friend quest. I have always had close women friends and have come to rely on them. The day we moved in, a woman named Naomi, who also lived in the building, approached me and asked if I enjoyed walking and hiking. I told her that I did and I joined the walking group!
The walking group has been a regular part of my life for six years. I've met my closest friends through the group and know I will always be in a supportive and caring network. These women are spirited and come from a wide range of backgrounds; they are politically engaged and laugh easily!
Recently, my friend Susan Hoerner and I made a pledge to get to know each one better. We are planning to invite newer members of the group to several brunches over the summer. Every one of them is interesting: a pilot, a pilates instructor, flight attendants, a graphic designer, an artist, city planners, a singer, a nurse, a psychologist , a teacher, to name only a few of the talented professionals among us.
I think maybe one day, I will write a song for young girls about what they can become based on these women. I LOVE this group!
For 34 years I taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. I landed a job where I was able to teach in the arts-drama, creative movement, writing, art and children's literature. Prior to that I was an integrated arts specialist in the New York City schools. Let's just say, I couldn't have been any luckier than to bring my passion for the arts to college classrooms!
Teaching is a creative endeavor. The question is always, 'How can I structure these two hours to encourage my students to tap into the deepest parts of themselves and create meaning through arts and literature?' I value creativity and I always tried to create a community that supports it. When my undergraduate and graduate students AMAZED me with their work (it was often), I felt I had done a good job.
Now I have taken up collaging and my friend Sarah, also a Wednesday walker, just taught Susan Hoerner and me the process of wood photo transfer. Sarah's teaching style provided us with an afternoon of laughs, creativity and friendship!
My department at University of Missouri-Kansas City was fortunate to receive an 8. 5 million dollar Department of Education grant to develop what we called The Institute of Urban Education. My colleagues and I designed a program of study preparing our students to teach in urban settings.
We accepted first generation college students who grew up in the urban core. We provided them with full scholarships and they committed to teach in an urban setting for four years. We believed that part of the achievement gap was based in an arts and literacy disparity along racial and socioeconomic lines. We wanted the teachers we educated to know that arts-based learning encourages critical thinking and higher order problem solving. They got it!
Now I work with several organizations in Portland, continuing to work with programs that support literacy and the arts.
BOOM Arts: I love theater! When the curator of BOOM Arts approached me about holding a salon theater performance in our home, I happily volunteered our space. My husband and I became part of the founding circle and I am now chair of the Board. BOOM Arts presents socially relevant theater that is both edgy and global in its focus. I am so excited about our programming and love to hear the positive audience reaction. Lan Fendors and Susan Feldman, both from the walking group have hosted our artists and offered their homes for 'meet and greet the artist' gatherings. So, yet again, another reason to love my walking group-women who support one another.
PHAME: For three years, we opened our home to PHAME for cabaret fundraisers. My daughter directed the cabarets and now my husband is on the Board.
SMART: I always loved reading to children and engaging them in artistic endeavors sparked by literature. I did this as a professor at UMKC. We held our classes in local public schools, so if I wanted to demonstrate a lesson, the children were right there. When I heard about SMART, a literacy program to promote the love of books in elementary classrooms, I knew I had to volunteer.
This time in my life is filled with travel, good friends, loving children and time! I have learned to bite my tongue when I have advice for my children, unless they ask for it. I have learned that we are all flawed, but there is so much good in each person, that the flaws can be ignored. I learned, even in today’s times with so much vitriol coming from our elected politicians, that it is wise to look for opportunities for laughter. I learned that I can't control anyone (even though I wish I could, oh how I wish I could), so I have given up trying; at least the best I can. I value my relationships and give them care; it's important.
Most of the women from the walking group who attended the Women's March were counted right here in Portland. Six of us decided to fly to Washington. The camaraderie was amazing. Here were women who walk together in Portland through Forest Park and along city trails, often discussing issues of reproductive rights, the rights of immigrants and the necessity of all space being free from sexual violence-and there we were marching together in Washington, with thousands of other women advocating for the very same thing. We are forever bonded. Hopefully, we will make a difference. We are trying and won't leave the movement behind."