The Arts and Belonging in St. Johns

Kirista Trask coordinates quarterly arts events in St. Johns through the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO). She is also a professional abstract mixed media artist who lives in the neighborhood and has a studio in Cathedral Park Place. We sat down with Kirista to talk about the impact of the arts in St. Johns and the work of SJCO to support the arts in the neighborhood.

Photo by Nicole Elizabeth Taylor

Photo by Nicole Elizabeth Taylor

As a working artist living in St. Johns, Kirista loves that she lives so close to her studio.  She said “I love walking to work. My studio is one mile from my house. I also get to hang my artwork in the neighborhood with the people that I live around and I get a view of the bridge from my studio!”. Kirista’s abstract mixed media art is currently hanging in 45th Parallel Wine Shop in downtown St. Johns. As the coordinator of the artBURST events through SJCO, Kirista curates and supports local artists to show at the quarterly Art Walk, where local businesses partner with an artist to display their artwork for the evening, the Farmers Market Art Constitutional, a fine art and craft fair set up alongside the Farmers Market vendors, and the Holiday Night Market at Cathedral Park Place. “SJCO and these artBURST events provide an environment for artists and craftsmen to interact with their neighbors in the place that they live and work. This has the added benefit of exposing the neighborhood to art and art experiences that they might not otherwise have access to. SJCO is growth oriented because they are supporting artists who are also small business owners and entrepreneurs!”


Why are the arts important to a neighborhood?

“Art helps people connect with each other. Connection makes neighborhoods safer because people know and are invested in one another. SJCO provides opportunities, which only improves the livability of St. Johns. Art impacts lives in so many different ways. As budget cuts happen, arts programming is more and more important and often we lose access to it, especially young people. It is important to keep access to the arts in the neighborhood, through these types of events and exposure, especially for kids”.


The September Art Walk in St. Johns was one of Kirista’s favorite moments this fall. The bustle of people walking around, looking at and buying art, engaging with local business owners, art and sculpture in the plaza, all of this activity added a new energy to St. Johns. You could see St. Johns engaging with the community and artists in a way that was so positive and also family friendly. The St. Johns Center for Opportunity makes space for these types of activities so that neighbors, small business owners and practicing artists can connect and support one another.  

Kirista describes that a lot of art studios and spaces are located in SE Portland, so it is all the more important that SJCO continues to bring artists into the neighborhood for artBURST events. This provides access to the arts and helps attract artists to places like Cathedral Park Place Studios because artists need to practice in areas where they can also sell their work. SJCO artBURST events help encourage that.

What is your hope for the future of arts programming through the St. Johns Center for Opportunity?

“I would love to see the ArtBURST go from a quarterly to a monthly event. That will take more community participation in these events, which I think will happen. The businesses have been awesome and incredibly supportive of the art walk. I would also love to see a yearly Artist in Resident position that engages the community directly in community art programming!”


Support the work of SJCO to maintain and grow a vibrant arts community here in St. Johns by donating to our end of year campaign here. Our goal is to raise $7,000 by December 22nd. Donate online here today!

The artBURST Holiday Night Market is this Friday, December 1st from 4-9 pm at Cathedral Park Place (6635 N. Baltimore by Occidental Brewing). Listen to live music, buy local, handmade holiday gifts from 25 vendors and tour open artist studios in the building. More information about the event here. 

Emily Sterling