M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Two people from Literary Arts sit on stage in front of red banners that read "Portland Book Festival" in front of a large audience

Portland has been called one of the most literary cities in America, thanks to the famous Powell’s Books, frequent poetry slams and reading groups, and many resources for writers. At the heart of this bookish culture is Literary Arts. Literary Arts is an organization with a mission to engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with literature. The Trust has been glad to partner with this organization to provide rich spaces and resources for important conversations about literature in a city that’s eager to talk about it.

What began in 1984 as an event series called Portland Arts & Lectures has merged into Literary Arts, which includes this event series and much more. Here are some of the programs this organization offers:

  • Every year, the Portland Book Festival invites thousands to hear from acclaimed authors and engage in storytelling.
  • With celebrated authors from around the world and one of the largest literary lecture audiences nationwide, Portland Arts & Lectures remains a beloved Portland tradition in the literary community. 
  • Writers in the Schools brings professional writers into high school classrooms.
  • Other youth programs help high school students craft college application essays and engage with authors at local events.
  • A citywide poetry slam called Vereselandia! offers a platform for high school students to showcase their poetic talent.
  • Delve Reading Seminars creates shared experiences of reading by offering discussion-based literature seminars.
  • Writing classes help emerging writers advance their skills.
  • Oregon Literary Fellowships assist Oregon writers as they create literary projects across a variety of genres.

Through these programs and others, every year Literary Arts touches more than 20,000 with lectures and events, 700 through classes, and 3,000 through Youth Programs. More than 500 apply for awards and fellowships each year, and their podcast also reaches around 15,000 weekly listeners. Each one of these numbers represents someone who was drawn closer into the literary community through a transformative experience with a book or an engaging conversation with someone. It’s this type of culture that gives Portland its literary reputation, and that Literary Arts is helping to foster every day.

The Trust has supported Literary Arts with capacity-building grants since 1998. From helping establish the Writers in the Schools program to supporting new technology to expanding facilities, the Trust has been honored to play a small part in the organization’s growth and impact.

Thanks to the good work of Literary Arts and other organizations supporting literacy and the literary arts such as Storyknife Writers Retreat, Reading Partners Seattle, SMART Reading, and Children’s Literacy Project, those in our region are offered more opportunities for flourishing through interaction with the written word. We look forward to seeing what the next chapter of Literary Arts, and all of these important organizations, may hold.

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