(Title phrase by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.)
The Lilla Jewel Fund was created in honor of Lilla Jewel, a radical suffragist, artist, mother, and grandmother. By any measure, she was a warrior, an individual ahead of her time, defying expectations and challenging notions of what it meant to be a “woman” at a time when women had few rights.
It’s no surprise that Lilla’s spirit lives on in every one of the women who have received a Lilla Jewel Award—they embody her fierce commitment to radical love, justice, and liberation for all.
Today, we are immensely proud to present to you, the 2019 and 2020 Lilla Jewel Award winners.
Marilyn Keller, 2019 Awardee
Marilyn T. Keller is a 2016 Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame Inductee. A 38-year veteran of music and stage performance in Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Pop, Blues, and theater, nationally and internationally, her musical roots are diverse.
Marilyn has built a career that has taken her as a feature artist to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Russia and the UK for concerts, festivals, nightclubs and recording work. Her voice can be heard on multiple recordings, movie soundtracks, commercials and documentaries. Marilyn’s formative jazz training was as a member of the Mt. Hood Community College Vocal Jazz Ensemble and as the vocalist fronting the award-winning MHCC Jazz Lab Band.
She can be seen frequently at clubs, restaurants, festivals and holiday events throughout the Pacific Northwest. She remains active, performing with Don Latarski, Darrell Grant, Tom Grant, Black Swan Classic Jazz Band, Pressure Point Band and the Augustana Jazz Quartet, among many others.
Intisar Abioto, 2020 Awardee
Intisar Abioto (b. Memphis, TN. 1986) is a movement artist working across photography, dance, and writing. Moving from the visionary and embodied root of Blackgirl Southern cross-temporal cross-modal storytelling ways, her works refer to the living breath/breadth of people of African descent against the expanse of their storied, geographic, and imaginative landscapes. Working in long-form projects that encompass the visual, folkloric, documentary, and performing arts, she has produced The People Could Fly Project, The Black Portlanders, and The Black.
Abioto is the recipient of a 2018 Oregon Humanities Emerging Journalists, Community Stories Fellowship during which she began a continuing body of research on the history of artists of African descent in Oregon. She has performed and/or exhibited at Ori Gallery, Portland Art Museum, Duplex Gallery, Photographic Center Northwest, African American Museum in Philadelphia, Poetry Press Week, Design Week Portland, Spelman College, Powell’s City of Books, University of Oregon White Box Gallery, and Portland State University among others. Selected for an Art in the Governor’s Office solo exhibition in 2019 she exhibited and performed with nine Oregon-based Black artists against the inner expanse of the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem OR. She is a recipient of the 2019 Women of Excellence in the Arts Award from the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc and a 2020 Lilla Jewel Award for Womxn Artists from the Mckenzie River Gathering Foundation. Her publication Black Portlands documents interviews with Black Portlanders alongside her photographs. She was a contributing photographer to MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora (2017) and her photographs illustrated the Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon 2015. Alongside the five women artists in her family, she is the co-founder of Studio Abioto, a multivalent creative arts studio. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Sharita Towne, 2020 Awardee
As an artist, Sharita’s interests lie in unpacking the inherited struggles of past burdens and in affording collective catharsis. Through collaboration, stereo-photography, printmaking, video, and community art projects, she’s worked at memorials in Germany; in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria; Brazil; in gentrifying cities like Portland, Ore. and New Orleans; in schools, museums, and neighborhoods, and within her own family.
Sharita received a BFA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from Portland State University. She currently teaches at Pacific Northwest College of Art, works in the DIY printmaking and audiovisual collective URe:AD Press (United Re:Public of the African Diaspora), and the post-colonial conceptual karaoke band Weird Allan Kaprow. She is a 2016 Art Matters grant recipient.