The mission of Portfolio Gallery & Education Center is to educate,
enrich lives and foster a greater awareness of American artists
of African American heritage.
A Brief History
St. Louis artist and educator Robert
A. Powell founded Portfolio in 1989. At the time he recognized
that “even African American
superstar artists like Gordon Parks, Jacob Lawrence, Varnette Honeywood
and Richard Hunt were relatively obscure in the visual arts world.” He
also understood the important role of “the black artist as
the recorder of history and culture in our community." Powell
started Portfolio as a one-man organization — administrator,
curator, exhibit installer, fundraiser and sometimes, carpenter.
Just four years after it was organized, Portfolio moved to its
current location in Grand Center Arts District, where it is housed
in an historic 19th century residence.
Today Portfolio is unique in St. Louis and the Midwest. It:
local, as well as, internationally renowned African-American artists.
• Provides direct art education to children, adults and developmentally
• Works with educators to enhance traditional arts in the school
• Offers lectures, demonstrations and opportunities for cultural
and intellectual exchange.
Portfolio’s programs impact more than 5,000 persons a year
and it is recognized as a not-for-profit under the laws
of the State of Missouri and has received its 501(c)3 status from
This year celebrates Portfolio’s 20 years of service to
the community. A lot has changed in those two decades. Powell now
has help and successful history to back his dream. But the dream
for the future continues. Portfolio is in the planning stage for
an expansion of physical facilities with classrooms and studios
to accommodate on-site education programs.
Founder & Executive Director
Robert A. Powell is founder and executive director of Portfolio
Gallery & Educational Center. Powell brought Portfolio to
life in 1989. Ten years later, he was one of only 19 non-profit
leaders selected nationwide to become a Fellow in the first class
of The Denali Initiative, which provided training over a three
year period to develop “social entrepreneurs.” The
Initiative emphasized providing community services in exchange
for dollars, rather than relying entirely on the community to
support a cultural service.
Portfolio is now celebrating 20 years of service to the community
and impacts more than 5,000 people a year.
Powell’s leadership and Portfolio’s success have been
honored by many awards including:
• 2009 Excellence in the Arts, Arts and Education Council
• 2003 Best Citizen, Riverfront Times
• 2001 John W. Simon Community Service Award, Maryville University
• 1995 Missouri Arts Award, State of Missouri
• 1993 Kool Achiever Award, presented to adults who improve inner
He also currently serves as a board member of the Metropolitan
Zoological Park and Museum District, Board of Directors, where
he and other directors distribute tax revenues of about 70 million
dollars annually to the Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum,
Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri
History Museum, which provide collectively 50% of the annual operating
costs for these institutions.
Artist & Educator
In addition to his business acumen, Powell brings to Portfolio
the legitimacy of a passionate artist and dedicated educator.
Robert A. Powell, the artist is a recognized sculptor whose works
are in the permanent collections of Nerman Museum of Contemporary
Art and the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park,
In 2008, he was selected to design an ornament for the White House
Christmas Tree in celebration of the “Red, White and Blue” Christmas
holiday. He was also named to create awards for Southside Day Care
in 2005, 2006 and 2007
Powell continues to create art and has recently exhibited works
• 2007 National Urban League Black Fine Arts Show, St.
• 2005 Jazz Museum, Kansas City
• 2003 St. Louis Public Library, Downtown Branch
Robert A. Powell, the educator has a B.S degree in education
and taught for more than a decade in the public schools of Oakland
and Kansas City. It was in Oakland he moved his industrial arts
students into the realm of three dimensional sculpture, carving
and creative art works. It was also there he developed his own
artistic philosophy about the positive. For Powell it all starts
with the magic number one, one person, the one man or woman in
the mirror. He continues to teach about art, art appreciation and
applied visual arts in his varied roles at Portfolio Gallery & Education
|Robert presenting an artist
at The Gallery
|Before the Mayflower, mahogany
sculpture by Robert Powell
||Robert giving a
Board of Directors
President, United Technology Systems
Atkins, Vice President
TDP Architectural Firm
Independent State Farm
Capital International Communication