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about portfolio

our mission | a brief history | leadership | executive director | board of directors

Our Mission
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 was housed until 2015 in an historic 19th century residence.

Today Portfolio is unique in St. Louis and the Midwest. It:
• Showcases local, as well as, internationally renowned African-American artists.
• Provides direct art education to children, adults and developmentally disabled persons.
• Works with educators to enhance traditional arts in the school setting.
• 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 the IRS.

Portfolio celebrates over 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.

our mission | a brief history | leadership | executive director | board of directors | top of page


Founder & Executive Director
Robert A. Powell, executive directorRobert 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 over 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 city life.

Robert is also a past board member of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District, and Tower Grove Park Board of Commissioners.

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, Kansas.

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 at:
• 2007 National Urban League Black Fine Arts Show, St. Louis
• 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 Center.

Robert Powell at the gallery Before the Mayflower, mahogany sculpture Robert Powell giving a demonstration
Robert presenting an artist
at The Gallery
Before the Mayflower, mahogany sculpture by Robert Powell Robert giving a
sculpture demonstration

our mission | a brief history | leadership | executive director | board of directors | top of page

Board of Directors

Ivan James, President
President, United Technology Systems

Richard Atkins, Vice President
TDP Architectural Firm

Mathew Davis, Secretary
Independent State Farm Insurance Agency

Dr. Donald Cook, Treasuer
Capital International Communication