Know Your City engages the public in art and social justice through creative placemaking projects. Our programs and publications aim to educate people to better know their communities, and to empower them to take action. 

Organization Core Values

  • amplify under-represented voices

  • focus on experts with first-hand knowledge

  • present information in non-authoritative platforms

  • include multiple perspectives

  • focus on controversial and timely issues

  • accessible to all (price and otherwise)

  • democratic and participatory decision-making

  • empowerment of members

  • substantive programs with high-level of information

  • participation from people of all ages and walk of life

  • fun, culturally-oriented programs to better understand often-dry policy

Know Your City is committed to respecting and honoring differences and commonalities in ethnicity, race, economic background, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability and religious affiliation. Our organization is comprised of diverse individuals who value inclusivity with the development and implementation of educational place-making projects. Our democratically structured programs and publications amplify under-represented voices within communities disproportionately impacted by oppression, prejudice, and discrimination. We believe, through embracing diversity, people become more empowered to take effective action for justice.


Our Staff


Lydia Grijalva - Interim Executive Director

Lydia Grijalva (they or she) has been involved in education, activism, and nonprofit work on the west coast for 15 years, and has been working in independent publishing in Portland for 4 years. Since moving to Portland in 2013, they have been involved in a variety of community projects. Their background blends together a variety of disciplines: from theatre, music, photography, and creative writing, to environmental science, political science, and child development science. Lydia’s lifelong experiences being poor, Latinx (Chican@), queer, disabled/chronically ill, and formerly houseless have fueled their lifelong motivation to contribute to a variety of social justice efforts. No matter what projects they’re involved in, Lydia works to increase accessibility and break barriers that silence oppressed folks. Lydia also co-leads the Alberta Free Hutch and PDX Men’s Assembly for Collective Accountability.



Melissa Lang - Historian and Programs Coordinator

Melissa is a historian who is inspired by the words of James A. Balwin, who said, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” She seeks to interrupt traditional, narrow narratives of American and Oregon history. Her passion for history is rooted around the kitchen table, where her mother and father sparked lively debates about American history and encouraged her to always question the status quo. She moved to Portland in 2009, and has worked with the Oregon Historical Society, Kick Ass Oregon History, and Oregon Humanities. She’s currently the Oregon Women’s History Consortium Fellow and Secretary of the Executive Committee of the NAACP Portland Branch 1120B. She’s currently finishing her Masters thesis, which examines the role of women in Portland’s Civil Rights Movement using the Verdell Burdine and Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection at Portland State University Archives. Through dioramas, stage sets, and stop-motion animation, she explores the ways in which art, history, and social justice can cultivate a greater perspective on our contemporary lives.