Since 2013, From the Ground UP has provided arts programming for local youth and underserved communities, targeting those who need these services the most.


Our Mission

From the Ground UP is a Portland based organization that utilizes the performing arts to create dialogue, build community and give voice to underserved populations. Knowing that by bringing stories that are not often heard to the forefront we can bring forth  opportunities and dialogues that create positive outcomes for individuals and our community at large.


From the Ground UP provides accessible arts programming for underserved populations in the Portland area. By generating new work we bring voices and stories from unheard populations into focus, creating space for deeper understanding, newfound empathy and community dialogue.


We believe that access to the arts should be a RIGHT, not a privilege. 

From the Ground UP is about realizing the potential of every student that enters the room. Through innovative workshops and programs From the Ground UP supports empowerment, develops empathy, creates community, and inspires students to live whole hearted courageous lives.

At the core From the Ground UP believes that everyone, regardless of economic limitations, physical disabilities, learning challenges, sexual orientation, gender identity or cultural identity have the capability and right to realize their best selves. Our programing uses the arts as the vehicle to create a space for everyone entering our room to excel. Using innovative research in education we have crafted a curriculum that creates thinkers, learners and leaders, inspires curiosity and invites our participants to engage fully in their lives and in the world around them.

“Katherine and the entire From the Ground UP team, are one of the most passionate and driven group of mentors I have ever had. Their commitment to the program, theatre arts, and the residents made me feel empowered to take risks.”
— Resident 2017

Katherine Murphy Lewis

Artistic Director

Inspired by her early years as part of the Planned Parenthood Teen Theatre Ensemble in Southern Oregon, Katherine co-founded From the Ground UP in 2013 with a dream of creating no-barriers arts programming for Portland Youth. Since then Katherine and her team at From the Ground UP have offered programing to hundreds of youth in the greater Portland area and most recently has begun to bring From the Ground UP to various underserved populations regardless of age. Alongside this work Katherine has also worked as a director and teacher with the Portland Playhouse, Profile Theater, Artemis and Girls Inc. It is her greatest pride to be a part of this amazing team of people that make up ‘From the Ground UP’.

Deborah Jenson

Assistant Director

Deborah has been involved in theatre for about 20 years. She attended Southern Oregon University, and then gallivanted around Los Angeles for just shy of 7 years. She acted in many plays, and moving picture projects during her LA stint, and considers her time there well spent and invaluable. She recently returned to Portland and is studying massage at East West College of the Healing Arts. Deborah is an idealist, and is always (most of the time) working toward living every day with the intention it deserves

Avery Kester Headshot.jpg

Avery Kester

Development and Artistic Intern

Avery has been involved in theatre for about 11 years, they graduated from Pacific University in 2018 with their Bachelor’s of Arts in Applied Theatre and Sociology. They are a current student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying for their MFA in Playwriting. This is their first year working with From the Ground UP. They are a co-founder of queer theatre group Theatre Viscera, check out more info at

our values

CREATION...we develop and create original work that honestly portrays our program participants with the aims of bringing their voices and stories to the forefront of their communities. 

CONNECTION...we build connections. By offering programs that develop and sustain community. Giving our particapants a sense of belonging and support. 

COMPASSION...we work to develop compassion in all our partipants. Compasson for self and other and work to create stories that inspire compassion and empathy on larger community basses. 

COURAGE...we empower and inspire our participants to speak their truths and realize their best selves, to not be afraid of honesty and to find the beauty of their individual identities.