Jen Forti—artist, activist, entrepreneur— is dedicated to social and environmental justice by creating joyful connection between people through music and performance. Music, minstrel, and other artistic endeavors have always been an integral part of her life. Given this chosen, inspired path, Jen wondered early on what could she actually do with music to make a living AND offer a positive impact. Thus, Bellagrams was conceived.
Italian Roots, Musical Style, Entrepreneurial Spirit Unleashed
Bellagrams is a culmination of everything I've done my whole life. —Jen Forti, founder
Many might know that “bella” means beautiful in Italian, and might guess that Bellagrams offers a creative spin on traditional singing telegrams. Jen is an Italo-American, or as she has coined it, Ital-Oregonian, who has traveled the world sharing her creative talents in many different ways.
Jen’s musical interests developed early on. Drums, dance, and song were part of her creative endeavors as a young person, which naturally led her to committed performance touring and participation in Portland mainstay groups such as MarchFourth Marching Band (dancer/8 years), Trashcan Joe (washboard player/5+ years), Ukeladies PDX (washboard player/9+ years), Tangled Threads (marionette and minstrel/7 years), and Zingari trio (washboard, singer). Her most recent musical offshoot project, Doorway Duets, led directly to the conception of Bellagrams which is now approaching year three in bringing cheerful song to gleeful audiences.
Since landing in Portland in 1998, Jen knew she wanted to deliver things—good things to her community. She began with Genesis Juice, and eventually started a tee-shirt business (The People’s Republic of Portland, representing progressive Portland pride). But bringing juice and tees to fine humans across town were just the beginning of connecting with her community. Jen became more than a concerned citizen and activist by getting involved with Activate Hub, 350.org, and Community Rights US, all dealing with issues she feels most strongly about.
An Artist’s Life Leads to Continual Reinvention
Ever since she can remember, Jen’s lived a nomadic life. Becoming a touring artist and musician was certainly a chosen path, but is always about hustling for the next gig, for the next payment. This rugged path can certainly wear on a person, one like Jen who’s been in it for decades. That sort of touring fatigue, along with feelings of hopelessness about the state of the environment and the world, deters many from such a path, yet Jen began to think seriously over the past decade about what she could offer to make the world a better, brighter place. She also wanted to be involved in something that she could feel good about, stoking the Buddhist motto, “right livelihood.” She had always been attracted to making memories rather than making stuff (which prompted her to quit tee-shirt and sticker making) and led her to launch Bellagrams with nothing but talent, energy, and her struggling artist mentality to propel the endeavor forward.
It's this mentality that has forced her to be savvy and tap into Portland's community programs and resources specifically designed to help small businesses such as hers. With the help of Mercy Corps NW, Livelihood NW, a recent grant from RACC along with support from some of her trusted colleagues, Jen has been able pursue her dream of being in business for herself as an artist.
It's a true balancing act toggling between artist, activist, entrepreneur, yet her new business inspires joy and wonder in Jen, her musical partners and their clients, adding so much to the creative climate in Portland.
“I get to deliver short, musical moments and get a glimpse into peoples' lives.
Lifting spirits, creating connection, and bringing harmony into the world through unique and memorable musical gift experiences that can be delivered anywhere is the perfect blend of my talents, skills, and joys.”