Pamplin Media Group – A Tale of Two City Murals

One lines up at the airport and took a committee to complete, the other took a village, but both are temporary.

Two murals recently debuted in Portland. One, at Portland International Airport, was the work of years of planning and followed all the rules in the book to keep travelers entertained and uplifted. The other, on the fence protecting a new city-backed homeless camp next to the Moda center, met in four months, without approval or challenge (Watch here).

One is designed to decorate the long walls that fill airports and to entertain and uplift travelers as they wait for their planes. The other is on a fence that protects people who have nowhere to sleep but outdoors in the winter and is designed to add some joy to their uncertain journey in life.

Along Weidler Street at Northeast First Avenue, the 240-foot-long green fence now matches the green of the large bike path used by commuters in gentrified northeast Portland. The design began in August and was painted from September to November. Residents of the village of BIPOC screwed patterns cut out of plywood onto the fence and painted it mostly green, blue and orange. Like the tight wooden fences that protect cannabis grow sites in southern Oregon, this fence is designed to keep prying eyes out. But the mural is designed to give a sense of humanity, to show that there are people living here, and that it is not just another vacant industrial land or piece of land. ODOT real estate.

Gather: Make: Shelter, the Gather: Make: Shelter association of Portland artist Dana Lynn Louis, helps homeless people decorate their formal villages with murals. In June, some of the old fence decorations arrived when the BIPOC camp left its last location near the Hawthorne Bridge, but this new mural is larger and more stable. Residents used house paint, plywood, and power tools. So far he has not been hit by graffiti, which Louis sees as a sign of respect.

Meanwhile, in the airport’s brand new Hall B on Tuesday, December 14, Oregon’s culture keepers and stakeholders were out in force for the Celebrate Oregon unveiling! This is a mural (rather a large painting, on 16 feet of plywood) depicting the hills, desert and ocean of Oregon, with 127 smaller images superimposed on it. They fall somewhere between clip art and logos and represent what’s special for Oregon. For example, there’s a mushroom, a cougar, a sugar pine cone, and a spilyay, but also man-made things like Ken Kesey’s FURTHER school bus, the Astoria column, and a bottle of pinot noir. The fresco is flanked by samples of these images and explanations written on cardboard, like the legend of a map.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The 240 foot mural on the fence of the BIPOC C3PO village on NE Weidler Street was painted in two months without waiting for permission.

Your logo here

Celebrate Oregon! mural has sponsors (Lithia Motors), content experts (such as Linda Castillo, Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs and Mariotta Gary-Smith, Oregon Commission on Black Affairs) and of course an artist named , painter and illustrator Liza Burns. She was there to talk about it and thank many facilitators. Burns, of Eugene, has made three more at other airports in Oregon, but this one is bigger and more complex. Over 100 artists, jury members and content experts were involved in the design process.

Burns also designed the new Celebrate Oregon license plate, which also comes with a decoder key.

Inclusiveness was the theme of the list of speakers.

Marylin Munoz, a 15-year-old freshman at Franklin High School, recited “A Delayed Dream” by Langston Hughes and “Touched by an Angel” by Maya Angelou.

The unveiling lasted an hour and included seventeen people at the microphone. The Grand Ronde Singers sang and played the drums, Portland’s Dan Peppinger did the land scouting, and Portland hip hop artist Cool Nutz rapped about the pain. Oregon Cultural Trust Executive Brian Rogers mentioned in passing that there is an additional $ 50 million in Biden infrastructure funds available for small venues in the state, which include public and private spaces. , theaters and cinemas in small towns. The Cultural Trust has awarded $ 36 million over its 20 years, but in 2022 it is expected to become ballistic.

Really big cats

The budget for the BIPOC Village Mural was $ 10,000, which includes $ 5,000 of the town’s money donated by Right2DreamToo when they ran the camps, and $ 5,000 from GMS private donors. Miller Paint gave them a painting deal. Louis told the Portland Tribune that seven residents came up with the design. Animals and weather are a theme: cats and birds, clouds and rain.

“They really wanted big cats,” Louis said. “They want a welcoming environment when they come in, they want people to feel happy.” She said some of them had never drawn before, but gradually became more confident.

As for the city rules, “We didn’t ask the city for permission, we were guided by the urgency of the situation,” Louis said, saying it would take too long to go through the council. regional arts and culture or other government agencies. “We did it for the village and for the neighborhood, the Lloyd District.”

Funding is in the air

“It looks like it’s raining money, and I would say Gather: Make: Shelter could use some of that money. The private sector and small foundations are supporting us, but it would be great if the city and county and some of those big funds could come our way, ”said Louis.

The more people see the mural, the more they can understand the social significance as opposed to its aesthetic significance.

“I had a very positive meeting with (Commissioner Dan) Ryan’s office, giving examples of how it goes beyond art to building community. People get work; people go out in the world. I got the impression that at that meeting, he understood that. ”

In place for now

At PDX, some airline travelers have stopped to watch Celebrate Oregon! and the airport staff chatted with them, playing at spotting the symbol. The mural will be in place for a year.

Back in the BIPOC village, only one inhabitant wanted to speak to the media, a resident with a name in capital letters, KHEM. He worked on the design and execution. KHEM was homeless, reduced to walking the streets. “I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t safe to be on the street here,” KHEM said. He said Portland is a tough city to live in on the streets.

COURTESY PHOTO: KHEM - KHEM lived in the village BIPOC near the Moda center but did not like it and has now found an apartment.  He has a job at Smiles of Planet Earth, painting similar murals for mental health.

“People are territorial with their camps. And if you don’t look like you’re homeless, people will catch you or forget you.” KHEM wandered the Gather: Make: Shelter’s Pearl District gallery, met Louis, and offered his skills to him. (He runs Smiles of Planet Earth, painting similar murals for mental health.)

He moved to the village of BIPOC, but he didn’t like it and moved in mid-December. “It’s a motivation to move into an apartment as soon as possible. That’s the best way to put it. Feeling positive and happy to move on.”

He called it unhealthy and said the number of meals had been reduced in quantity and quality. And living there with mental health issues was tough.

“When you try to rest or live with other people who are also dealing with their trauma but keep repeating those same cycles, it was not beneficial. It was a lesson learned. I am happy to. go forward.”

He added that he is paid to paint and will continue.

“So you put your feet on the ground, you find an apartment, you paint these frescoes to have money.”


This summer, 35 people from Southeast Water and Main’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) village moved to City-owned land at 84 NE Weidler St. The village is one of three camps launched in 2020 under the brand C3PO or Create Conscious Communities with Outside People. The village-style shelters were started by a collaboration of local nonprofits, the City of Portland and the County of Multnomah.

Lying down

Portland artist Dana Lynn Louis’ Gather: Make: Shelter association grew during the pandemic, spanning murals as homelessness grew. She started in 2017 when she persuaded ceramists to make and donate bowls, then paid homeless people to decorate them. They have been professionally baked and sold in the range of $ 20 to $ 150. The aim is to pay homeless people for their work and to connect them to the public. G: M: S sells the works at auction and returns the sales to charity. In the first year, they raised $ 10,000 for Portland Homeless Family Solutions (families) and the Northwest Pilot Project (seniors);

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Margarita B. Bittner