Wednesday, August 21, 2013

SE 15th & Alder

SE 15th & Alder
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A couple of photos of the intersection at SE 15th & Alder, which is home to one of the many "street graphics" created by Portland's City Repair Project. A street graphic is just a large design painted on a city street, usually in an intersection, with the painting (and periodic repainting) done by neighborhood volunteers. Each design is different; this one has a sort of vine motif, I suppose because the intersection also hosts a City Repair-designed compost site.

SE 15th & Alder

I'm not sure how many of these there are around town, total. The first one was Share-It Square, the intersection of SE 9th & Sherrett (hence the name), down in the Sellwood neighborhood. As this was a strange new thing back in 1997, the neighborhood first had to convince the city that painting a lightly used residential intersection wouldn't be the apocalypse. The apocalypse didn't happen, and street graphics have multiplied since then. Probably the best-known of them is the one at Sunnyside Piazza, the giant sunflower design at SE 33rd & Yamhill. That was the first one I ran across and I immediately thought it was a great idea. I don't automatically think that about everything the City Repair people do; I tend to roll my eyes when they try building structures out of mud and sticks and hay and so forth. But the street graphics are great.

SE 15th & Alder

I'm thinking it might be fun to take up these street graphics as a new blog/photo project, actually. It feels like this humble blog needs a fresh new project. I was doing local bridges for a while, but I've done the major ones, and a lot of the interesting minor ones. Same goes for fountains and city parks. I'd love to travel enough to keep this humble blog in business just with travel photos, but I never seem to be able to pull that off. The ongoing public art project is rapidly approaching the point of diminishing returns as well; I'm already having to wander further and further afield (relatively speaking) to locate increasingly obscure (and often mediocre) artworks. I often wonder whether this is interesting to anyone other than me, to be honest. And the thing with the public art project is that it's difficult to talk about publicly-funded art in Portland without talking about art-world cronyism and gentrification. That's kind of unavoidable, but I feel like I've been complaining a lot lately -- often about the same narrow list of topics -- and generally taking a rather negative attitude about the world and whatever part of it I'm writing about. I really don't intend for this to be that sort of blog, if I can help it.

The missing element here, so far, is a list or map of street graphic projects. That's bound to exist somewhere, since a single group seems to be behind organizing all of them, and each one requires a city permit. So far I've run across a list of 2013 projects, and a map of 2012 projects, but not a complete list or map or guide or whatever. If anyone out there in Gentle Readerland has a pointer to something like that, I'd appreciate it.

A secondary motivation here is that these street graphics are fairly huge, and camera phone photos (like the ones in this post, & most other recent posts here) don't really do them justice. Phone photos are easy. I always have the phone with me, it takes reasonably ok photos, and I can upload to Flickr directly from it, without any intervening USB tethering + iPhoto + GIMP + Flickr Uploader steps. But the results are never as good, and a project like this would be an excuse to dust off the ol' DSLR and probably its ultra-wide angle lens. That looks like the best option outside of using a quadcopter camera drone, and that just feels sort of un-neighborly.

The formula for a street graphic blog post is probably going to look something like this: Photos, obviously; probably an embedded Google map, if it shows an overhead view of the thing; an explanation of what the graphic is about, or whatever else I can dig up about it; and (since the previous item probably won't be lengthy) I'll probably check the Oregonian database on the off-chance that something newsworthy happened at the intersection at some point.

As for today's intersection, far as I can tell the corner of SE 15th & Alder has appeared in precisely one news item since 1861: A purse-snatching reported on March 4th, 1928. The victim was relieved of a purse containing $3 in cash, a checkbook, and keys. So yeah, be careful when visiting. There could easily be malevolent purse-snatching ghosts, or vengeance-seeking wronged ghosts whose purses had been snatched, if you believe the nice people on cable TV.

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