Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Refuge PDX Mural

The next mural on our tour is on the Refuge PDX building, at SE Yamhill and railroad-only 1st Avenue. This was painted in 2011, a collaboration between Ashley Montague (who did the Albina Press Garage Mural that appeared here a few days ago) and Joshua Mays.

That's pretty much all I know about this one. It's about a block from the Hair of the Dog brewery, so I saw it regularly well before I had any idea of doing a mural project, and I sort of idly wondered what the deal was with it. Somehow it never occurred to me to google it or even check to see what sort of business was in the building. This kind of illustrates what I always say about my powers of observation. If I'm looking for a category of something (public sculptures, waterfalls, old highway milestones, brewpubs, now murals), I do an extremely thorough job of it, finding them no matter how obscure they are. But if it's not something I'm keeping an eye out for at the time, it'll probably just blow right past me without even registering. I suppose that's part of the value of taking on a new project every so often, so I have to take a fresh look at what's around me now and then.

King County Administration Building, Seattle

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Here are a couple of photos of Seattle's bizarro King County Administration Building. It's the box with the hexagonal patterns all over the outside, right down to the windows, and a high windowless skybridge. I vaguely remember calling it the "beehive building" when I was a kid, and wondering about the people who work there. I'm not claiming King County is an outpost of Hellstrom's Hive, but sometimes I think it would explain a lot.

It's an ugly building, but I suppose at least it's ugly in a unique way. I imagine the architects genuinely believed they were creating something cool and innovative, thinking outside the usual cookie-cutter International Style box, which is really quite sad considering the result. Back in 2006 there was a proposal to demolish it and put in an enormous 42 story office/condo complex, but the global economy imploded before the idea got off the ground. That may be just as well; an abandoned half-built skyscraper would be about the only thing that could be uglier than the current building.

La Montagne

The next sculpture outside the Portland Art Museum (and I think the last one, until they add more) is La Montagne, the other Aristide Maillol nude of the pair flanking the Portland Art Museum entrance. I discussed Maillol and Dina Vierny, the model for the two sculptures, in an earlier post about La Rivière, and mentioned their surprising connection with Vera Katz, former Mayor of Portland. So go read that post first if you haven't yet.

There's one other local connection to Maillol I came across that didn't fit in the previous post. Pioneering local sculptor Frederic Littman was influenced by Maillol early in his career. (The linked article discusses Littmans's Abraham Lincoln for the newly relocated Lincoln High School). In fact, before he arrived at Reed College in 1941, Littman taught at a French art academy headed by Maillol. Littman went on to teach at the museum-linked Pacific Northwest College of Art, and taught many of the Northwest's prominent artists of the mid-20th Century.

It's hard to point at any stylistic resemblances; Littman mostly did human figures, but in an odd lumpy sort of style I've never been fond of, while the generation he taught tended toward pure abstract stuff instead. Still, if anyone's putting together a "professional genealogy" tracking who influenced whom, Maillol would be another data point on the big family tree.

Redd/XOXO Mural

The mural shown above recently appeared on an old industrial building at SE 8th & Salmon, within the last few weeks. It's an otherwise drab old industrial building, and I seem to recall that (until recently) it had sat abandoned for years. It was recently purchased by the Pearl District's Ecotrust Foundation; they've dubbed it "The Redd", and they plan to transform it into a sort of incubator for boutique foodie businesses. Which sounds both incredibly twee and probably delicious at the same time. They haven't started on the remodel just yet, but a couple of weeks ago the building hosted this year's XOXO Festival, a sort of technology/culture/media shindig for people who are vastly cooler and hipper and more elite than I will ever be. I do follow a few people who attended on Twitter, so I'm only about one degree of separation from techno-l33tness, but still.

It's not immediately obvious, but the mural design incorporates the letters "XOXO". It was created by Bay Area artist Erik Marinovich, and the design was also used for the festival's official t-shirt. I'm going to guess they won't keep the mural when the building gets transmogrified into a foodie utopia. And if they do a new one, it'll be all Heroic Salmon Swimming Upstream or something along those lines.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Oregon Portland Cement Gargoyles

The Oregon Portland Cement Building is a small but historic industrial building at SE 1st & Madison, next to (and below) the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct. Its sorta-Art Deco look is unusual for Portland, and more decorative than you'd expect from a cement warehouse. Like much of the Central Eastside, it's been converted to lofts in recent years, which means it's gotten a fresh paint job, including gold paint for the four gargoyles on the front of the building. These gargoyles are why we're here, actually; the building's National Register of Historic Places form explains:

The subject building was designed by noted Lake Oswego architect Richard Sundeleaf. In Frozen Music: A History of Portland Architecture (1985), authors Bosker and Lencek describe Sundeleaf as an architect who catered to "Portland's entrepreneurs on the rise", designing many offices, warehouses, and industrial plants in a modernistic tone. Sundeleaf's knack for tailoring anarchitectural style to fit a client's image is exemplified in the subject building. Bosker and Lencek go on to state: "With its cast-stone classical dentils and bulldog-faced gargoyles designed by Lavare, this creamy concrete structure projected a serene lyricism that celebrated the dignity of modern building materials," and "every effort was made to demonstrate the versatility of the cement manufacturers product."

The sculptor behind the gargoyles was Gabriel Lavare, a California sculptor who lived in Portland for much of the 1930s. For the most part he specialized in sculpted reliefs, like his minimalist lions at the entrance to Washington Park. I've always liked those lions, so when I realized he created these gargoyles too, a blog post about them was basically inevitable. The post about the lions includes a rundown of his career in Portland, so I don't think I need to rehash that here. The short version is that he found success here, but he left by the early 1940s and the city promptly forgot about him. Pointing out obscure and forgotten stuff is kind of a specialty of this humble blog, and in this case it's an obscure and forgotten person, someone who created some interesting work while he was here.

N. Portland Road Bridge

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Our next Columbia Slough bridge is the one carrying N. Portland Road; in the photos above, it's the bridge hidden behind the BNSF railroad bridge. I could have gotten closer to take better photos, but neither it nor the railroad bridge looked very interesting so I didn't make the detour. In retrospect I probably ought to have made the trip, since it does have a degree of historical significance. N. Portland Road is actually a state highway, OR 120, although people don't realize this because the state's never gotten around to putting up highway signs. It was built back in the 1930s to connect North Portland to the long-gone stockyards and meatpacking district. One alternate name for the road that's occasionally been used is "Swift Highway", named not for the speed limit, but for the old Swift Meat Packing Company, which built the stockyards and ran Kenton as a company town in the early 20th Century.

As a state highway, the state was responsible for building bridges on it, and for much of the 1930s tha was Conde McCullough's job. He's best known as the designer of fancy bridges along US 101 on the Oregon Coast, but as the state's chief bridge engineer even the most mundane bridges were part of his bailiwick. Obviously he wasn't the state's only bridge engineer, but he tends to get credit for anything the state built during his tenure, similar to Steve Jobs getting sole credit for various Apple products. In this case, McCullough at least invented the type of bridge used here; the department ended up building 158 bridges of this type around the state, so presumably the implementation work for each was farmed out to the department's junior engineers. The wood/concrete composite design was intended to be an affordable way to build smaller bridges, with the important side benefit of throwing some business to the state's struggling timber industry during the Depression. A historical review of the similar (and since-replaced) Vancouver Ave. bridge has a blurb about this one:

The N Portland Road bridge (formerly “Swift secondary highway”), was constructed prior to the subject bridge in 1934 using a similar composite type (Myers 1935:4). The concrete pile bent design varied slightly from the subject bridge by incorporating pointed Gothic-style arch openings. The Swift Highway connected North Portland to the Portland Union stockyards. The bridge retains less integrity than the subject bridge. Many of the understructure wood piles have steel column replacements and the handrail’s wood intermediate posts were removed and replaced by an adjacent modern rail.

Some of the replacement work happened in 2007. The bridge is a major trucking route, so it makes sense that 1930s wood beams would wear out after bearing decades of modern semi trucks. The state transferred much of the highway to city jurisdiction in 2005; from the included map in the transfer deal, it appears the deal transferred everything except the bridge (which it refers to as "Columbia Slough Bridge No. 01726"), with the agreement specifying "Said bridge shall be transferred at such time that said bridge is replaced with a bridge meeting AASHTO bridge design standards", AASHTO being the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. In other words, everyone agrees the bridge needs replacing, and the city prefers that to be the state's problem, paid for from the state's budget.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Albina Press Garage Mural

The next mural we're visiting is the Albina Press Garage Mural, on N. Blandena St. at Albina Ave., on a garage behind the Albina Press coffee shop (home to the Life Cycle of a Sun Flower mural panels). It was created in May 2014 by muralist Ashley Montague, who describes the design: "Thoughts behind this were about infinite knowledge… the owl is representing that. Inside of each of us we have this knowledge, its just tapping into it."

Call me a child of the 1970s if you like, but this design would look kind of awesome on a groovy custom van. And I don't even mean that in a ha-ha ironic sense. Add some shag carpets, curtains on the windows, 8-track player... It's hard to explain. Maybe you had to have been there.

Pedal Bike Tours Mural

The next mural on our ongoing tour is the giant bike design on a building at SW 2nd & Pine St. This mural went up in 2012, sponsored by the Pedal Bike Tours shop located in the building. Until recently it included the words "Welcome to America's Bicycle Capital" in giant letters below the bike logo. This did not strictly comply with the city's convoluted rules around signs and murals, and earlier this year an anonymous complaint put it on the city's code enforcement radar. In May, the city forced the shop's owner to paint over the words, leaving just the logo itself visible. The owner had tried the old "better ask for forgiveness than permission" thing, only to learn that is absolutely not how things work in Portland, at least not where code enforcement is concerned. The one and only thing better than begging for permission here is spinning it so it's somehow jointly your idea and the city's idea, which is what happens with most big development projects. Commissioner Schmoe does a photo op and takes credit, and you make the money, and "everybody" wins. I have no clue how one arranges that sort of thing; if I knew the secret, I certainly wouldn't be here on the internet explaining how to do it for free.

To be honest I think I like it better this way. The words always struck me as a little too, I dunno, self-congratulatory, and there's the little detail of whether this claim is actually true or not. Apparently the shop saw a steady stream of disgruntled tourists insisting their home cities were America's one true bicycle capital, I suppose because tourists are assholes and have nothing better to do in Portland than nitpick at local businesses' signs. Minneapolis, of all places, was singled out as home to some of the more zealous arguers. I can see how they would be far ahead of us in terms of bike-friendly Midwestern flatness, and I'm told the city is quite pleasant during the summer month-or-so when the polar ice recedes. And I suppose the bland calorie-rich food is close to ideal if you're carbo-loading for a long ride. But more to the point, it's probably just safer to fight us over Bike Capital than fight Alaska over Dogsled Capital. Cuz them's fightin' words.

Vancouver Ave. Bridge

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The next Columbia Slough bridge on our little tour is the one that carries N. Vancouver Ave. over the slough. The current bridge only dates to 2011, but it's the third bridge at this location, with history going back nearly a century.

As planning for the Interstate Bridge heated up in the early 1910s, local boosters argued over which street would be Portland's main approach to the bridge. The thinking was that winning this prize would lead to a bonanza of traffic and shoppers and general Progress. The two leading candidates were Vancouver Avenue, and Union Avenue (now MLK) a bit further east. The Union Avenue boosters won out, and the street got a bridge over the Columbia Slough in the style of the main Interstate Bridge. Vancouver Ave. had some sort of temporary connection to the bridge construction site, which was supposed to be demolished after the bridge opened, but the city threw a bone to local business interests and let them keep it for another two years on a trial basis. Which encouraged Vancouver Ave. boosters to lobby for a permanent slough bridge.

I'm not sure what happened to that original temporary span, but as far as I can tell there wasn't a bridge here by the mid-1920s. In 1927 there was a proposal to reuse a discarded old span from the Broadway Bridge here, similar to what happened with old Burnside Bridge parts being reused at the Sellwood, Lusted Rd., and Bull Run River bridges. Unfortunately Portland's city engineer concluded the old span was much too heavy for the site, and it would be cheaper to build an entirely new bridge than to build all the heavy supports needed for the Broadway span.

By 1929, local boosters were once again lobbying for a Vancouver Ave. extension, slough bridge, & connection with Union Ave. This time the idea got traction, although the powers that be decided to do it on the cheap; in August 1931, it was decided the new bridge would be a wooden structure, with only the parts the general motoring public would see done in concrete. A historical assessment done for the city in 2009 explains that this is actually a Conde McCullough design, believe it or not. As the state bridge engineer, he was responsible for mundane bridges as well as crown jewels along the coast, and this type of bridge was designed to be an affordable small bridge, with better aesthetics than a plain old all-wood bridge.

In June 1932, the county applied for Corps of Engineers permission to build the bridge. Permitting dragged out for a while, as the slough was then used by fishing boats and a bit of shipping traffic, as hard as that is to imagine today. Objections were eventually sorted out, and a May 1935 construction photo shows the bridge 50% complete. I didn't run across a story about the actual completion of the bridge. You'd think Vancouver Avenue would have hosted a big ribbon-cutting party, after all the lobbying that went into getting it built.

In May and June 1948, floodwaters from the Columbia and Willamette inundated the Vanport area and other large tracts of the city. To try to control the flooding, engineers built an emergency dam around the Vancouver Ave. bridge. It seems that a log raft somewhere upriver had broken during the flooding and a large number of logs had jammed up against the bridge anyway, so they decided to just dump rocks and gravel on top of the log debris until they'd blocked off the slough. Construction photos look messy and chaotic but apparently the dam did actually work as designed, preventing more flooding across North Portland.

In 2008, the wooden bridge supports were damaged by a brush fire that began in a transient camp under the bridge. It closed to vehicle traffic after the fire and was deemed unrepairable, but it remained open for bikes while the city figured out what to do next, and Vancouver Ave. boosters once again had to lobby for a new bridge. The old bridge was fully closed for demolition in April 2010, and its award-winning (and less flammable) replacement finally opened in May 2011. The new bridge features wide bike lanes and a variety of artistic touches, I suppose on the theory that whenever you replace a McCullough bridge, even a minor one, you have to make it a little fancier than you otherwise would. Maybe if you don't he appears as an angry ghost and makes fun of your third rate engineering skills or something. I haven't seen any reliable reports of that actually happening, but (I suppose) why risk it if you don't have to?

BNSF Columbia Slough Bridge

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The next Columbia Slough bridge on the agenda is the one carrying the BNSF railroad. This is the same rail line that crosses the Columbia on the Vancouver & Oregon Slough railroad bridges, and continues on through the Portsmouth Cut (beneath a set of railroad-owned road bridges), and then across the Willamette on Bridge 5.1. Like all of the aforementioned bridges, the one over the slough was designed by Ralph Modjeski (who also designed downtown Portland's Broadway Bridge).

This is the smallest and undoubtedly the least interesting of the BNSF Modjeski bridges. Frankly there's nothing interesting about it other than who designed it, and it's hard to imagine that he actually spent a lot of time on this one. There wasn't even anything in the Oregonian database about it, as far as I can tell. But one of the constant guiding principles at this humble blog is that some things are worth doing just for the sake of completeness, and this bridge completes the set of Portland Modjeski bridges. As far as I know. One upside of this sake-of-completeness thing is that I end up having a top search ranking for all sorts of curious and obscure things. Which would be great, if anyone was ever bored enough to actually Google them.

MLK Columbia Slough Bridge

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For several years now, one of this humble blog's ongoing projects has involved bridges. I started out with Portland-area Willamette River bridges, and once I'd done posts about those I ended up doing bridges on the Columbia, Clackamas, and Sandy Rivers too. I've also done bridges in the Columbia Gorge (and there may still be a few of those that I've missed), as well as a bunch of bridges in Cleveland from a trip there a few years ago. I also recently found some lists of Portland-area bridges that local governments believe are historically significant, so I've covered a couple of those too. A few months ago it occurred to me that there were a decent number of bridges on the Columbia Slough, in N/NE Portland, and I could visit a lot of them just by walking the Columbia Slough Trail. None of them are really visually stunning, but some at least have a bit of historical significance. Case in point, the bridge shown above, which carries MLK (a.k.a. state highway OR-99E) over the Columbia Slough. Its Bridgehunter page describes it:

The Columbia Slough Bridge on OR 99E was constructed in 1916 as part of the Interstate Bridge project. The bridge features built-up steel plate girder main spans and the same decorative steel railing found on the 1917 Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River. The bridge was likely designed by consulting firm of Waddell and Harrington just like the Interstate Bridge located just a short distance to the north.

The 304-foot original portion of the bridge features four steel plate girder spans with two main spans of 77.3-feet and two side spans of 76.2-feet. In 1951 the original 44-foot wide structure was widened to 58-feet by the Oregon State Highway Department to accommodate another traffic lane. The new portion of the bridge has a different span layout featuring two 140-foot plate girder mains spans and reinforced concrete approach spans at each end of the structure. The total length of the widened portion of the bridge is 362.5-feet.

In other words, this bridge was a minor project by a very famous bridge design firm. They were the same company behind the Interstate Bridge (obviously), as well as the Hawthorne and Steel Bridges in downtown Portland, the Union St. Bridge in Salem, and the Columbia River Highway bridge over the Sandy River in Troutdale. Oh, and the 12th Ave. Viaduct over Sullivan's Gulch / I-84, near Lloyd Center, which counts as another minor project.

A July 1916 Oregonian article on the near-complete Interstate Bridge mentions the slough span briefly as a remaining to-do item, due to problems with the initial construction done there:

When the water falls sufficiently, a pier will be erected in Columbia Slough to replace the one destroyed by the shifting of the bottom of the slough on account of the tremendous pressure of the big fill at that point. Not until this pier is built can the girder spans across Columbia Slough be placed.

Other than a few traffic accidents, the bridge apparently hasn't been newsworthy since its construction. I suppose if they ever get around to replacing the current Interstate Bridge, this little bridge would be left around as the last surviving piece of the original project. At that point the bridge might come be seen as an interesting historic artifact. But given the recent cancellation of the Columbia River Crossing project, that day isn't likely to come anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SW 12th & Spring Garden

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Our next adventure takes us to SW Portland's South Burlingame neighborhood, to a little spot I ran across while poking around on PortlandMaps (Portland's public GIS system), as one does. SW Spring Garden St. generally adheres to the normal city street grid, but it jogs south a bit to intersect SW Taylors Ferry Rd., and this forms a little triangle of land, too small to build on: Two sides of the triangle are somehow both named Spring Garden St., and the third side is formed by SW 12th Avenue right of way, although 12th is just a gravel path and a few steps here. It turns out the city owns this little parcel, specifically the Bureau of Environmental Services, the sewer and stormwater agency. I didn't see anything sewer-related, so I imagine it may have something to do with water quality. Somewhere nearby is the beginning of a small side creek that eventually flows into Tryon Creek at Marshall Park. That's my guess, anyway.

Back in 2008, the local neighborhood newsletter had a few mentions of local neighbors wanting to do a project here and clean up the place. I don't know the exact details on what this was about because the articles are paywalled, both the original newsletter and the copies uploaded to Docstoc. It didn't seem like a sufficiently good reason to open my wallet, so I don't know all the details, but in 2009 the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement awarded a small grant to clean up the place:

South Burlingame Neighborhood Outreach and Improvement ($1,775): A clean up of Southwest 12th and Spring Garden for beautification and safety purposes. Following cleanup, a safety sign will be placed in the area. Funds will also be used to support a National Night Out community event in Burlingame Park.

I imagine the sunflowers here are due to neighborhood volunteers, midnight guerrilla gardeners, or possibly birds, just on the basis that I don't think the city usually goes for annual garden plants when they landscape an area.

When I showed up to look around, I was surprised to see sidewalks along Spring Garden (including our triangle here) and elsewhere in the neighborhood. It turns out this is a very recent development. Many streets in SW Portland were built without sidewalks, for a variety of reasons. Partly cost, partly walking being out of fashion in the mid-20th century, and partly due to big chunks of the SW hills being outside city limits when roads were built. The absence of sidewalks has been a major complaint of local residents for decades, and the city has a (very) long-term goal of retrofitting them in wherever possible.

Last year the city finally got around to SW Spring Garden, or at least the north side of the street, and they added sidewalks along a long stretch of the road, including here. A project map for the Taylors Ferry to 17th segment shows the triangle here as public greenspace. Detailed plans for the project go into a bit more detail, with various diagrams of the triangle on pages 16, 20, 42, 65, 71, and 78. It gives an idea of how much planning and how many steps are involved in something as seemingly simple as building a new sidewalk. One of the diagrams instructs crews to preserve pieces of the previous stairs in the SW 12th right of way. Detailed planning docs focus on the "how" and not the "why", so it isn't clear whether these stairs were old and historic, or whether city workers were just gathering it up pieces of concrete to recycle. Maybe there's a history article that would clear this up, just waiting behind a paywall. I rather doubt it though.

Patton Square

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Photos of Portland's little Patton Square, a city park at N. Interstate & Emerson, along with the adjacent Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, a performing arts venue in a former fire station. recently renovated with urban renewal money connected to the MAX Yellow Line. Until fairly recently it went by "Patton Park", which doesn't sound anywhere near as fancy. The first reference I've seen to the name "Patton Square" is in a news story from 2001. And if we want to be pedantic, which of course we do, the name "Patton Square" is incorrect because the park is not, in fact, a square.

The city says the park dates to 1960, but the first mention I've found of it in the Oregonian database is from 1957, and it doesn't read as if the park was new at that time. On the other hand a 1956 article on water system expansion (i.e. how the big water tower got here) just mentions the address, with no mention of there being a park here, although I'm not sure that proves anything. Most news stories that mentioned the park in the 1950s and 1960s were in connection with the fire station and water tanks, and not much of anything about the park itself. A 1960 article appears to refer to a "Patton Park Water District", possibly separate from the regular city water system. That doesn't make a lot of sense, so possibly I'm misreading the article. In any event, it made me wonder whether the park itself might have been connected to this water district prior to the city's 1960 date, sort of a midcentury equivalent to the Water Bureau's contemporary HydroParks.

The counterculture arrived here in 1969, with a series of groovy art happenings. The guy behind it wanted to express his "concern for heightened awareness of spatial experience". Apparently this involved a "system of paintings and structural devices", and the effort required the participation of choreographers, dancers, engineers, industrial fabricators, urban planners and architects. I still have no idea what this might have been; it might have been a cult, or a forerunner of Cirque du Soleil, or maybe a little of both.

Note that this park is not to be confused with an entirely different Patton Square in Fontainebleau, a Parisian suburb.

Burlingame Park

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A couple of photos from SW Portland's Burlingame Park, a long narrow sort of place nestled up against Interstate 5 near the Terwilliger Curves. I was originally going to guess this was land left over from freeway construction, based on the shape and location, but the city says it's been a park since 1949, decades before the freeway was built.

The city decided on the site in August 1949, in lieu of a more expensive and controversial proposed park at SW 7th & Taylors Ferry. This was right around the same time Multnomah Blvd. was going in, replacing the old Oregon Electric rail line. The city & county jointly owned much of the land in the area already, and acquisition costs for the rest were estimated at $16,000. The park was originally slated to be eight acres, not the almost-5 acres of today.

By the next year, the proposed park had expanded to eleven acres, including a four acre tract donated by Fred Meyer, which I suppose he owned in connection with his Burlingame store. The article mentions a stream flowing through the park. It looks like the stream is fenced off now, and PortlandMaps says ODOT owns it as part of the I-5 right-of-way.

The city sold a portion of the park to ODOT in 1958; the article says the place was "undeveloped" at the time, and the state paid $3618 for somewhat less than an acre of the park. Based on the acreage numbers we've seen, presumably that was not the only land transfer that, and over time a substantial chunk of the park was shaved off in the name of Progress as the freeway went in, similar to what happened to Kingsley Park up in Linnton, the southern end of the South Park Blocks downtown, and probably elsewhere. As with the Park Blocks, I haven't run across news articles explaining this was going to happen. Unless a database search just isn't revealing them, it seems like this happened without even a squeak of public objection. All this trouble to put in a park, only to lose much of it to freeway construction just a few short years later. That's kind of sad.

Monday, September 22, 2014

La Rivière

A few months ago I had a series of post about the art outside the Portland Art Museum. I actually still have a couple of those left to do. Our next installment is La Rivière (1943) by the French sculptor Aristide Maillol, one of a pair of giant bronze Maillol nudes flanking the museum's main entrance. Their presence here is a fairly new development, both sculptures having arrived in the last decade or so. It strikes me as a little odd and retro to do this in the early 21st Century. I don't know whether it necessarily rises to the dreaded "problematic" or "reactionary", but the two Maillols do make it pretty clear that the visitor isn't entering a museum of contemporary art.

So the museum context is kind of weird, but taken by themselves I rather like the two Maillols, the dynamic La Rivière and the placid, posed La Montagne. Even better, from a blog standpoint, there's some rather fascinating history to relate about them.

As with many of Maillol's best-known works, the model for La Rivière was Dina Vierny, who also modeled for Henri Matisse and other prominent French artists, although she worked primarily with Maillol until his death in 1944. Matisse and others encouraged her to get into the business side of the art world, and after World War II she became a prominent art dealer and collector, eventually opening a museum dedicated to Maillol and his work. NPR had an entertaining interview with her in December 2008, in which (among other things) she explained that the nude modeling was originally her idea, and she had to persuade the shy (and elderly) Maillol to do it. When Vierny died in 2009, media outlets including the New York Times and The Guardian published lengthy obits. The NYT piece noted that during World War II (and while modeling for La Rivière) Vierny worked with the French Resistance, guiding refugees over mountain paths in the Pyrenees and helping them escape into neutral Spain. She was captured twice, was acquitted once, and was released the second time after Maillol somehow persuaded Arno Breker, Hitler's favorite sculptor, to intercede on her behalf.

La Rivière is one of Maillol's most famous works, and naturally this is not the only copy of it in existence. New York's Museum of Modern Art has one, as does the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Other copies are located in Zurich; St. Louis, MO; and Pasadena, CA. In 2013, a copy from Vierny's collection sold for $8.2M. The MoMA page about La Rivière has a couple of paragraphs about it, originally excerpted from a book of museum highlights:

The daring instability and torsion of The River are rare in Maillol's sculpture. Instead of trying to emulate the dynamism of twentieth-century life, as did so many artists of his time, Maillol usually sought an art of serenity and stillness, of classical nobility and simplicity. As late as 1937, in fact, he remarked, "For my taste, there should be as little movement as possible in sculpture." Yet within a year or so afterward he had conceived The River, a work in which the movement is almost reckless.

Commissioned to create a monument to a notable pacifist, the French writer Henri Barbusse, Maillol conceived the sculpture as a work on the theme of war: a woman stabbed in the back, and falling. When the commission fell through, he transformed the idea into The River. In a departure from the usual conventions of monumental sculpture, the figure lies low to the ground and rests apparently precariously on the pedestal, even hanging below its edge. Twisting and turning, her raised arms suggesting the pressure of some powerful current, this woman is the personification of moving water.

I haven't come across anyone mentioning this, but I have to wonder whether the precarious pose is a reference to Vierny's dangerous Resistance work. It just seems like it would be difficult to work on something like this and not see the obvious analogy.

Curiously, the Portland Art Museum's website doesn't mention anything about the statues out front, and I have yet to figure out exactly how they came by the Maillol duo, whether they were purchased, donated, or loaned, or from whom, or when. (The museum's online catalog lists six other Maillol sculptures & drawings, but nothing about the giant ones outside.) I did find a couple of old Oregonian articles that pass along a remarkable historical anecdote, though. Among the many people Vierny helped to escape the Nazis was a young girl named Vera Pistrak, who grew up to be Vera Katz, Oregon House Speaker and three-term Mayor of Portland.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Here are a few photos of Every Rose Has Its Thorn, a 2013 mural on the side of a building at SW 12th & Washington, right next door to the new Capax Infiniti. It's by an Australian street artist known as "Rone". A gallery on his website shows that giant female faces like this are his signature look. It's practically his exclusive look. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the one-note thing reminds me just a little of Nagel prints, or Wyland whale murals, or Muriel Castanis and her spooky draped-fabric figures. (Incidentally, Portland once had its own Wyland mural, Orcas of the Oregon Coast, painted on the back of the old Fox Theater building. That building was torn down to make room for today's Fox Tower.)

This was painted for last year's Forest for the Trees, Portland's big annual mural-painting event. Last year was the first edition, and the Oregonian posted a big photo essay showing many of that year's murals being painted, including the one here. Acclaim Magazine links to a short video of Every Rose Has Its Thorn being painted.

As far as I know the title has nothing to do with the 1988 Poison power ballad. At least I hope the two are unrelated. Now if I can just get that damn song out of my head.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sun Yat Sen statue, Honolulu

In Honolulu's Chinatown, on the pedestrian mall by the river, is a statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the Chinese revolutionary and founder of the Republic of China (which is now the government in Taiwan). The statue sits atop a marble base, inscribed in gilt letters with his philosophy and aphorisms in several languages.

The statue was a gift from the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 1975. This was a couple of years after Nixon went to (mainland) China, but before the US recognized the People's Republic of China (rather than the ROC government in Taipei) as the legal government of the country. So matters were in diplomatic limbo at the time, and the statue may have been a PR effort to try to stave off the big switch.

It turns out there's a local connection here. Sun Yat Sen moved from China to Honolulu at around age 13 and attended school here, and returned years later while planning to overthrow the Manchu dynasty. Some sources insist he was actually born in Hawaii, and there's even a purported Hawaiian birth certificate out there. I think the idea here is that being born in Hawaii would mean he was a Westerner and not legitimately Chinese, or something along those lines. Which is an amusing flip side to the wacky birther conspiracy theories insisting President Obama wasn't born in Hawaii and didn't grow up here, and that his genuine Hawaiian birth certificate was faked somehow. There's just no pleasing some people, I guess.

Sun Yat Sen Statue, Honolulu Sun Yat Sen Statue, Honolulu

Capax Infiniti

The next public mural in our ongoing project is another very new one, having appeared on the side of the Carlyle Building at SW 11th & Washington about a month ago. Capax Infiniti was created by a prominent South African street artist who goes by the name "Faith47" (aka @faithfourseven). I'm just beginning to learn about the world of street art, and I wasn't familiar with her or her work, but apparently having something of hers here is kind of a big deal. The mural was created for this year's Forest For the Trees event, an annual public mural-painting project, now in its second year.

Until quite recently I had an unwritten policy that I wasn't going to bother with murals. The ones around town all seemed to adhere to a small set of themes: Local history, neighborhood boosterism, positive messages for kids and teens, and thinly veiled wink-wink-not-quite-advertising. But I really wanted to do something new and different here, so I junked the old policy, and here we are. Murals were a short step from the City Repair painted intersections I've been covering for a few months now, so I suppose this was a logical progression. In any case I seem to have picked a good time to take an interest, as it looks like we're starting to get a wider range of artists and subject matter here.

Another attractive aspect of this new project is that, from what I can tell, the mural and street art world isn't totally dominated by old white men, for a change. If you write about "traditional" public art in Portland, you inevitably keep coming back to the same small group of people, a bunch of elderly or deceased white guys who peaked while JFK was President. It's gotten so I can identify the work of several of these guys just by sight alone, and I almost never guess wrong. Which is a very esoteric and tedious superpower to have, and one that isn't particularly useful outside the Northwest.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Virginia Woof Mural

Our next stop on the public mural tour is the dog mural at the nonprofit Virginia Woof dog daycare at SW 16th & Burnside, near I-405. It's actually a job training program run by Outside In, a social service agency for homeless youth. The terse RACC description just reads "The artist focused on color, composition and shape when making this mural, incorporating dog related imagery/themes for the site."

I have to say this place was a very clever move on the part of Outside In, linking themselves to something that rich Pearl District people care deeply about. I'm actually only being half-snarky here. I mean, obviously people ought to have cared before there were dogs involved, etc., etc., but on the other hand I'm not going to gripe about something that offers these kids valuable job experience and a chance at a better life. It probably doesn't hurt that the place consistently gets glowing reviews. I'd be inclined to patronize them myself if I owned a dog.

NW 18th St. Plaza, Lincoln City

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Lincoln City, on the Oregon Coast, is a long, sprawling affair along US 101, with no particular city center to it. Today's city only formed in 1965 after a handful of adjacent beach towns consolidated, so it does have several small commercial districts here and there along the highway. The Oceanlake district is the closest the town has to a downtown, with a few blocks of one and two story midcentury retail buildings. Many of these storefronts are antique shops today, with a few restaurants and used book stores mixed in. It's not quite the trendy chi-chi area the city would prefer it to be, so in recent years they've put together an urban renewal plan for the neighborhood, to figure out how to make it a more attractive destination.

The city's glossy 2013 urban renewal guide describes the various projects they've undertaken to brighten up the area, including the subject of today's post, a little pedestrian plaza at NW 18th St. and US 101:

NW 18th Street was a “T” intersection with Highway 101 and presented access problems for drivers from the residential area. It also created problems when cars stopped in the highway waiting to make a left turn onto NW 18th.

The street was closed at the highway and a small public plaza was constructed. Paver stones were included the walking surface, benches were installed, electric power was provided and local merchants bought decorative flags to display periodically.

The location was a natural site for a public art piece and the Lincoln City Art Committee commissioned a local metal artist to create a four-panel piece set into a concrete bench, celebrating our views of Cascade Head.

The screen was created by local artist Don Wisener in 2008. I source I ran across once, but can't locate now, claimed the screen design was chosen so the art would double as a windbreak. I can't prove it because I can't find the original link anymore, but it would certainly be a sensible thing to do in this part of the world.

Dismal Nitch

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Here are a few photos from a place called Dismal Nitch, a historical site and highway rest area on the Washington side of the Columbia River, across from Astoria OR. The name comes from the Lewis & Clark expedition; the explorers camped here on November 12-14, 1805, taking shelter from a nasty winter storm, and apparently didn't have a good time here. The site of their "dismal nitch" was only recently identified; anyone who's ever been to the Oregon-Washington coast in November knows the entire coast can be pretty dismal that time of year, so the name and description aren't great clues.

The historic campsite area lies just west of the modern highway rest area, and now belongs to the National Park Service, as one unit of the large Lewis & Clark National Historical Park. There isn't a lot there that evokes the year 1805 though; a busy state highway hugs the shoreline, and the shoreline itself is covered in riprap stone, I suppose to protect the adjacent highway. I'm not sure if there's even a trail or other access into the historic site. The NPS page says they're thinking about adding a trail someday, which suggests there isn't one now.

Skamokawa Vista Park

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Here's a slideshow from Skamokawa Vista Park, on the Columbia River at the small town of Skamokawa, Washington. I gather it's the star attraction of the Wahkiakum County park system, great for camping, playing on the beach, or just watching giant cargo ships go by on the river. I didn't actually do any of that when I stopped by; I was heading for the Wahkiakum County Ferry near Cathlamet, a bit upriver from here, and this was just a quick sidetrip to take a few photos. Photos I promptly forgot about in an old iPhoto library, which is why they haven't shown up here until now.

A page at Columbia River Images has more photos from around the park and vicinity, with excerpts from the Lewis & Clark journals regarding the expedition's visit to this area, including the famous "Ocian in view" bit. (Standard spelling and punctuation weren't really their area of expertise. But I suppose if you're Lewis and Clark, and you've just walked a few thousand miles to see the ocean, you're entitled to call it whatever the hell you want to.)

If you like what you see here and decide to visit, please note that the town (and the park) are pronounced "Ska-MOCK-away". If you pronounce it "Ska-ma-KA-wa" as if it's a Japanese word, the locals will be forced to mock you. Or at least they'll know you're a tourist from the big city, which is almost as bad.

Core Sample Time Line

Here are a few photos of Core Sample Time Line, the public art installation at the Washington Park MAX station, deep underground. The RACC description:

Time line that uses the actual rock strata taken from the vicinity of this underground light rail station to create a 16 million year time line. Located at Washington Park Station where the platform is 265 feet below ground.
TriMet's Blue Line art guide elaborates:
Westside design team artists took inspiration from geology and mining at this collaboratively designed station.
  • A basalt circle the diameter of the tunnel reveals facts about mining
  • The magnitude of time is expressed in the Core Sample Timeline
  • Circular stools mimic the core samples
  • Light boxes shimmer with fossil-like images
  • Some elevator door images are animated when the doors open

The time line was created by Bill Will, whose work has appeared here a couple of times before: Eleven Very Small Sculptures in NW Portland's Wallace Park, and Street Wise in the sidewalk on SW Yamhill between 3rd & 4th, downtown.

Educational art is great and all, but here's a blog post where an actual geologist explains what we're looking at here. Go read it, and you'll start to realize what it means when you see a 40' long chunk of basalt on the wall. The Pacific Northwest was a terrifying volcanic hellscape for much of the last 16 million years, like something out of a cheap SyFy movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Debbie Gibson, and a bunch of bad CGI. I'm actually a little surprised nobody's ever made a disaster movie about the return of Columbia flood basalts. Maybe it's because it happened in the Northwest and not in California, therefore nobody in Hollywood has ever heard of it.

One fun detail to be aware of: A late part of the timeline includes a bunch of digits of pi, to illustrate humanity beginning to comprehend the universe. Unfortunately the digits of pi shown here are wrong. Seriously. Apparently someone misread a table of digits of pi and dropped several columns of digits by accident, and nobody noticed until after the bogus digits were literally written in stone. D'oh!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

One of the very newest murals around town is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, on a building at NE Lloyd Blvd. and Grand Ave. It's a memorial to Kirk Reeves, the late, beloved local street artist/musician. He used to station himself next to an eastbound ramp onto the Hawthorne Bridge, wearing his usual white tuxedo and performing magic tricks, and it's a shame this memorial isn't anywhere near that spot. There was an effort to put up a statue of him, which somehow didn't pan out, and there was even a recent effort to name the new TriMet bridge in his honor, but the powers that be ignored the idea and named it "Tilikum Crossing" instead, I suppose because they felt Portland wasn't pretentious enough already. The mural's RACC page describes it:

This colorful mural serves as a memorial to Kirk Reeves, a Portland street performer and musician who passed away in 2012. Reeves regularly performed on the Hawthorne Bridge, playing his trumpet and performing magic tricks to the delight of local commuters. The background of the mural shows the first few notes of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a staple of Reeves’ performance. Artist Gwenn Seemel writes on her blog, “…he was always dressed to the nines—white tuxedo with tail, sparkly black sweater, Mickey Mouse hat... He was doing what he loved and he was glad for it.” This mural of him captures his lively presence that was appreciated by young and old alike.

An Oregonian article about Reeves published shortly after his death briefly mentions that he worked in the local tech industry in the 1990s, before quitting due to worries about the upcoming Y2K bug. In the early 1990s he volunteered at OMSI for a while when I worked there, so I got to know him a little at the time. He was an odd and interesting guy, and I do vaguely recall him talking about Y2K, a good seven or eight years before it was all over the media. We didn't stay in touch over time, but I instantly recognized him the first time I saw him on the Hawthorne. I occasionally thought I should stop and introduce myself and say hello, but I'm really bad at that sort of thing, and you never really expect someone to be gone suddenly like this. I'm glad they put this mural up, anyway. It was the least they could do.

SW Terwilliger & Taylors Ferry

Some time ago, I was poking around on the city website and found a list of obscure places the city parks bureau had a role in designing or landscaping (up to some time in the early 1990s, I think), and that list evolved into one of this humble blog's various ongoing projects. Many of the recent installments haven't been very impressive, being a collection of landscaped traffic islands and diverters and whatnot, places I wouldn't give a second thought to if there wasn't a list. Today's installment, though, is going to be hard to beat in terms of unimpressiveness. We're in the West Hills, at the intersection of SW Terwilliger and Taylors Ferry, and all i see is a busy intersection with a grocery store, a Starbucks, a Shell station, various other shops, and no obvious landscaping of any kind, or anything remotely park-like for that matter. The list doesn't explain its entries at all, so I have no idea what I was supposed to be looking for here. It's entirely possible that the list refers to something that was remodeled or removed years ago, for all I know. I took a few photos just to be on the safe side, on the off-chance that the thing I was supposed to find is here somewhere and I just didn't clue in on it at the time. I've looked at the photos again, though, and wandered around the area on Street View, and looked up the adjacent properties on PortlandMaps, and for the life of me I have no idea why this intersection made the list.

At least I didn't go far out of my way for this installment of the project. These were taken from the parking lot of the Market of Choice grocery store at the intersection. I was there shopping anyway, so I figured I might as well take some photos while I was there and thinking of it. Incidentally, this store is on the site of the old Burlingame Grocery, which burned down in September 2001. The store's owner was later convicted of torching it for the insurance money, and sentenced to 7 1/2 years. Burning things down for money is always a bad plan, but this one was especially dumb considering that the city's Fire Station 10 (home of Fire Eater) is literally right behind the grocery store on Taylors Ferry, and the fire came exactly a week after 9/11. So I imagine the city's fire investigators were highly motivated to crack this particular case.

N. Interstate & Going Plaza

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I was walking along Interstate Avenue a while ago, and happened to notice the nondescript little landscaped area at the SW corner of the Going St. intersection, with a short path, a few trees, and unwatered grass. I was in the area taking blog photos anyway, and I was waiting for a crosswalk, so I figured I'd take a some photos of this area too, and see if I could find out anything interesting about the place.

PortlandMaps says the little plaza here is public right of way, probably belonging to the city transportation bureau. Given the ownership, I imagine it's probably land left over from the big Going St. widening project in the late 1970s. The city acquired and demolished homes and businesses along Going between I-5 and industrial Swan Island to make room for six traffic lanes, and they ended up with awkward bits and pieces of vacant land they don't know what to do with. Pittman Addition HydroPark and tiny Stanich Park further west are other examples of this. I checked the Oregonian database and wasn't able to figure out what might have been here before the widening, so it may have just been a house or two, and this spot does seem to be roughly the size of a residential lot in this part of town. I couldn't find any mentions of this particular spot in connection with the widening project, so I'm not sure what the city's intentions were for the place. Designing public spaces isn't really their core business, and it would be hard to call this one a success. More recently, when the MAX Yellow Line went in along Interstate Avenue, TriMet and the city suddenly had a big pot of urban renewal cash to play with, and for some reason they didn't throw any at this place. I assume hey must have overlooked it (which would be quite easy to do); otherwise it would have been a great place to add some bioswales, and another big sculpture of a heroic salmon swimming upstream or something.

Waterfall Fountain, Pioneer Courthouse Square

Here's a slideshow and a Vine clip of the "waterfall fountain" in Pioneer Courthouse Square, lining the entrance to the underground Visitors Center (previously a TriMet ticket booth and lost-and-found office). If you come across old photos of the fountain, you'll notice that it was once clad in a gaudy checkerboard of purple and blue tiles. I'm not sure when these were removed, but they looked like bathroom tile -- dated bathroom tile -- and the fountain looks better without them. The transcript of a lecture by Will Martin, the square's designer, has a bit about the design of the fountain and how it fit into the square's overall 1980s-Roman look.

The element you see in front of you, the generation of that came from fallen Roman art, but it’s totally modified. The elements you see on each side are what we would call a Boussioure, the big stones that make up this huge arch. The lectern in the middle is still a symbol of the keystone, but it is also electric, so it has a double kind of connotation. The fallen arch is also a fountain. Imagine the interpretation of a collapsed classical ruin that’s been sitting in an area for 500 years and there’s spring water welling up underneath it and the water runs over the rocks and it has all this wonderful vegetation, so it’s a very romantic idea.

[inaudible question]

Sure. The slots is where the water comes out - we’ll get a little closer if you have a minute, and I apologize for its ragged look, it isn’t finish yet. They have a lot of grouting to do yet and some tile to replace. They’ve been replacing some of the metal mouths inthese things, because they’re not level, so there’s a lot of work to be done. But it also provides an entryway, it’s the focal point to the square and it’s the main front door to the level of [inaudible]. We call it lower level, don’t refer to it as a basement, it’s not a basement. It is on grade with the square. We have nineteen feet of grade [inaudible. Really the only competitors of [inaudible] capturing about 17,000 square feet of usable space down below. A lot of that will be leasable to help finance the support of this thing.

So my head wasn’t all in the stars, it was also in the cash register. So, TriMet already has the corner, and we’ve got other leases in place down here. We’ve got a lot of storage over on the right and so on. We can talk about that later, but this column symbolic arch is also the front door. We have a pool of shallow water in which kids can play. I hope they get ducks and [inaudible].


[inaudible question]

The fountain was a recycled water system. The pumps on both sides underneath the fountain, it also ties the water in the water channels and gets the water in the [inaudible]. It’s all filtered and recycled There’s some make-up water naturally, it needs some for evaporation and all that, but it is truly economical.

Life Cycle of a Sun Flower

The next installment in our ongoing public mural project is Life Cycle of a Sun Flower, outside the Albina Press coffee shop at N. Albina Avenue & Blandena St. Its RACC page describes the design and how it came about:

The mural panels use the life cycle of a sunflower as a metaphor to reflect the cyclical change within this community, that is undergoing dramatic economic change. The artist’s hope is that this artwork will act as a catalyst for sharing and facilitating dialogue.

Reynolds High School art teacher Katie Sullivan used this mural project as a learning experience for six students from the Native American Youth Association and Jefferson High School. The students learned about composition, design, and painting, and shared a community experience within the neighborhood.

I couldn't get photos of all of the life cycle panels because the outside tables were full of hipsters and their Macbooks, and (as usual) I wasn't in much of a mood for interacting with people. In any case, looking at it you wouldn't guess that it was created by high school art students. You'd think there would have been a news story or two about the project, since the news loves stuff like this. I can't find anything though. I did find a story about a recent mural at the Reynolds High School cafeteria, advised by the same art teacher, as well as the school art department's Tumblr. On one hand it's cool they have a Tumblr. On the other, thinking about things I drew, or attempted to draw, when I was that age, the idea of having any of that stuff on the internet is kind of terrifying. I seem to recall there were a lot of crudely drawn starships and fantasy novel maps, with a few crudely drawn sports cars here and there.

Regarding the mural's sunflower metaphor for the neighborhood, not so many years ago the word "Albina" was synonymous with empty storefronts, decay, drugs, gangs, and poverty, or at least that's how the area was inevitably portrayed in the local media. In 2014, the same neighborhood is home to swanky artisanal coffee shops and the upscale white people who patronize them. The mural description manages to note this change in a very mild and diplomatic way, without ever coming out and saying "gentrification". In lieu of going on and on about that yet again, and wringing my hands about economic trends across the city, and existing residents being displaced, let me point you at "The New Donut", a recent Urbanophile article about the "hip, expensive urban center, declining inner-ring suburbs" phenomenon. In Portland's case, the struggling inner ring includes the Rockwood area (along the Portland-Gresham border), and some unincorporated areas of Washington County, including parts of Aloha. Meanwhile the city continues its effort to expand the trendy urban part of the city, such as the way they've been pouring PDC redevelopment money all over the Lents neighborhood in recent years. At this rate maybe Aloha and Rockwood will get cool murals about economic change someday, perhaps a few decades from now when a future generation of hipsters discovers them. (Meanwhile the previous residents of those areas end up out in Woodburn and Estacada, again in search of housing they can afford.)

PSU Urban Plaza Fountains

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Here are a few photos of the trio of fountains in the PSU Urban Plaza, on the Portland State campus at SW 5th & Montgomery. Two of the three fountains are sort of tilted aqueduct structures, with water flowing off of both the low and high ends. Water runs down to the low ends and then off, and the design suggests to the viewer that water also flows flows uphill and off the high end as well. Obviously that's not what's actually going on, but at a casual glance it kind of looks that way. The planters next to the fountains are a later circa-2011 addition, part of the city's endless handwringing about stormwater management.

A 2010 PSU Vanguard article questioned whether all the fountains around the campus were really worth the expense. (The others include Farewell to Orpheus on the Park Blocks, and the tiny one outside the Student Health Center.) Apparently the Urban Plaza fountains are prone to leaks and mechanical breakdowns, and the university's fountains cost as much as $300,000 per fountain per year to maintain. (This is on top of the initial construction costs; the marble for the fountain alone ran around $400k).

The fountains were officially renamed in 2012 in honor of the late Joyce N. Furman, a local philanthropist who had given generously to the university over the years. Or at least one of the three fountains was renamed; I wasn't sure the name applies to all three, so I went with the older generic name as a post title. The sign in the plaza says "fountain", singular, so it's possible the other two are being reserved for equally generous future donors. It would be unlike PSU to pass up a naming rights opportunity like that.

MIKE Mural

Our next installment on the ongoing public mural tour is the MIKE Mural, located outside a dialysis clinic at NE 7th & Hancock. It's part of the quasi-public RACC mural program, and they have a brief description of it.

The purpose of the MIKE (Multicultural Integrated Kidney Education Program) Mural is to create a compelling work of public art that targets youth, and raises their awareness around kidney health. Made and designed with the help of students from POIC (Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center/Rosemary Anderson High School), the mural seeks to empower youth to be ambassadors of health in service to their diverse communities through mentorship, partnership, and the promotion of healthy kidneys.

So I gather the shiny happy people in the mural are all leading active Northwest lifestyles despite needing dialysis. The description doesn't exactly say that, but I think that's what's implied.

The PSU Vanguard did a profile of muralist Robin Corbo, dubbing her "The Marvelous Muralist". This is one of several murals she's created around Portland. You'll probably be seeing the others here sooner or later, just knowing how these blog projects of mine usually go.

McCoy Fountain

Here are a couple of video clips of the fountain in North Portland's McCoy Park, near the corner of Trenton St. & Newman Avenue, once again showing why I won't be winning any Oscars anytime soon. It's your basic fun-for-the-kids water jet fountain, which is an increasingly popular thing now that the state health authorities frown on public wading pools. A fountain guide from the Parks Bureau (which took over the city's fountains from the Water Bureau a few years ago) has a brief description of it:

Built in 2006, McCoy Fountain was designed by Murase Associates. It is the first decorative municipal fountain in north Portland. The playful water feature sits at the south end of McCoy Park in the New Columbia neighborhood. The Housing Authority of Portland, master developer of New Columbia and McCoy Park, commissioned the fountain for people of all ages to enjoy. McCoy Fountain is located across from housing for seniors and adjacent to the neighborhood grocery store and coffee house.

It recirculates nearly 8,000 gallons of water. Water spouts at random intervals at heights of up to 6 feet from 35 jets. It's a "guessing" fountain - people guess which spouts will erupt next in the 710-sq-ft oval area bounded by seating ledges.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hope is Vital

The next mural on our ongoing tour is Hope is Vital, at the corner of NE Grand and Weidler. The RACC description:

This mural’s purpose is to create global solidarity and educate the Portland community about Portland’s sister city, Mutare, Zimbabwe, and humanitarian efforts there. Underneath the inspiring message, “Hope is Vital,” the sun shines on a yellow medical clinic Portland helped build for its sister city. In a show of support, persons from both Portland and Mutare hold hands, dance, and drum to celebrate life, above the text “it takes a planet to save a village.”

The sister city relationship began in 1991, and unlike many of Portland's sister city relationships, the Portland-Mutare Sister City Association focuses on humanitarian work, specifically HIV prevention and treatment. The city of Mutare is the third largest in Zimbabwe (according to Wikipedia), just 8km from the Mozambique border, with a population a shade over 260,000.