Saturday, September 20, 2014

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.)

No comments :