Saturday, September 20, 2014

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.

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