Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Big Bang of Peace

It's been a few weeks since the last painted intersection I covered here. At this point I've done most of the ones I know about, and the others are sort of inconveniently scattered around the city, so the rest are likely to trickle out as I get around to visiting them. Today's installment is The Big Bang of Peace, at N. Borthwick and Killingsworth Ct., just west of Jefferson High School. A May 2014 Skanner article describes the project, as well as the Unity Circle intersection east of the school:

The Big Bang of Peace was started with the support of STRYVE, a federal violence prevention initiative. STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere), which is run through Multnomah County Health Department, is sponsoring a range of projects this summer that will bring adults and youth together with the aim of building a stronger, safer community.

The Killingsworth Court intersection was chosen because of its location, bordered by Rosemary Anderson High School, Piedmont Church of Christ and the North Star Ballroom, with Jefferson High School just a block away. Church leaders have welcomed the project and are helping coordinate about 20 students and neighborhood residents, as they turn an intersection that has seen too much conflict into a place for gathering and friendship.

Youth involved in the project envisioned a design that features a tree whose roots extend into neighboring streets. The design also includes a honeybee theme because honey is known to increase immunity.

A July Oregonian article includes a short video of this year's repainting. The media coverage highlights something positive I've been noticing about intersection painting projects: They really are an expression of their surrounding neighborhoods, and it's not always the same people creating them. Sometimes it's hippies, as with the famous sunflower just off SE Belmont. Others, like the pair of intersections on NE Beech at 12th and 13th, are driven by hard-charging neighborhood activists and have a long roster of commercial sponsors. And this one was driven by the neighborhood's African-American community, without a single hippie or hipster in sight.

In Portland it would be very easy to end up with a top-down citywide nonprofit running the show, with paid staffers and well-placed friends at City Hall, going to and fro bestowing the fruits of hipsterdom and gentrification upon trendy neighborhoods across the city, and it would just be one salmon/pugs/yoga/crystals design after another, everywhere. I'm pretty sure that would be the path of least resistance, in fact, and I'm impressed (amazed, even) that it's managed to remain a grassroots phenomenon as it's grown and spread across town.

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