Sunday, February 15, 2015

Frank Dekum & Birds

The next mural up is Frank Dekum & Birds, on a restaurant building at NE MLK & Dekum. The design honors(?) 19th Century Portland businessman Frank Dekum, the street's namesake. Downtown Portland's historic Dekum building (the one with all the weird gargoyle faces) is also named after him. And thanks to the street, Dekum's name has appeared here a few other times: The City Repair painted intersection at N. Dekum & Borthwick; Dekumstruction a few block east of here in front of Breakside Brewing; and the mysterious Dekum Court Triangle further east around NE 28th.

Anyway, the somewhat gory mural is a reference to Dekum's weird hobby of importing nonnative German songbirds to Oregon. His "German Song Bird Society" imported hundreds of thrushes, starlings, and nightingales and released them in Portland's city parks, in the hope that they'd go native and make Oregon more like Dekum's native Germany. This was, of course, a terrible idea. A similar effort in New York City led to today's enormous populations of invasive starlings all across North America. The Portland effort was mercifully less successful, and the introduced bird species all died out within a few years.

The mural was painted in 2012 by Adam Brock Ciresi. Photos of at Kay-Kay's Bird Club are clearer than mine, since it looks like a higher fence and a canopy have been added since 2013. A piece about the mural at PDX Street Art describes the project:

Adam wanted to present some of this place’s rich history in his mural. Playing with the image of Dekum, an old bearded capitalist, Adam wanted to “provoke viewers to consider different connotations of this history, and their geographical environment.” Adam is interested in how street art can form bonds between people and history. While painting the mural, Adam was excited by the number of pedestrians and neighbors who were interested in the piece and stopped to talk with him about it.

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