Saturday, November 21, 2015

Creating Community Mural, SE Chavez & Division

The next mural on our tour is a large design on the Rite Aid drugstore at SE Chavez & Division. It seems kind of weird that there'd be a community mural on a big corporate chain drugstore, even in SE Portland, but this one actually has a long history. Before it was a drugstore, this building was a Kienow's grocery store (a long-defunct small Portland-area chain), and they let some local residents paint a mural on the store circa 1984. It faded over the years, and the building changed occupants, and by 2003 the people who decide these things felt a new mural was in order, and local artist Rin Carroll Jackson was selected to create the new one you see here. Her website calls this the "Creating Community Mural", so that's the name I'm going with.

The interesting part is that this happened right at the height of City Hall's anti-mural paranoia, after the city lost a court case with an aggressive billboard company. It turns out that under the state constitution, the city can't distinguish between capital-A art and mere commercial speech, and anywhere murals are allowed is fair game for advertising too. So for a few years the city prohibited new murals entirely, and sent work crews around to paint over any illicit wall art they could find. This mural was grandfathered in, though, due to the previous mural. So long as you were painting over something that was there before 1998, and you made sure to paint in the same exact spot and not cover a single additional square inch with anything that looked like Art, the city could allow that without also letting the barbarians through the gate. Eventually the city came up with a couple of maybe-clever legal dodges involving permits and easements that let them re-legalize mural painting, while keeping the nefarious billboard companies at bay, at least for now.

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