Sunday, January 24, 2016

Alumni Fountain, OHSU

Here are a few photos of OHSU's Alumni Fountain, located in the plaza in front of Mackenzie Hall. A plaque at the base explains that it was a gift from the alumni association for the school's 75th anniversary in 1962, and it was designed by architect Lewis Crutcher. The fountain wasn't actually installed until August 1963, though; an Oregonian article about the new fountain proudly noted it was the first new public fountain in the city for over 40 years (and what the previous one might have been doesn't come to mind immediately). The article continues:

Pumps will send a 25-foot gusher into the air, then the water will flow back into the basin through 10 cuts in the upper side of the fountain, so there will be a dual sound. Colored lights will play upon the fountain at night.

The fountain is clearly not sending a 25-foot gusher into the air in these photos. OHSU has some vintage photos of the fountain online, and it was obviously spraying higher in 1968 than it is now. So they must have dialed it back at some point. Looking at the old photos, I suspect you wouldn't have wanted to walk past it on a windy day. I haven't visited the fountain at night, so I have no idea whether the colored lights are still there or not.

I wasn't familiar with Crutcher's work, but the interwebs have a few interesting tidbits. His 2000 obit in the Daily Journal of Commerce is largely devoted to his 1950s campaign against garish billboards and neon signs, cluttered sidewalks, and other civic ugliness. As this was decades before PowerPoint was invented, Crutcher illustrated his campaign with watercolors of European landmarks blanketed with the commercial clutter of 1950s Portland. The February-March 1959 issue of Old Oregon (the UO alumni magazine) [PDF] included an editorial by Crutcher about the many ills of the modern city, illustrated with a few more of these paintings. (Incidentally, his complaint about utility companies' hack-and-slash tree pruning practices is something that hasn't really improved over the last 60-odd years.) The city sign code largely adopted his ideas after a few years, although as fate would have it the few neon signs that survived are now seen as civic treasures to be protected at all costs.

Another aspect of his anti-ugliness campaign has survived the test of time a bit better: At some point, decades earlier, the city had decided that all Portland bridges must be painted black, no exceptions. The Broadway Bridge was black, the Ross Island was black, along with the Hawthorne and all the others. Crutcher had the bright idea that maybe a little variety wouldn't kill us, which led to the range of colors we see today. Except the Steel Bridge, which is owned by a railroad and not the city, and frankly looks like it hasn't been repainted since before the current color scheme went into effect.

Other projects Crutcher was involved in included restoration work at Skidmore Fountain Plaza and the Railway Exchange Block (which is currently being transmogrified into yet another boutique hotel), and the design of Memorial Coliseum. As an architecture student in the 1940s, he designed the houses for an early desegregated subdivision in Claremont, CA, which are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Colonial Soldier, SW Barbur & Huber

Next stop on our public art tour takes us a bit off the beaten path. If you're heading out of Portland on SW Barbur, right after the tangled intersection with Capitol Highway and I-5 you might catch a quick glimpse of a statue of a Colonial minuteman, bravely guarding the low-rise brick offices of a local mortgage company. I noticed this a couple of times on rare trips out to the 'burbs and made a note to check it out, which I did on a subsequent rare trip. (It's at SW Barbur & Huber St.; the geotag for this post points at the exact location.) The statue's base includes an inscription "Carlton Bell 1976", along with the names of a few assistants, which I can't quite make out in my photos, unfortunately.

The only info I've found about this statue comes from an almost decade-old Portland Public Art post. Or rather, from the comments to the post. Several comments are by people who had known Bell in years past and had googled around trying to figure out what ever became of him. Go read the whole thread. It's kind of fascinating. And be sure to look at the dates: The post is from April 2006, but comments keep trickling in; the most recent one (as of right now) is dated July 2015.

I wish internet comment sections worked like that more often. I still get occasional (and generally interesting) comments to my original Kelly Butte post (which also dates to 2006), but that's pretty much the only example I've got here. Alhough to be honest this humble blog often goes months without a single comment, even to the most recent posts. I prefer to think that's because I've done such a thorough job that nobody has anything more to add. That may even be true sometimes...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Bearer

Our next art stop is on the OHSU campus again: This time we're looking at The Bearer, a small James Lee Hansen sculpture lurking in the shrubbery outside Baird Hall. The Maryhill Museum did a retrospective of his work in 2014, including a study for The Bearer dated 1974. Which I imagine gives us a rough date for the final product too.

I've probably said this before, but Hansen's style somehow always reminds me of a 1960s science fiction paperback cover. It's not fashionable contemporary art in 2016, by any stretch of the imagination, but I've sort of warmed up to this look over time. In any case, I think we can all agree the location's doing it no favors. An old Portland Public Art post noted it and assumed it was somebody's little vanity project:

This little thing peeks out of the bushes in front of Baird. No tag, no nothing. I bet a dollar it’s a Arts & Crafts Society project a beloved Dean or Director made while in mid-life crisis. Prove me wrong. About two and a half feet high, bronze, late 1970’s by the style. Hmm. A cubist mother pushing a futurist baby stroller.

A commenter took the bet and explained that it was actually by a (locally) famous artist. No word on whether the promised dollar actually changed hands.

Scribner II

For the past year and change, new posts here have been about Portland murals to the near-exclusion of everything else. I think it's gotten a little monotonous, frankly, so I think I'm going to switch gears and work through some of the non-mural stuff I've had lying around for a while. I'd been planning on doing those after I got to zero mural posts in Drafts, but I think I could use a little variety right about now.

The previous big project here (if you remember back that far) involved tracking down public art around the Portland area (specifically excluding murals, at first, on the grounds that there are a whole lot of them around, and more all the time). As part of that project, I made a trip up to the OHSU campus on Marquam Hill, since the state's medical school has a ginormous art collection, including a few outdoor sculptures scattered around here and there.

The example we're looking at this time is Scribner II, a rusty Lee Kelly whatzit from the 70s in his usual chunky style, at a bus stop across the street from the Nursing School. This one reminds me of Kelly's Arlie outside the Portland Art Museum, which looks kind of like Scribner II up on stilts. I couldn't find a lot on the interwebs about this one; it only merited a brief mention in an old Portland Public Art post about OHSU art: "There’s an old rusty Lee Kelly in front of the nursing school, and another shiny one in front of the VA. Both hideous." (The one at the VA Hospital is Aeolian Columns, seen here last April.) That mention wasn't much of a clue, but I eventually located it in Street View, and later tracked it down in person. And here it is, in all its semi-groovy 70s glory. On the plus side, if you're waiting for a bus here and happen to cut or scrape yourself on Scribner II, you can just pop across the street for your tetanus shot. I dunno, maybe the whole reason it's here is to help drive demand for tetanus shots.

The only other mention of this sculpture I've seen anywhere on the net is a vintage photo from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, with Scribner II squatting in a snowy field, and that page contains no further information about the thing. So I can't explain the title, I'm afraid. I imagine it either refers to Charles Scribner II, the 19th Century publishing magnate, or there's a Scribner I lurking out there somewhere.

Cherry Trees @ NW 19th & Lovejoy (2016 Edition)


Every January, I pay a visit to the two cherry trees at NW 19th & Lovejoy, just as they're starting to bloom. These two trees bloom absurdly early for a cherry tree here; it'll be weeks before the usual early-spring flowers like daffodils and crocuses appear, and normal cherry trees don't do their thing until April or so.

At first I couldn't explain this phenomenon. Then I blamed it on global warming. Then I noticed a maple tree on the same block that doesn't lose its leaves over the winter, and blamed it on some combination of global warming and a weird one-block microclimate. When I posted this year's photos on Twitter right after taking them, someone pointed out that there's an oddball variety of cherry tree from Japan that normally blooms around now. Which is a disappointingly un-magical sort of explanation, if you ask me, though I suspect it may be the correct one. Though that still doesn't explain the weird maple tree down the block. So I have two competing hypotheses now:

  1. We're seeing the combination of three independent factors: Early-blooming variety, weird microclimate, and global warming.
  2. The maple tree is an oddball cold-climate variety that barely notices Pacific Northwest winters, there's no weird one-block microclimate after all, and whoever planted the trees here may have done it to troll people.

I have no idea which of the two is more likely.

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Ristretto Bound

Back when I was taking photos of the Scrap Mural and Machinery for this humble blog's ongoing mural project, I noticed a cool painting of racing bicycles hanging outside a building at N. Williams & Shaver. I took a couple of photos of it since I was in the area anyway, and filed them away in case I ever ran across any info about it. Later, while I was researching a different post, I ran across a 2012 BikePortland article that mentioned it in passing. So this is called Ristretto Bound, and it's by artist Amanda Houston. I like it a lot.

The BikePortland article was about a proposed mural honoring Major Taylor, an early 20th Century African-American bike racer. The proposal hasn't moved forward yet as of early 2016.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

El Pajaro Cantor

Next up is El Pajaro Cantor ("The Songbird"), on the side of a building in the 2900 block of NE Alberta. The old Murals of Portland site said this was created by Judee Moonbeam and Dave England in 1998, around the time "Alberta Arts District" first became a real thing. (It's just a luxury condo marketing term these days, but that's a whole other story.)

Elsewhere on the interwebs, a Waymarking page for the mural has a less obstructed view of it than my photos, from a better angle. I'm not sure what the mural's original context was, but as of 2015 it faced the outdoor patio of an Iraqi restaurant.

Peace Mural, SE Belmont

Next up, we're visiting the Peace Mural at SE 30th & Belmont, outside Two Rivers Aikikai (an aikido studio). This was created by artist Christa Grimm; her website has a copyright notice of 2012, but I'm not sure whether that's for the mural or the website itself.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Longfellows Books murals

Next up we're visiting a pair of murals outside Longfellows Books, a small used book store at SE 14th, Division, & Orange Ave., on the edge of Ladd's Addition. One has an Alice in Wonderland theme (as seen in posts at Kay's Bird Club post and Savouring the Seasons), while the other features a dragon (as seen in an old Portland Public Art post). I looked but couldn't find artist/date info about either one, so we'll just have to go with the photos this time.

Hand-Eye Supply garage mural

The next mural is a black-and-white zebra pattern on the Hand-Eye Supply garage building on NW Glisan, between Park & Broadway. They even used some sort of sunshade/mesh material to extend the wild stripes over the building's windows, which is kind of cool. So maybe this doesn't qualify as a mural, strictly speaking, but for the purposes of this project the rules bend whenever I need them to bend. So there.

ripples, airport way bridge, columbia slough

Since it's cold and icy outside right now, I thought I'd dig out something a little more summery to post. Here are a couple of Vine videos from the Columbia Slough Natural Area. At one point along the trail, a concrete bridge carries NE Airport Way over the Columbia Slough, and the trail goes underneath it. When the sun's at the right angle, ripples on the placid slough are reflected up onto the underside of the bridge, and voila.

Musicians Union Local 99 mural

Our next Portland mural is the Musicians Union Local 99 mural, on the union's building at NE 20th & Sandy. The RACC description:

This project was designed to bring higher visibility to the artistic community and foster dialogue across boundaries. Within the mural, images of jazz, European, classical, bluegrass, rock ‘n roll, hard rock, hip hop, rhythm and blues, reggae, Asian, Latino, and African influences, provide opportunities for dynamic composition.

This was created in 2006 by artists Isaka Shamsud-Din, Joe Cotter, Hector Hernandez, & Baba Wagué Diakité. Shamsud-Din also created Now is the Time, the Time is Now (which we visited a couple of posts ago), and we looked at Cotter's Buckman Community Mural back in August 2014, as this ongoing project was just getting underway.

Sky mural, NE MLK & Shaver

The next stop on our mural tour is the blue sky & clouds mural at NE MLK & Shaver, on the church building that's also home to Now is the Time, the Time is Now. This wall hosted a companion mural about African history from 1989-2009, but it was lost as part of emergency repairs to the building. A 2009 Oregonian article about that mural's demise noted: The church is open to working with the original artists to possibly paint a replacement mural someday, according to Marie Larkins, a church board member. It isn't clear whether this sky design is the hoped-for replacement mural.

Now is the Time, the Time is Now

Next up on the mural tour is Now is the Time, the Time is Now, at the Irvington Covenant Church at NE MLK & Shaver. This was created back in 1989 by artists Isaka Shamsud-Din, Paul Odighizuwa, Charlotte Lewis, and Kathy Pennington. The RACC description:

This mural was created as part of a neighborhood mural project designed to train and employ promising young artists, enhance the cityscape, foster a sense of community pride and aid in revitalization efforts in the area. ‘Now is the Time, the Time is Now’ is about education, the importance of history, the identity of the African American community and knowledge of where they came from.

The mural was created with a second companion mural on the south side of the building that was regrettably removed in fall 2009 due to necessary repair of the building.
From a 1989 Oregonian article about the then-new murals:
The first two of what Shamsud-Din hopes will be more than a dozen murals along King Boulevard were dedicated Dec. 18. They grace the north and south walls of the American Contractors Center owned by Bruce Broussard, who was the first "to take a chance on us," Shamsud-Din says.

The north-facing mural was designed and painted by Shamsud-Din. It features a large portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. surrounded by other faces, among them Nelson and Winnie Mandela, South African expatriate playwright Selaelo Maredi, and muslim leader Elijah Muhammad.

The south mural was painted by artists Kathy Pennington, Charlotte Lewis, and Paul Odighizuwa and depicts the progression of African heritage from ancient Egypt to contemporary children using computers.

Shamsud-Din hopes the project will become self-sufficient and eventually expand to other parts of the city. Similar projects in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have caused a reduction in graffiti and initiated a visible increase in civic pride in the neighborhoods.

"I wanted to start something that would give African-American artists in Portland some exposure," he says. "It would be a lot more fun here if it wasn't such a whites-only art club."

Note that Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned by South Africa's apartheid government when these murals went up, and many Western politicians still insisted he was some sort of scary Communist.

As of 2015 the south wall of the building was home to a simple blue sky design instead.

He is Watching

Here's another mural in the vicinity of NE 15th & Burnside, which I happened to notice while looking for Metal Mole Movement and a couple of others I haven't posted yet. This one's on a pair of doors facing 15th, is signed "GTM", and bears the words "He is Watching". That's all I know about this one. It's located right between a couple of Ashley Montague murals (i.e. the ones I haven't posted about yet), and it looks kind of, how should I put it, 8th-grade-art-class in comparison. But I figured I might as well take some photos of it since I was in the area anyway, and here they are. Enjoy!

Metal Mole Movement

The next stop on the mural tour is on SE 15th, just south of Burnside, where a large mural lurks down an alley/driveway between two houses, on the back of a commercial building. Wiredforsound23 on Flickr calls this "Metal Mole Movement" (whatever that is) and notes it's by local artist Klutch, who did a couple of other murals I've covered here, including the huge one at Buckman Field.

Watershed mural, N. Lombard & Charleston

Next up on the continuing mural tour is a small design on an empty building at N. Lombard & Charleston, which I happened to notice while looking for the Peninsula Station mural across the street. The building housed the Weir's Cyclery bike shop for a number of years; you can sort of make out the mural in the photos of an April 2007 Waymarking page about the store. That's all I know about this one, I'm afraid. Well, that and the fact that it might not be around for much longer. A St. Johns Review issue from last July talks about a proposed 4 story upscale apartment complex to be built on this spot. Because it's mid-2010's Portland and that's what always happens. I think the idea is to build as many upscale goodies as possible as quickly as we can, to cash in before our media-driven hipness bubble bursts.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Taqueria y Panaderia Santa Cruz mural, St. Johns

Next mural we're looking at is in St. Johns again, this time outside Taqueria y Panaderia Santa Cruz at N. Lombard & Alta. The mural's by Portland artist Senén Angón, who was the subject of an interesting Oregonian profile back in 2007. I also ran across a 2009 Walla Walla Union Bulletin article about a mural he did there, for another Mexican restaurant.

We ♥︎ St. Johns mural

Next stop for the ongoing mural project is the We ♥︎ St. Johns mural outside the Tulip Pastry Shop on N. Lombard, literally right next door to the Peninsula Station mural we looked at yesterday. No luck searching the interwebs about this one, so this is going to be a rather short post.

Incidentally, I had a bit of trouble adding the heart to the title of this post, since a lot of fonts (OSX Futura among them) don't include a full set of emoji. So technically what you see here is a playing card heart and not an I-wuv-this heart, since the Unicode committee insists they have to be separate characters, and fonts are more likely to contain the playing card one, I think because it's been a defined character for a lot longer.

24 Hour Fitness mural, Pearl District

Next up we're checking out the murals outside the Pearl District's 24 Hour Fitness at NW 12th & Johnson, in which a bunch of handlebar-mustached Victorian gentlemen show off their boxing and weightlifting skills. The artist also co-created the Roseway neighborhood's Neighborhood in Motion mural at NE 72nd, Sandy, & Fremont.

People's History of Hawthorne

Next up on the continuing mural tour is People's History of Hawthorne, on the Eagles lodge at SE 49th & Hawthorne. Regular readers with good memories might recall the similarly-named People's Bike Library of Portland on W. Burnside; you probably can't go wrong with an obvious Howard Zinn reference here in Portland. Anyway, here's the RACC description:

“The History of Hawthorne”—or “the peoples’ history”—is a direct dedication to the surrounding neighborhood and community, showing not only the “known” history, but the personal mythos, characters (past and present, alive and dead) who have shaped SE Portland and this core region. This part of Portland is known for great neighborhoods, food, bars, churches, houses, parks, retail, and a general place to “hang out.” Hawthorne is a busy community all year round. Artist Chris Haberman wanted to show Hawthorne’s history and vibrancy, from hipster to hippy, from early farmer to brewmaster, and from homeless to home owner. During this exploration he canvassed the neighborhood, talking with dozens of citizens. Haberman sought to embody an “oral” tradition by weaving these stories and experiences into the history of the Hawthorne neighborhood.

For some reason this design makes me think "Dr. Bronner's soap label", even though the two things actually look nothing alike. Maybe it's the jumble of disordered words along the top, I'm not really sure. In any event, it was painted in 2012-13 by Chris Haberman, who also did the much smaller mural at O'Malleys, a bar at SE 66th & Foster.

Peninsula Station mural

The ongoing mural tour visits St. Johns again, for a peek at the Peninsula Station mural at N. Lombard & Charleston, outside the shipping & printing shop of the same name. The RACC description:

The Peninsula Station mural is a colorful celebration of life in the St. Johns neighborhood. It commemorates residents, both young and old, doing what makes St. Johns great—talking, playing, laughing, eating, dancing, cycling, and being with one another.

This was created in 2010 by Bruce Orr, who also did the Scrap Mural on Williams Avenue.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Women Making History in Portland

Women Making History in Portland at N. Interstate Avenue & Harding St., not far from the Widmer brewery. The RACC blurb about it:

In Other Words Women’s Books and Resources were the organizers of this mural. The mural represents a women’s history of Portland, and was made to promote the mission of empowering women through art and education. The mural portrays women from all walks of life within the Portland community.


This was created in 2007 by Robin Corbo, who also did the mural at the Community Cycling Center on NE Alberta, and the large BARK Mural on SE Powell, among other things. She posted a Facebook photoset about the mural, with brief bios for many of the women depicted here.

Albina Yard mural

Next stop on our continuing mural tour is the gigantic Albina Yard Maintenance Building Mural, on the eponymous building on Mississippi Avenue near the Interstate 5 underpass. It's another of the "history of this neighborhood" murals that Portland loves so much, and it has a rather wordy RACC description:

The west side of the Albina Maintenance Building features a mural embracing a theme of “perpetual collaboration” similar to a Rube Goldberg machine in city scale and through time. Community practices and industries that affected the local Portland-Albina neighborhood over the last several eras represent the mechanical components of the city-Goldberg-machine. The driving force behind this mural was the community engagement where the nearby communities and maintenance workers contributed their voices to develop the mural.

As the Maintenance building tapers out of the hillside, from left to right the image shows our Native American landscape migrating into historic Oregonian industries of lumber, railroad, and steel, moving into representations of the diversity of people and activities characteristic of Portland. Throughout the image are several series of local mountains, bridges, gardens, parks, icons of communities, and city workers behind the scenes to keep the city-Goldberg-machine functioning. Included are symbols of the neighborhoods’ transitions of communities from the Native American, Volga Germans, Finnish, Chinese, and African American. Out of the neighborhood flows a procession of all communities, some are playing instruments, creating a lively jazz display in the foreground. As the maintenance building’s height rises vertically the mural shows a culmination of the community united in celebration, incorporating elements of diversity throughout the image.


In the interest of historical accuracy, I just have to point out that a lot of these transitions (like, say, Native American tribes to pioneers, or from an African-American neighborhood to upscale white hipster playland) were rather less happy and orderly than the mural indicates. I mean, we all know this already, yes? But I still feel like I can't let this pass unremarked-upon.

All That Is Gold

The next stop on the mural tour takes us to NE 33rd & Sandy, where All That Is Gold is hidden down a gated alley next to the Laurelhurst Studios building. The mural was created in 2014 by Gage Hamilton and Zach Yarrington, whose names you might recognize from innumerable Forest For The Trees murals over the last few years.

The title's painted up toward the top of the building and is hard to see from street level; I'm not sure where it's meant to be viewed from. The iceberg theme around the alley entrance made me think the title said "Cold" rather than "Gold". Luckily I ran across some photos and making-of videos that cleared this up before I hit Publish. That would have been sort of embarrassing. Not as bad as the New York Times spinning lurid tales of Iraqi WMDs that, um, never existed, but embarrassing by this humble blog's usual standards.

Fight for Your Dreams

Next mural up is Fight for Your Dreams, created by artist Maryanna Hoggatt for the 2014 Forest for the Trees event. It's located out at NE 59th & Sandy, on the side of BTU Brasserie, a newish brewpub/Chinese place I haven't gotten around to trying yet.

Share the Road

Next mural up is Share the Road, a mural about bikes on the side of an auto shop at SE 43rd & Hawthorne. It has a brief RACC description:

The mural graphically registers the pulse of a neighborhood in motion and integrates the auto into the grander scheme of alternative transportation, environmental sustainability, and the need for harmonious safe traffic through an urban neighborhood.

This was painted in 2006 by artist Sara Stout, and was the subject of (at least) three BikePortland posts as well as (at least) one at Portland Transport, because bikes.

Children and Youth Bill of Rights

The next mural on our ever-continuing tour Children and Youth Bill of Rights, a big and busy 2 story design on the south side of Killingsworth at Maryland Ave. The RACC description:

This mural by Jesus Kobe Garcia and Margret Harburg was inspired by The Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Adopted by both City and County in 2006, the document was created with help from more than 3,000 youth and seeks to serve as a constant reminder of the vital role children and youth play in shaping the future of their communities. Garcia and Harburg worked with students from five schools throughout North Portland to design the mural which honors the academic dreams and successes of youth as well as the history of African-Americans and Native Americans in North Portland. Extending beyond the immediate community, the mural also displays painted flags representing countries where natural disasters and conflicts have disrupted their people (Japan, Libya, El Salvador). The artists worked with youth from Blue Faith Youth, a faith based youth group from North Portland’s Holy Cross Parish, and students from Trillium’s 3rd and 4th grade art class to paint the mural.

NE 30th & Killingsworth

Ok, the next painted intersection we're visiting is a bit different from the last few; rather than placing a big design in the middle of the intersection, the one at NE 30th & Killingsworth has designs on the four streetcorners instead. A circa-2006 City Repair description of the then-new progject (via indicates that the intersection was too busy for the traditional sort of street design, and the city wouldn't let them close it off for a day of painting:

This community project will include painting creative crosswalks and building kiosk-type structures along Killingsworth approaching the intersection from both directions to catch driver’s eyes and slow traffic, transforming a dangerous intersection into an attractive expression of community co-creation and safe space. Despite the flood warnings and evacuation routes that must be kept unperturbed, the residents are tired of it all passing by unnoticed. Can’t we just close the street for one day to paint? Many thanks to this community for braving the “higher ups” and doing something anyway. Keep the dream alive and keep the designs a’comin. Strong community prevails.