Friday, January 01, 2016

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.

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