Portland Part 1: Street Murals and More


“Few people go to art exhibitions nowadays, the art comes to them.” (Chris Geiger quote)

And in Portland (Oregon), street art is ubiquitous. The mural movement was jump-started in the 1980s by an anonymous group of artists known as Gorilla Wallflare who created colorful art on drab concrete industrial buildings. The group’s inaugural project – a large yellow banana with the tagline Art Fills the Void! – is apparently still around, although we didn’t look for it.

Today, Portland’s street art scene is alive and well, supported by rules that govern the process of creating new installations and by organizations that facilitate the connection between artists and opportunities. We did a self-guided walking tour of the various murals in just two small areas of the city – the Alberta Arts District in northeast Portland and the Eastside Industrial District – and in our half day excursion, we barely scratched the surface.

Here’s a sample – the first set features animal themes.

Most of the murals are signed and dated by the artist, but only a handful offer any background or descriptive information about the piece itself, which would have been a nice addition. On the other hand, the lack of guidance from the artist allowed us to experience each piece without preconceived ideas and to formulate our own interpretation and takeaways.

The set below features murals with people themes.

And a few more . . .

Street art wasn’t on my radar screen until our experience in Portland, but now, we see murals everywhere we go and better appreciate their contribution to an area’s cultural identity and sense of place. So there’s a high probability that more street art will show up in future posts . . . .

There’s much more to share from our three weeks in Portland. Yes, we spent three weeks in the City of Roses, which afforded us the opportunity to do more sight-seeing than most places we visit. Best of all, we were able to stay with my brother and sister-in-law in a real house in an interesting Portland neighborhood. Thank you, Ken and Gloria!

For the first two weeks, we house sat while they vacationed in Europe.

Since our duties weren’t particularly taxing, we had plenty of free time to explore. With many things to see and do, however, we ran out of time before completing our list. Nonetheless, there’s much to share, so this post is the first in a series about our visit to Portland.

We signed up for a walking tour during our first foray into downtown. Consistent with previous experiences with city tours, it was interesting and worthwhile. And in this instance, we were the only people on the tour, which lasted 90 minutes and gave us a good historical and geographic overview of the city.

One signature attraction we missed out on is the 34-foot Portlandia Statue, which was covered due to extensive renovation of her Portland Building home. Next time . . .

Here are a few more photos from our adventures in Portland. With the exception of Powell’s Books, none of these places were destinations, only sights we encountered on the way to somewhere else.

Check out my next post for information and photos about specific places we visited in Portland.

Categories: Oregon

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