Within and Beyond the Borders of Eliot: Murals and Street Art

By Julie Doumbia and Sue Stringer

It’s been a while since we have had a Within and Beyond the Borders of Eliot column. For this issue, we think it’s time for a sequel to the piece the Eliot News did three years ago. There’s a proliferation of new murals and street art in and around our neighborhood. You can also find the map online with links to larger color photos than we could publish in the print version. See the FAQs below the map legend for more information about murals and street art. Photo credits Julie Doumbia and Sue Stringer.

So put on some walking shoes and enjoy a day of wandering through the neighborhood and enjoy the free art show accessible to all. We’re still waiting to get an update on the new mural/art on the building at NE Russell and MLK Blvd., so check back with us in the fall for that one. Also, a mural was approved to be painted on PICA’s and RH Brown’s buildings. Installation starts sometime this summer or fall.

Click the link HERE to navigate to the Google map with all the murals and art and their locations. For a preview of what is on the map see the information below:

1. Women Making History: N Harding Ave and N Interstate Ave sponsored by In Other Words Women’s Books and Resources (closed) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_Making_History_in_Portland Artist Robin Corbo

2. Mural plus lots of street art: Ecliptic Brewing Warehouse 2410 N Interstate Artist  Pablos Murals https://pablosmurals.com

3. MLK Jr. Mural 627 N Tillamook St: Artist Shane Grammer @shanegrammerarts, https://shanegrammer.com

4. Night Stars, Camping & street art: 2410 N Interstate Ave Ecliptic Brewing warehouse

5. Geometric patterns and scenes: N Mississippi and N Fremont (NE corner)

6. Salmon along a fence: Boise-Eliot-Humboldt Elementary N Borthwick at N Cook St

7. Michelle Obama: residential front door 329 N Fremont St. Artist Dianne Bocci

8. People and aliens: Grains of Wrath 3901 N Williams

9. Tropical fruits and desert-scape: MF Tasty food truck 3925 N Williams Ave

10. Geometric shapes: Parallax apartments 4030 N Williams Ave

11. Urbanscapes: Cook St apartments parking lot access via N Ivy between Williams and Vancouver

12. North Portland Jazz Scene “Unite Us”: Above The Waypost 3120 N Williams Ave

13. Honey in the Bee Ball—I Can’t See Y’all – Medallions: Dawson Park fence N Williams Ave at N Stanton St. Artist Isaka Shamsud-Din

14. Geometric design: Breadwinner Cycles 2323 N Williams Ave

15. Frogs: Port City Gallery (closed) 2170 N Williams

16. Birds: Pacific North Press 16 NE Tillamook St

17. Flowers: Tillamook Row 22 NE Tillamook St

18. “MIKE” (Multicultural Integrated Kidney Education Program) Mural: 1914 NE 7th Ave. Artist Robin Corbo

19. “In My Skin”: PDX RedWall, Oregon First Realty 2106 NE MLK Jr.- Rotating art -current artist Jason Hill

20. “Together” Rotating Mural: Open Signal 2766 NE MLK Jr. Artist: Limei Lai

21. Mural (by students?): Growing Seeds Child Development Center: 2808 NE MLK Jr.

22. “In My America” Flag mural: 2915 NE MLK Jr.

23. Mural and Tiles and Sculpture: Cascadia/Garlington Center NE MLK Jr and NE Morris St. Artists south side bldg. mural –Arvie Smith, panels at the front door on MLK –Jeremy Davis, sculpture by the parking lot –Hillary Pfiefer

24. “Jumptown Video Wall”: The Magnolia apartments 3262 NE MLK Jr. Artist Pamela Chipman. Thomas Robinson and Portland City Archive contributed photos and videos

25. Residential garage mural: 435 NE Cook St. Artist Ryan Bubnis

26. Waves of color: Mothership Music 3611 NE MLK Jr. Artist Pablos Murals

27. “Peace in the Hood”: mural on residential wall 3792 NE MLK Jr.

28. Women and shapes: Luna Wellness 3801 NE MLK Jr

29. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and BLM Protestors mural: North side of Sengatera Ethiopian Restaurant 3833 NE MLK Jr.

30. MESO murals, plant/art piece, garage mural -4008 NE MLK Jr. Artists: Southside -Adia Gibbs, Latoya Lovely, Kyra Watkins, Alex Chiu, Emmanuel Dempsey. Panels/plants -Peg Butler. Northside Isaka Shamsud-Din, Garage – Emmanuel Dempsey

FAQ about Murals and Street Art

What is street art?

  • Street art is visual art created in public locations for public visibility.
  • Themes may be historic, political, social critique, abstract, etc. depending on the intent of the person commissioning the art or the artist themselves.

Why is street art important? What’s the big deal?

  • Street art is a way for an artist to share their perspective and thoughts with the broader community in a very public way. For example, given the rapid gentrification in this part of N/NE Portland and associated demographic shifts, its not surprising that there are historic scenes depicted in street art to remember how the neighborhood used to feel and educate newcomers that there is a lot of history here.
  • Protest can take many forms and street art is one way to comment on social or political injustice. Due to its visibility, it can be a powerful way for artists to make their voice heard. For example, after the BLM protest marches began following George Floyd’s murder, many of the plywood panels (bare or chaulked) that started going up in downtown Portland began filling up with images and statements ranging from anti-police messages to motivational quotes and anti-racist statements and images (see https://www.streetroots.org/news/2020/07/11/photos-art-uprising).
  • Urban art provides a unique sense of place that attracts happy pedestrians, customers, and employees. Street art contributes greatly to the development of the ‘creative city’ (Portland Street Art Alliance website).

What is the difference between street art and graffiti?

  • It can be difficult to cleanly separate these forms at times, but street art tends to be image-based with a community/social commentary or purpose, while graffiti tends to be word-based and may be done for a variety of reasons that vary by person but may include a sense of not belonging, not being heard, resentment, lack of other outlets for creative energy, for the fear/adrenaline, or it be associated with gang activity, to name a few.

Where can I go to learn more about street art?

  • Portland Street Art Alliance (pdxstreetart.org) has a lot of great information on their website, including recommended reading and walking tours where you can see many examples of local street art and (legally) try your hand at painting techniques at their location.

I’m interested in commissioning a mural for my property, where can I go to get information?

  • If there’s a work you already like, check to see if there’s Instagram or other contact information for the artist. Many artists who have done the Eliot installations are local artists.  

Portland Street Art Alliance has a long history of supporting community connections and they can help you scope your project and connect with an artist: http://www.pdxstreetart.org/commissions