Street Art: Ashland Residents Ditch the Canvas for the Asphalt
Like so many young Ashlanders, Sarah Kreisman has done time on the mean streets of Portland. But she found the streets in the city’s famed Belmont and Hawthorne districts a little less mean.
“Those neighborhoods that had those beautiful little benches and libraries,” says Kreisman. “It felt like I was in a place where people were connecting with each other and caring about each other.”
And a major centerpiece for Kreisman is one that’s familiar to most that have passed through the area: the massive painted mural painted on the asphalt at the intersection of SE 33rd and Yamhill in the Sunnyside neighborhood. That’s why her ears perked up one of her neighbors, local artist Rachel Gibbs, was discussing her commission to design a similar painting for Portland’s South Tabor neighborhood, and when other neighbors suggested a similar piece of street art at the intersection of Faith and Wine streets in Ashland, where her neighborhood has hosted a block party for the last four years.
“Barbara was like street mural, and I was like, ‘ooh! I want to help!’” says Kreisman.
Kreisman and Gibbs, along with local artist Barbara Massey, and community advocate Kat Smith steeled themselves to the task of getting a piece of public art approved and funded; no small task.
“We started last September or October,” says Gibbs.
“Let’s just say that I’m glad that there’s four of us,” says Kreisman. “Because one of us doing it would have been a lot.”
The group had to get 100 percent buy-in from residents of the intersection, and go door-to-door to get 80 percent approval from houses within two blocks, as well as get approval from a long list of city agencies. They also spent several months working on the design, which Gibbs created by incorporating elements of the local flora fauna catalogued by Massey, a retired ornithologist.
“We knew we wanted a certain amount of flowers, it was more about placement,” says Gibbs. “The design process was more about how we wanted these birds, these flowers, these bees, but we had to figure out to to place them in a way that makes sense.”
Kreisman thinks the nature elements helped make it an easier sell to notoriously persnickety about public art city agencies, as did the proposal being non-commercial and away from downtown.
“I’m sure we could have found a lot of ways to have this thwarted,” says Kreisman.
Overall, she and Gibbs say that though there were a lot of hoops, there weren’t any that seemed totally unnecessary.
More than just beautifying the neighborhood, Kreisman says it will help get people to slow down while driving through the neighborhood by encouraging them to slow down and take a look, which is important since the city won’t install speed bumps.
But that isn’t the mural’s only value.
“It’s a community building exercise,” says Gibbs. “Art is really important. We live in a society where we just rush rush rush, and taking the time to appreciate things is important.”
“I’m hoping that this will encourage others in the community to this sort of thing,” says Kreisman. “Ashland is exactly the sort of community for this sort of thing.”
The final design is 28 feet by 28 feet, and require more than $1,000 worth of paint to install and touch up.
“We got a lot of help with budgets and planning from the community organizations in Portland that I had worked with,” says Gibbs.
And after nearly a year of planning and meetings, the team is ready to bring that design to life in latex and asphalt on the date of the neighborhood’s fourth annual block party, Sat., August 26 and Sun., August 27, when volunteers are invited to pitch in and paint two-foot square sections of the mural with the aid trained local artists.
“The larger pieces are all stencils,” says Gibbs. “The rest of it is all just filling in in-between.”
All ages and skill levels are invited, and afterwards all are invited to the block party. They’re especially hoping to get kids in on the painting.
Those looking for more info can contact the neighborhood organizers through the Faith and Wine 4th Annual Block Party page on Facebook, or through the GoFundMe page that was set up to pay for the mural.
Gibbs says that from talking with organizations in Portland, they estimate that it will take between 20 and 40 people each working a four-hour shift to complete the mural on time.
And if enough volunteers don’t show up to pitch in on their own, then Kreisman and Gibbs say they will just start texting friends and work overtime.
“No way we’re not going to not do it,” says Kreisman. “Eff that.”
Street Mural Painting Party
7 am-7pm Sat., August 26 and Sun., August 27
Intersection of Faith and Wine streets, Ashland