What will protect this mural?

This public artwork is located on the South face of the American State Bank on Martin Luther King Blvd and about Knott Street, in NE Portland.

A rare insight from a writer with the Portland Mercury describes the ACB interior in 2000. Formerly Albina Community Bank – I think – this building is currently empty and out of business. According to the Metro Murals database of Portland’s mural artwork (our city’s most accessable public arts database! Whew!) it was made by Paul Gilbert in 1999, and is 8′ by 25′, 200 square feet.

I haven’t discovered much about the muralist Paul Gilbert. I think the mural was made at the same time as the adjoining Gladys Sims McCoy Memorial Park was created to recognize McCoy, former Multnomah County Chair and longtime civic leader. The park was built by the neighboring American State Bank.

It uses a flat naive’ style with a rollercoaster perspective to show a banker welcoming customers and a band playing in a park. It’s got that content-by-committee feel to it. It’s nice, but bland and unremarkable.

The question of maintainance comes if two criteria are met – and I am not sure they are in the case of this nameless mural. With the bank closed and the building for sale or lease, the artwork does not have an internal protector. So does the community love it, cherish it, need it, remember with it, value it sufficiently to make it a unspoken requirement of owning it (possessing it along with the building)? I don’t get a sense of this. The McCoy Memorial, I assume, has the protection of both the McCoy family and the county or city, but this mural, both a extravagent commercial remainder and a reminder of the Albina boosters who launched the Albina Community Plan (see below). And then the harder question, does it qualify as art, a thing by its sheer creation and existance sufficiently convincing to secure and protect as a community treasure?

No. I think this mural fails both questions, and will be lost in time to renovation. Sad? I don’t think so. That it’s surroundings are also dreck isn’t a sufficient argument, and there are far to many other public artworks of great value which need protection and care.

Gladys McCoy, Portland Public Schools Board member from 1966, County Commissioner form 1979, and County Chair from 1986. Gladys and her husband Bill (a state legislator) also are remembered with McCoy Park on N. Woolsey and the McCoy Community Garden on Fessenden.

The Albina Community Plan was as much a process as a plan, a process to capture the acceptance of a community to rennovation. (All of the following documents are pdfs and slow-loading.)

See History of Portland’s African American Community (1805 to 1993).

See History of the Albina Plan Area.

See Albina Community Plan Process – 1990

See Albina Community Plan Design Guidelines – 1993

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