There are a handful of useful texts on Portland’s Public Art.

Simple, fact-checked and still available through Powell’s or Alibris is Chet Orloff and Norma Catherine Gleason’s Portland’s Public Art, a guide to the history and locations of the city’s art. Illustrated with historical and contemporary photographs, some commissioned especially for this book. Be sure to get a copy with the fold-out map. Published in 1983 – I paid $3 at Cameron’s. Someone at OHS should update this thing.

Orloff is former executive of the Oregon Historial Society (my docent pal says “Hysterical Society” without a smirk).

The Multnomah County Library still has a couple of copies. Published in 1983 as a pocket paperback suitable for tourists of all sorts, it’s a nice history of Portland gentility with some exceptional pictures, including a one of Rebecca at the Well, in the Park Blocks from I would guess the early 1920s from the OHS archive, surrounded by a bushy garden and curving paths. Quite a different from the current security-conscious layout. Coppini, Fairbanks, Borglum, this text gives sufficent background for most visitors.

PAM visitors are well advised to pick up Portland Art Museum: Selected Works, at their gift shop, a nicely printed trade paperback, also available online. I really like this text, an overview of the museum’s collection. The images are small, about postcard sized, but are really only meant to act as reference. I think the text descriptions are written by different curators and polished by a final unsigned editor.

The Portland Art Museum, until it’s current presentation, has presented an uneven collection, caused by the skills of different curators, the interest of donors and our provincial orientation. Classical art from China and Japan, especially ceramic, has been a standby. One of our town’s unsung living treasures is Donald Jenkins, recently retired curator of PAM’s Asian collection.

His text, Mysterious Spirits, Strange Beasts, Earthly Delights; Early Chinese Art from the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Collection, is “a definitive chronicle of one of the finest private collections of art from this period formed on the West Coast.”

PAM’s web site has kept some of this exemplary exhibition online for you to visit.

Well, not public art per se, but I am waiting for the estate sale.

And I am waiting for the Lonely Planet Guide to put out a Portland guide…

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