Mural



Reprinted from the Ashland Daily Tidings, April 23, 2008

This is one fix that Harry Potter might not get out of.

The world’s most famous fictional wizard was dismantled from Ashland High School’s senior mural Friday by Principal Jeff Schlecht, who deemed the material inappropriate.

Echoing Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel, the mural features Harry as Adam and Professor Dumbledore as God, surrounded by other characters from the best-selling book series as cherubs. On Harry’s lap is a Golden Snitch, which in the Harry Potter books is a walnut-sized magic ball with wings chased by Seekers in the game of Quidditch.

Mounted over the quad Friday, the mural stayed intact for just a few hours before Harry’s panel was removed. The four artists, Colette Paré-Miller, Alex Levine, Sage Trail and Djamika Smith, who grew up together in a Waldorf school, weren’t told about the removal until this week. The other three panels remain on display.

Since the panel’s removal, many students have been wearing paper Snitches pinned below waist level with the words, “Censored for your protection.”

Schlecht said that while he appreciates the students’ 50 hours of creative labor and the fine art it produced, he must abide by school district policy that considers inappropriate any excessive bareness, whether in art, a video or at a football game.

Schlecht told the artists Wednesday to appropriately cover Potter’s genitalia with something bigger.

“We did censor his genital area,” Trail said. “It’s just the legs and torso of a man, definitely appropriate for a high school — and we’re not going to change it.”

The artists’ sketch had been chosen by a student committee for the quad mural, which is painted anew with each graduating class. Smith said the four took the proper steps in presenting the sketch to the AHS leadership class and to Schlecht, who at the time asked for a bigger Golden Snitch. The artists made it about the size of a baseball, but when the mural, made of four 4-by-8-foot wood panels, was hung up in full view, it just didn’t do the job, Schlecht said.

The four seniors plan to appeal the decision to Ashland schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, and if they aren’t allowed to hang the missing panel, they will go to the School Board, Smith said.

“It’s really frustrating after we went through all the steps and we want it put back up,” said Smith. “We believed no one would complain. We believe students and the community would support it.”

Trail’s mother, pediatrician Debra Koutnik, said the principal doesn’t have the authority to censor art according to his own values.

“Art needs to reflect the community at large and Ashland is a very free-thinking and inclusive community,” she said.

Schlecht responded to Koutnik’s comment by saying, “That’s a very good question. Their perception of Ashland is right on, but this is a public high school and I have to represent all perspectives in grades nine through 12. My interpretation is that it was inappropriate.”

The Harry Potter saga provides a “special bond” for the four girls, who grew up with the characters, said Gerry Paré, AHS orchestra teacher and mother of Colette, who waged an art censorship battle with the school last month. Her abstract paintings of male and female genitalia were allowed to be exhibited during a First Friday art show at Briscoe School but in a separate, monitored room so children wouldn’t see them.

“There’s nothing showing, no genitals,” Gerry Paré said of the mural. “Michelangelo did a fabulous job depicting Adam and God in the first moments of life, and I think it’s a neat idea that they saw that and adjusted it to their teen culture.”

On the quad after school Thursday, senior Elijah Cintrom, a friend of the four, said removal of the panel was “upsetting and I wanted to wear a Snitch to protest. Nudity is just a different costume but perverts think otherwise.”

Senior Walker McAnnich-Riunzi said he admired the painting. “We’re of the Harry Potter generation, the same age as him. It brings up the issue of free speech. Jeff (Schlecht) is usually good on that. I don’t know what caused him to change his mind.”

Schlecht said he encourages using the dispute as a problem-solving exercise and welcomes the artists’ appeal up the school district ladder.

“I honestly don’t think they were trying to push the envelope,” said Schlecht. “They were trying to create a great work of art and they did.”


(Image above blurred by Ashland Daily Tidings.)

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April 15, 2008


April 18. 2008


May 1, 2008

For more information, see Packy mural coming down

Wade Nkrumah of the Oregonian is all over this story.

Portland’s much-loved elephant no longer graces the north wall of a historic building in Old Town/Chinatown.

And the removal of Packy’s mural is something no one associated with the decision seemed eager to discuss.

The top part of the mural was removed Thursday during demolition of the top floor of Skidmore Fountain Building by the west side of Burnside Bridge. The mural was painted in 1990 by North Pacific Sign & Design.

Skidmore Building is undergoing an about $25 million renovation as it becomes the new headquarters for Mercy Corps, one of the world’s top 10 relief-and-development organizations.

April 4, 2008

Read the remainder of Packy mural coming down by clicking here.

The best fresh pierogi in Portland is at International Meats on about 60th and SE Foster Road. It’s changed hands several times in the past few years I think, but maintains a great selection of handmade sausages, preserved fish, pickles and cheese.

Carrying the vittles, I found this.

Across the Holgate + Foster is a small alley where a history of Foster Road has been colorfully and crudely painted.

Flappin’ on Foster recounts the small history of outer Foster Road, from the turn of the last century to the 1930s, perhaps. Funding initially came from the Anne A. Berni Foundation, managed by Mary and David Becker (of Becker Co. and a trustee of PAM.org), and perhaps came in two parts. An aluminum plate sign says the lead artist was Becky Bristol, now of Ohio. Signed in crude paint above “Part II” was led by Ping Khaw-Sutherland.

This mural has been vandalized by local idiots, expressing the current and dismal milieu of Foster Road.

I’ve noticed one of the rehab options for the Portland Public School District is to use the term “arts integrated curriculum” as a panacea, as an anchor for parents logically advantaging their children through the district’s incredibly stupid student transfer option. (Using this option students can lottery into “better” schools, causing tides to shift with rumor, test scores and speculation. Little or no school transport is offered for these students so many/most of them come from middle-class or better two-parent or better households, reinforcing race and class barriers.)

In the 1970s and 1980s Jefferson High was a non-integrated performing arts school which sent more than it’s share to Julliard. Personalities clashed with principals, the program evaporated, and the magnet which drew students from all classes and communities switched off. Now Jefferson is a troubled school, on it’s umpteenth transformation, and we all hope for the best. Congrats go to the boys AND girls basketball teams, which both just won state championships.

John Marshall High School starts off badly, in a tough neighborhood, landscaped for invisibility, its orangy bricks might remind visitors of a poorly maintained penitentiary or other state institution. To stem migration to other more promising schools through the student transfer option, Marshall High has recently been split by the district into four schools, one of which was named Renaissance Arts Academy.

The unfinished web site for the new school leaves few clues. A tour of the campus exterior reveals no artwork. Who was John Marshall anyway? Why if nothing else, the author of Cohens v. Virginia.

Discouraging, at best, is the new school sign – a readerboard, changeable as a whim. The usage of code terms “Renaissance” and “Academy” reveal the corporate toolism involved.

Not far from Marshall High School are two endangered murals, one of which is by former Marshall students. The first is Peace In Portland (below) painted on a lonely bodega at 92nd and SE Holgate. It’s simple, Mt Hood in the moonlight and a wish.


The flag reads, “Dedicated to the People of SE Portland / By Marshall High & Friends / In the Spirit of Pride & Peace. Mural Design: Jacqueline McKay, Travis Wallender, Robbie Koch, Ray Baxter.”

Wallender became the nationally known graffiti artist BORE, and died in 2005. His memorial was in PPA – BORE – in Memoriam.

South across Lents Park is Music In Community, (below), an endangered mural painted on plywood, the back of a tennis backboard. The mural is labeled as being made through Portland Youth Builders, which is located nearby. More like an advertisement. The mural is designed by a bunch of kids and volunteers, the mural is painted by Bob Swan, a criminal justice prof at PSU.

Love this hippie cabbage patch goddess, sprinkling the leaves on about 22nd Avenue off Division, on the side of the a communist cafe, now relocated decidedly more downtown to the new Red & Black Cafe, with their delectables but without the artwork.

What’s remarkable about this artwork? In itself nothing, but as a marker of a hippie business (and by hippie I mean the socio-collection of characters inside) you can find it, or some reasonable likeness a beacon for all things dreaded and vegan in spirited cities all over the world. It says: safe inside. And maybe also: this is a safe community to be in. Tramps used to leave a coded chalk mark under the railroad bridge. Additional signage is unnecessary. So is it an advertisement? A marketing magnet of sorts? Is an illuminated crucifix an advertisement?

I’m reminded of the Darby Crash line, “What we do is secret!” What secret? You have pot? You know someone who has pot? You used to know someone who had pot? Safe from what? J Edgar Hoover?

The artwork stays, owned by the building and is in the peril of gentrification and exterior wall paint. I’ll put up the AFTER picture when it comes.

It’s gone.

Peninsula Park is one of Portland’s favorite parks – busy, dynamic, something for everyone.

As with all Portland parks, the Portland Parks and Recreation web site has excellent historical information about the park, lists of amenities, links to a map, photos, etc.

The park has three interesting pieces of artwork. All three are easily overwhelmed by the wonderful sunken rose garden with almost 9000 plantings at the South end of the park. It is one of the two or three places in the western US where if you squint, and use a little imagination, you can be in Paris.

With a lively fountain, which in the summer is filled with free-spirited dogs and children, ornate brickwork, a gazebo for weddings and surrounded by elegant elms, this garden is an excellent destination for lovers of all ages.


Inside the stately red tile community center at the North end of the park are a series of murals of young athletes tumbling and wrestling. I’m uncertain when these were made, perhaps in the 1920s.

Females exercise on one side, males on the other, each in gym togs sans corporate logos and simple, non-descript brown leather shoes, each group acting as signage leading visitors toward separate, symmetrical gymnasiums on either end of the building. Invigorating! Healthy ! Fun!

The building has had some recent remodeling; bathrooms, kitchen, but largely remains as it has always been.

I have a running fear some Adidas-based marketing moron will see these pieces of art and neighborhood history and offer with a large check to “update these murals.”

Stay away! Go back to whatever magazine you germinated from!

Seattle-based sculptor / dabbler / arts consultant Jerry Allen sold his Disk #4 to Portland Parks and Recreation in the 1970s, a bronze located in a quiet corner of Peninsula Park. It is a fair replica of Chuck Kibby’s Uroboros, in stone, located at Westmoreland Park. There may be more in storage somewhere. Both typify a 1970s combination of anxiety about marketing and incomprehension about interesting artwork. Allen is former Executive Director of the King County Arts Commission, and has served and director of cultural affairs (which I assume part of at least is art) for Dallas and San Jose.

Note to ambitious public artists – it pays off to have friends in high places.

Finally, George Johanson made two ceramic 4 x 20 murals for which symmetrically frame the outdoor pool (below).


EXTRA – Piedmont Neighborhood history

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