The oil painting of Dorothy Hirsch is by Henk Pander, donated to the Central Library through her estate. (Thanks Peggy!) Ms. Hirsch served on the boards of the Multnomah County Library for many years, the board of trustees of the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts and the Friends of History of Portland State.

It’s found a new place to hang, the second floor of the Multnomah County Central Library.

The reasons I love the Central Library are too many to ever count. But it’s getting a bit tight for easy use, serving too many functions in too small of a space. Albert Doyle made an elegant structure in 1913, which was considerably improved upon by a major renovation in eleven years ago.

But I recently visited Rem Koolhaus’ library in downtown Seattle, which should be the foremost destination for visitors. The building is a tremendous gong-bang for city planners, for bookworms, and for library planners. It serves a hundred functions at once.

Notably, the smell and grime of wet, sick humans was absent. It was a fine, clear spring day in Seattle, but easily half of the city’s chronic homeless were inside, burrowing into books or taking naps. But at over 360,000 square feet, everyone had sufficient space to stretch out and feel comfortable.

The Multnomah County collection is of better quality (not larger, Seattle is 2.4 million compared to about 2 million). Our patrons are nicer, circulation is higher, and our library is probably the county’s most laudable act. Nobody’s going to give Ted Wheeler and company more money to put people in jail, but a bond measure to build a world class downtown library would win easily.



Dear Friend of Murals,

We are in the wonderful position of advising the City of Portland’s legal department, Mayor Potter and City Council members as they begin the process of crafting new language for the city’s sign code in regard to large-scale (over 200 sq ft), outdoor murals.

Clear Channel Mural Trial Results

Because of Judge Marcus’ Opinion of May 2007 at the close of the Clear Channel v City Portland trial, the City now has the judge’s directive to correct this long-standing code issue and to draw a distinction between commercial signs and murals.

To better make our suggestions known to City leaders, Portland Mural Defense came up with a short survey for muralists & mural supporters so that we can learn your thoughts on just what this new sign code should entail.

Already, some City Bureaus (Planning, etc.) have suggested that the difference between signs and murals is merely a mechanical one: ie. billboard signs use photographic techniques and are printed on vinyl, therefore, murals cannot be done on vinyl using digital techniques. Signs usually are positioned high on poles to attract the attention of traffic, so murals should only occupy the wall space from 14 feet up, down to the sidewalk level.

And so on.

If adopted, this type of legal distinction would severely limit the range of creative approaches available to muralists- for now, and far into the future!!

Instead, the true distinction between a sign and a mural is in intent.

Murals have a different purpose, use different processes (they are collaborative, and community-minded) and have different financial compensation arrangements than signs do.

In the Clear Channel v City of Portland trial, longtime muralist Joe Cotter was a pro se, third party intervenor and brought artists and members of the arts education community into the courtroom to testify on “what is a mural” for the first time in the case’s nine year history. Additionally, John Frohnmayer (former head of the NEA) also testified about the obvious differences between art and signage.

The Time Is Now!

Our Portland City Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Tracy Reeve, Deputy City Attorney (who was lead attorney for the City in the Clear Channel trial), must make a recommendation to Mayor Potter before the end of next week (Friday, September 28th) on what the new sign code law will include. She is eager to hear from artists.


Your comments on this issue are crucial. We have only a few days to advise her and have an effect on what she will tell Mayor Potter about murals.

After next week a lengthy legislative process will follow that will include meetings and public hearings (details still to come on that phase). Stay tuned!

What You Can Do Complete the Portland Public Mural Survey now!

We’ll use the data to better inform ourselves about the mural arts community’s concerns and to advise City Council.

Write to City Council, describing your own experiences with murals and why they are an important avenue of expression.

Write directly to:

Deputy City Attorney Tracy Reeve, City of Portland Attorney’s Office
1221 SW 4th Ave. Room 430, Portland, OR 97204
e-mail: treeve@ci.portland.or.us

4) Share the Mural Survey with other artists and interested friends. If you have a blog or other news medium, feel free to post the survey and background material.


Portland Mural Defense, Steering Committee – Joe Cotter, Mark Meltzer, Joanne Oleksiak

Jails and prisons give a twist to the conventional percent-for-art formulas. Who is the audience? Inmates? Guards? Neighbors? The press? Politicians? The guy driving the delivery truck? Hard to tell.

Years ago I advised a state corrections system commissioning artwork for their new $100 million high security prison. After fussing quite a bit with the silliness of buying art in general, they set their collective hearts on buying ONE piece of art requiring ZERO maintenance and would sink to the center of the earth at the first opportunity.

They commissioned a $1,000,000 cast iron ball and chain and set it in the turnabout. At four tons, it’s sinking into the soil as I type.

I imagine the Multnomah County administrators who advocated for and built Wapato Jail in North Portland knew the $56,000,000 state-of-the-art jail would never open. Corruption? Likely; no one will ever investigate. Incompetence? Certainly; we’re too convivial to point out the obvious.

Wapato Jail was located on empty land owned by the County in the North Portland industrial area called Rivergate. Surrounded by flood channels, a polluted lake and a landfill, and with jets launching overhead every few moments, the parcel proved hard to lease.

The percent-for-the-arts artwork which came from the Wapato Jail construction, I think for the most part, is not at Wapato. The artwork is to the East across the polluted and vibrant Smith and Bybee Lakes, and in Delta Park scattered around a sewage treatment plant. It’s a series of hideous peeled trees with weird pods attached – perhaps for animal nests – by Fernanda D’Agostino and large molded concrete objects, shells, bones, ancient pods, by Valerie Otani – items expected on a science fiction movie set.

Anyway, at the Wapato Jail, empty, locked and surrounded by high fences and cameras, are a series of artifice river pilings aligning the entrance road. The first set are bound with steel cables and bolts, then come single posts, then a clutch of five or so pilings. Real pilings can still be found at the riversides, made from tall pines and soaked in tar and fuel oil, a toxic swill called creosote, possibly at the McCormick & Baxter Plant down the way.

Finally, in the parking lot turnaround are more pilings, set in a V-shape, various heights, the tip pointing generally toward the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, about a half mile off at Kelly Point Park. The V-shape can only been seen from the sky.

See the V-shape formation of pilings from high above by clicking here.

I’m certain there is some sort of artist’s statement which tries to make sense of this waste, set out before waste, surrounded by waste; but it’s unimportant because it’s overwhelmed by context, out of control by the artist. It’s just sad, another ball and chain.

From the RACC plaque – The Baobab tree, with its powerful symbolism and unique physical characteristics, has been a beacon for communities and cultures around the world. This abstracted tree illustrates our connection to nature and to each other through impressions of the four seasons in mosaic and solar lighting that glows according to the amount of light each season offers.

Ruth Frances Greenberg and David Joseph Laubenthal made Baobab in 2003. It’s had what looks like a series of maintenance problems since.

Currently the tilework, done by Greenberg, is wrapped in plastic. The small solar panels, not recognizable from the ground, are not functioning – or the wiring, or the light fixtures inside. Something’s not working.

I’m not certain how a Baobab came to Alberta or how it “has been a beacon for communities and cultures around the world”. The tree – Adansonia – is the national tree of Madagascar.

It’s one thing to amass an enormous collection of artwork, spread it all around and invite people to partake. It’s a completely different agenda to monitor, maintain, clean, repair, and secure Portland’s public artwork. After the unveiling, what happens to artwork which needs repair work?

The Regional Arts and Culture Council provides the conservation & maintenance, of the artworks in their collection – as Baobab is. Budgets are tight and RACC’s mission is spread thin. And this sculpture, on NE Alberta Street, must wait it’s turn to be repaired or removed.

The “powerful symbolism” is Portland can’t – or won’t – maintain it’s artwork.

Governance by boards of directors are a fairly obsolete and useless form of management. They hinder more than help. Two remaining purposes – to raise money, and to lead by example.

Regional Arts and Culture Council – Board of Directors. What’s missing? Who are these people? Who are these leaders-by-example? I count only 2 of 22 who are artists, and, I think, neither depend on the arts for their meals. And what do they represent in common besides RACC? Wealth, privilege and power.

RACC Officers

Mary Edmeades, Chair – Operations VP for Albina Community Bank

Ernie Bloch, Vice-Chair – retired director of the PacifiCorp Foundation (qualifying distributions FY 05/06 $2,171,117)

Claudia Burnett, Treasurer – She is COO of the Oregon Historical Society. Her father, C. Howard Burnett, was president of the OHS board from 1981 to 1983.

Jim Neill, Secretary – Davis Wright Tremaine

Eloise Damrosch, Ex Officio – RACC Executive Director

RACC Directors

Gwyneth Gamble Booth – long resume

  • Chair of the PGE Foundation (qualifying distributions for FY 03/04 $897,141)
  • Former Board member of PGE
  • Longtime producer / host of KOAP-TV’s Front Street Weekly

Peter Cookson – Dean of the Lewis & Clark Graduate School

Mark Edlen – Gerdling Elden, property development

Leslie Garcia – OHSU Center for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs

Pam Gibson – Ms. Scott Gibson, and an artist

Stacey Graham – VP of marketing for First Independent Bank

Larry Harvey – Pac/West Communications

Larry Lewis – Accounting professor at the University of Portland

Mary Maletis – Columbia Distributing and Maletis Beverage

Josie Mendoza – Ms. Hugh Mackworth of SmartForest Ventures

Carole Morse – President of PGE Foundation (qualifying distributions for FY 03/04 $897,141)

Tad Savinar – Artist

Deborah Saweuyer-Parks is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Homestead Capital (and long ago worked on LIEAP!)

Carol Smith is with Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education. She is Chief of Staff for Portland schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips (and likely successor).

Jayne Stamm – Ms. Doug Stamm, CEO of the Meyer Memorial Trust (qualifying distributions, $30,533,405 in FY 05/06)

Craig Thompson – General Manager of Hotel Monaco

Julie Vigeland – former Chair of the Junior League, Portland Civic Theatre, Portland Center Stage, and manager of their recent Capital Campaign. Ms. Ted Vigeland

The look, demonstrated above by David Fitzgerald, of Central City Concern’s Mentor Program, holds terrific meaning – your life depends on not lying to me.

Learn more about David Fitzgerald by reading Redemption Man, from The Oregonian, June 2005.

It’s not a threat. It’s a powerful truth which can only be shared by select individuals, bound by trust and experience, and in this circumstance by addiction.

Brian Lindstrom has been interested in addiction for twenty years. After attending Syracuse and making an excellent match with Cheryl Strayed, Brian returned home to Portland to toil for the NW Film Center and various nonprofits, making the rough Kicking in 2002, and now Finding Normal.

Finding Normal plays July 24 – August 2 at Cinema 21. I am anxious to see it.

The film is about the solution to addiction – which has been available on a very limited scale in the parking lots of Narcotics Anonymous meetings and now at semi-pro scale through Central City Concern, one of the nation’s most innovative addiction treatment organizations.

There are two parts to the solution; the first part is that being in the presence of recovering addicts is essential for people for whom “normal” has evaporated; the second is that for the addict every person, place and thing must change to get well. Everything. The alternative is foretold and quite real: jails, institutions and death. The difficult challenging change is called, “Finding Normal.”

Jill Kahnert is the hero here. It’s rare to see an angel at work. She’s tough, streetwise and no saint. Saving lives is her business and she is all business. And the vast structure of Central City Concern makes this possible with a variety of integrated programs, from detox to permanent housing.

Lies are commonly told about addiction and treatment. A blood transfusion, or a posh beach front treatment center, a state-certified counselor, a pill or a prayer. All lies. It’s quite a bit harder than that.

Read the research – Addictions Recovery Mentor Program Report, from January 2001

Results? Very simply, the mentor program improves program engagement from 51% to 86%, and program completion from 16% to 45%.

But Portland – and the insipid Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services Division – largely ignored careful research on the CCC Mentor Program, it’s merits and success. Why isn’t CCC completely funded? Good question – ask Ted Wheeler, who tried to squash an essential feature of this vital program – Hooper Detox.

Film review by Shawn Levy of The Oregonian
Finding life after detox – by Inara Verzemnieks

The new national study is Arts & Economic Prosperity III: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences created by Americans for the Arts.

From the RACC press release

According to a new national study, 111 arts and culture organizations in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties collectively generated more than $318 million in local economic activity and supported more than 10,300 local, full-time equivalent jobs in fiscal year 2006.

Those organizations pumped over $166 million directly into the local economy in the form of employee wages, purchase of supplies and services, and acquisition of assets. Their audiences generated another $151 million of commerce with restaurant, hotel, parking and other expenditures related to attending arts or cultural events (not counting ticket purchases).

  • Complete Arts in Economic Prosperity III national report will be available some time in mid-June. When the time comes you can download it from here.

Check out the impact of your arts organization using this cute calculator.

This is valuable data for creating case statements with convincing arguments to fund the arts – for both municipalities, corporate donors and individual donors. The most significant direct beneficiary of arts funding? Restaurant owners.

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