Portland's Greatest Hidden Mural & it's Secret Historical Tale

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    elamental

    Published on Oct 28, 2021
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    Bear1.jpg

    I occasionally publish photographs of outstanding murals I find around Portland - a city renowned for it's culture and art. I have been holding onto these photos (and short video) for quite some time (since 2019 I think). We were on the way back from somewhere, and happened to find ourselves in a peculiar part of town that I do not usually travel through (a bit off in the cut). As I was driving past this monstrous goliath of a mural - I was compelled to pull over, park, and document.

    Bear2.jpg

    First the art - we have some serious Kodiak lookin grizzlies on these walls - SUPER epic! These visuals are obviously very attractive. The style, the color spectrum choices, the tastefully faded Douglas Furs and foggy mountains in the background, the well crafted depiction of sheer aggression and ferocity in the bears' expressions, and just the sheer enormity of the work - all of these features made this quite the masterpiece in my option.

    Bear4.jpg

    | Even rooftop murals were included in the collage |

    Only today, as I unarchived these photos and did a bit of research, did I realize that there is much more to the story of this mural than I was aware. Apparently this building used to be a dairy (milk) factory (as if I couldn't tell by the huge milk carton atop the building pictured two photos up - doi!), and since they went out of business, the building's structural integrity had become compromised beyond legality.

    Bear5.jpg

    Once someone else purchased the building - they quickly realized that the purely white exterior was a blank canvas breeding ground for street graffiti. Since the city requires all building owners to keep up with cleaning or painting over graffiti on their walls, the new owners found themselves repainting this place every other week - in the face of fines.
    After incurring what I am sure were some unanticipated high costs for upkeep on a building that is guaranteed to be demolished eventually, the owners came up with a very creative (pun intended) solution. They fought fire with fire (or art with art), by hiring talented local mural artists to paint immense murals all over their building. It is kind of ironic - that the same type of people that were causing the issues, ended up being the one's that solved them. It obviously doesn't keep 100% of taggers off the building, but street artists are much less likely to tag over art deserving of so much respect... and taking up so much space.

    Bear3.jpg

    I also just realized that there was way more than just the bear mural on that building. I knew they did the adjacent wall obviously (as you can see in the above photo), but I had no idea how much more there was to it. There is even rooftop art you can see three photos above.

    Bear6 - size ref.jpg

    Here you can see @hempress (barely haha - pun again) in front of one of the bears for size reference of the massiveness in this work. I uncovered more info about the history and future of this building in an amazing, detailed, and well documented publication about the mural - news report video included - definitely check that link out if you want to know/see more about this project - good art beat bad art, absolutely love the concept.
    It is my understanding that even though the building was scheduled to be demolished a while back, it still stands to this day (also typical for Portland to take forever with construction related projects - in this case I am happy about it). The mural idea came about when they realized the building would be sitting unoccupied for at least a year, and as far as I know, is still used as a practice space for all the talented artists involved with the project.

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