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On any given corner in Portland, take a moment to look up. You may be greeted by examples of astounding craftsmanship: impressive architecture, intricate sculptures and — easily the most bountiful example of public art — a myriad of colorful murals. Painted on the sides of buildings, covering pathways and livening up other structures, this display of artistic talent gives you a look at the city’s bursting creativity and its beautiful tapestry of cultures.
Here are some of the top Portland murals to incorporate into your own self-guided walking tour. If you’re left wanting more, check out the Portland murals mapped out by the Portland Street Art Alliance, including a walking map of the Alberta Arts District, a biking map of the Central Eastside Industrial District and an all-city highlights map.
Invitation to Dance in the Street
Near the Hampton Opera Center on the east end of the Tilikum Crossing bridge is a beautiful homage to Latino culture, Frida Kahlo and the magic of music. “Arte, Musica y Amigos” is a 22,000-square foot mural painted on the ground. Among the many colorfully striking elements in the mural, which stretches 460 feet, is a spiral of piano keys that helps bring the beautiful street mural to life — you can walk or bike over the keys in an imaginary concert. The artwork was created in collaboration with Prosper Portland, Latino Network, Ideal PDX, The City Repair Project and the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Black Lives Matter Now and Always
In the summer of 2020, when Portland was in the midst of monthslong protests against police killings of Black citizens, a mural of George Floyd and his final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a national symbol of the movement. Painted on the plywood protecting the glass walls of Portland’s downtown Apple store, the mural launched a movement to connect local businesses with artists of color for contracted pieces. While the plywood has since been removed and donated to Don’t Shoot Portland (which has yet to announce plans for the piece), other murals inspired by the movement can be found at Bhuna Restaurant in Northwest Portland and on the Schrunk Riverview Tower on the east side of the St. Johns Bridge.
Portland’s Oldest Mural Restored
An enormous banana accompanied by the words “Art fills the void!” has become somewhat of a rallying cry for Portland artists and muralists. Displayed on the side of a building on Southeast 12th Avenue and Division Street since 1982, the piece, entitled “Gorilla Wallfare,” is considered Portland’s oldest piece of street art. It was restored in 2015, breathing new life into the eye-catching, fruity painting.
Public Art With a Natural Touch
Towering 70 feet on the side of the windowless Solterra building at the corner of Southeast Ninth and Division, “Attitude of Gratitude” incorporates a different medium alongside paint: plants. The mural depicts a woman with her palms together and a bird on her shoulder. But the most striking element is her hair, which is made up of 1,000 green plants.
Public Display of Oregon Love
Emblazoned with the words “You are confined only by the walls you build yourself,” the colorful mural near Northeast 22nd Avenue and Alberta Street has undoubtedly uplifted and motivated thousands of onlookers and passersby. Likely because the mural has many nods to Oregon’s landscape and culture, it is entitled “The Only Walls,” by artist Blaine Fontana. It’s also become known as “To Oregon, with love.”
Mesmerizing With Black and White
Though many muralists choose bold, eye-catching colors to tell a visual story, “Soul,” a mural by Mexico City artist Paola Delfin, captivates using only black and white. Located near Northwest 25th Avenue and Lovejoy Street, the thought-provoking image shows a woman’s face with eyes closed and hair that transforms into leaves, branches and what appears to be organs.
Kindness On Display
A painting of two interlocked hands commands several stories of a building at Southwest 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Portland. It’s about as hard to miss as its meaning. The detailed depiction, which is framed by flowers, is all about human kindness shown through the act of helping one another.