New Cultural Trust License Plate Showcases Oregon’s Diversity


The new “Celebrate Oregon” license plate design marking the Cultural Trust’s 20th Anniversary will be available on October 1, 2021.

Salem – A new license plate design that celebrates Oregon and the diversity of its culture will debut Oct. 1 in recognition of the Oregon Cultural Trust’s 20th Anniversary. The artwork is called Celebrate Oregon!

The artwork for the license plate, created by Liza Burns of Eugene, will also be installed as full-scale murals at the Eugene, Medford, Portland and Redmond airports through a partnership with, a learning and marketplace destination for sustainable transportation. In addition, a 38-foot outdoor banner will be installed at the Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum.

“The new design, built on a panorama of Oregon geography, reflects and respects the diversity of our culture at a time we need it most,” said Cultural Trust Board Chair Niki Price. “Cultural expression is how our communities define themselves – how they live their everyday lives, their traditions, their heritage, their creativity, their celebrations, their values and how they connect with one another. Our culture is the glue that can bind us together as Oregonians.”

“Oregonians value sustainability and embrace green energy,” said Tina Miller, Chief Financial Officer of Lithia Motors and GreenCars spokesperson. “Our partnership with the Oregon Cultural Trust, and sponsorship of these magnificent murals, is our way of bringing this important part of Oregon culture into the picture.”

Celebrate Oregon! is a vibrant tapestry of Oregon geography into which are woven 127 symbols representing different aspects of our collective arts, heritage, history and cultural practices. It is the result of a year-long, inclusive process that began with a group of statewide nominators sharing the creative brief with artists and designers.

A total of 36 artists submitted statements of interest and work samples. A diverse jury evaluated the submissions and recommended 20 artists be invited to submit preliminary concepts in exchange for a $250 honorarium. An expanded jury evaluated the concepts based on criteria derived from the creative brief and unanimously recommended Burns’ design to the Cultural Trust Board of Directors, which unanimously approved it in October. Burns met with several content experts, identified through the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to finalize symbols included in the design.

“We knew that reflecting the breadth of Oregon culture, and how it brings us together, in one design was an extremely ambitious goal,” said Cultural Trust Executive Director Brian Rogers. “Liza’s creation does that and so much more. It captures the spirit of Oregon and also serves as an educational tool for exploring our diversity. We are incredibly proud and excited to share it with Oregonians.”

The license plate artwork will be accompanied by an interactive visual key that explains each of the symbols and how they connect to Oregon culture, accessed via a QR code. The key will aid the design discovery while informing Oregonians about the breadth of cultures we as a people represent.

Events celebrating the unveiling of the murals are scheduled for Sept. 21 at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in partnership with the Medford Arts Commission; Oct. 15 at FlyRedmond; Oct. 28 at Eugene Airport; and tentatively for mid-November TBD at Portland International Airport. The artwork will also be available as a poster and a limited-edition print. Details will be posted on the Cultural Trust website.

The new license plate will be available beginning Oct. 1 on the Oregon DMV website, at DMV field offices and at car dealerships across the state, including Lithia’s 32 franchise dealerships. NOTE: Photos of the license plate design, the artist at work and a time lapse video of her mural creation are available here.


Artist: Liza Burns

Liza Burns is an illustrator, muralist and designer based in Eugene, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University and an Associate Degree in Graphic Design from Lane Community College. After graduating from BU, Burns lived and worked in Los Angeles where she painted her first large-scale mural at Blue Cow Kitchen in downtown Los Angeles. Her mural art now appears in restaurants, shops, businesses and office buildings across Oregon, California, Texas and Connecticut. She has exhibited her work at the First Friday Artwalk, Lane Community College, and has illustrated for publications like Eugene Weekly, Ruralite, and others. Her illustrative work can be found with a variety of clients: Lane Transit District, Downtown Eugene, Mendocino Farms, Falling Sky Brewing, Eugene Concert Choir, the Kiva Grocery and more.

Burns’ work rewards discovery; she uses details and minutiae within larger and more colorful pieces to create layers of meaning and story. As a child she was deeply inspired by the work of Graeme Base (illustrator and author of books like “Animalia” and “The Eleventh Hour”), where she found a love and respect for art that tells a secret story that can only be unraveled by taking your time.

Artist statement: Cultural Trust license plate design

Capturing “Oregon Culture” in a single piece is an extraordinary challenge as Oregon is a diverse and beautiful arrangement of many cultures, each with their own subcultures and nuances. This abundance became the foundation of the piece. I focused on selecting imagery from sources big and small, obvious and obscure, to create a patchwork of symbols in which every Oregonian can see themselves.

I began with the Oregon landscape. To me, Oregon culture starts with the land, the sea, the mountains, the forests, the plains, the river valleys and the high deserts. The diversity and richness of the Oregon geography mirrors its people, which worked well as the foundation of the piece.

Once the landscape was in place, I built a concept of a “symbol overlay” to accommodate two things: First, the concept of an ever-evolving cultural group identity needed multiples, not singulars; Second, this project had a lot of stakeholders, and the design needed to serve both my vision and withstand/be improved by more cooks in the kitchen. I did initial research to find symbols and imagery that covered a wide swath of Oregon culture, and was careful to seek out pieces that were new to me. But with the help of a diverse group of content experts, the list of symbols and images swelled to include facets of the Oregon experience that I could have never found on my own.

I am excited to share this with other Oregonians, and to take them on the same journey of discovery I experienced.


Decision to pursue new plate design for 20th anniversary

In February of 2020, the Oregon Cultural Trust Board of Directors voted to pursue the creation of a new Cultural Trust license plate to mark the Cultural Trust’s 20th anniversary. Board members George Kramer, Theo Downes Le-Guin and Chris Van Dyke volunteered to serve on a Board Ad Hoc Committee to oversee the process. Cultural Trust Executive Director Brian Rogers, Trust Manager Aili Schreiner and Communications Manager Carrie Kikel also served on the Ad Hoc Committee.

Goal: To reflect and respect all Oregon culture

Their first action was to develop a creative brief to guide the design creation. The “big idea” for the creative brief was that “Our culture can be the glue that binds us together as Oregonians. Arts and culture cross all boundaries and inspire us to celebrate our diversity and resilience as a people.” Thus the goal of the license plate design became to reflect, respect and celebrate all of Oregon culture and the diverse cultures within it.

Phase One: Invitation to artists and designers

In July, artists and designers were nominated by a diverse group of 33 individuals representing Oregon’s artistic and design community. Each nominator was invited to forward the creative brief to artists or designers they felt might be interested. Thirty-six artists responded by completing an interest statement and submitting work samples. Their materials were reviewed in early August by a statewide jury charged with agreeing the 20 artists to be invited to submit preliminary concepts in exchange for a $250 honorarium.

Phase Two: Call for preliminary concepts

In September, an expanded jury reviewed the 20 preliminary concepts and ranked them based on criteria derived from the creative brief. The jury met on Monday, Sept. 28, to review average scores and agree how many finalists to recommend to the Board Ad Hoc. After robust discussion that included group review of the top-scoring concepts and conversation around ethnic representation and inclusion, the jury recommended that five artist concepts move forward for consideration by the Board Ad Hoc Committee.

Unanimous decision on successful concept

The Ad Hoc agreed to advance the three top concepts to the full Board of Directors at its October meeting with a strong recommendation for the top-scoring design concept created by Liza Burns of Eugene. The board agreed Burns’ design, a vibrant tapestry of Oregon geography into which are woven 127 symbols depicting different components of Oregon culture, was the most successful in achieving the goals of the creative brief. They voted unanimously to offer Burns a $5,000 contract to complete the final design by January 2021.

Final design process: Working with content experts

Cultural Trust staff then reached out to the Governor’s Office for guidance on how to identify content experts who could help ensure that the final design accurately reflected Oregon’s diverse cultures. They were directed to work with the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to pursue that goal.

The Governor has advocacy commissions to advise her on the many diverse populations Oregon serves. Advocacy commission members who volunteered to serve as content experts for the final design process are: Mohamed Alyajouri and Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie, Oregon Commission on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs; Linda Castillo, Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs; Mariotta Gary- Smith, Oregon Commission on Black Affairs; and Natasha Haunsperger, Oregon Commission for Women. Chuck Sams, a recognized Native American leader in Oregon and Immediate Past Chair of the Cultural Trust board, agreed to serve as the content expert for Native American culture.

Kikel and Burns met individually with all content experts in mid-December to share the preliminary concept and ask for candid feedback and suggestions. They asked “Do you see your culture represented in the design? If not, what symbols could be added to better reflect you culture?” Burns revised the design to reflect content expert feedback and suggestions, then reconvened with all content experts in mid-January to share the updated design. All of the content experts were extremely satisfied with the results and thanked her for including them.

The Ad Hoc Committee approved the final design in late January and it was submitted to the DMV. The plate is expected to go on sale to the public on Oct. 1, 2021, to coincide with the Cultural Trust’s 20th Anniversary.

Creation of license plate key and key narrative

Burns created a visual key to illuminate all 127 cultural symbols in the license plate design and worked with Kikel to draft a key narrative identifying the symbols and sharing their connection to Oregon culture. Numerous subject matter experts contributed to the key narrative. A QR code will guide design viewers to the key and narrative, which will be posted on the Cultural Trust website.

Created in 2001 by the Oregon Legislature, the Oregon Cultural Trust is a testimony to how much Oregonians value culture. No other state provides a 100 percent tax credit to inspire cultural giving. As uniquely Oregonian as public beaches and the bottle bill, the Oregon Cultural Trust was established 18 years ago by the Oregon Legislature as an ongoing funding engine for arts and culture across the state. Oregonians fund the Cultural Trust. We, in turn, fund the artists, potters, rappers, acrobats and dreamers who make Oregon, Oregon. In 2020 Oregonians gave $5.2 million to the Cultural Trust, our all-time record. Sixty percent of that will go straight back to the field. The remaining 40 percent will help grow our permanent fund. Our three grant programs fund our five Statewide Partners, 45 County and Tribal Coalitions and qualified cultural nonprofits through competitive Cultural Development Grants.

About Author

Carrie Kikel is the Communications Manager for Oregon’s Arts Department, which includes the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust. The Oregon Arts Commission provides statewide grant funding to artists, arts organizations and arts programs. The Cultural Trust raises public and private awareness and investment in arts, heritage, history, humanities and preservation.

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