The mural journey for the Oregon Cultural Trust’s Celebrate Oregon! artwork is complete, for now.
A 50-foot installation of the artwork was unveiled at Portland International Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Located on the airport’s new Concourse B, the exhibition includes a 16-by-8-foot original mural by artist Liza Burns and 40 of the artwork’s symbols with accompanying narrative.
Murals are also in place at the airports in Eugene, Medford and Redmond.
The PDX unveiling featured an opening song by the Grand Ronde Singers and a cultural presentation by Kúkátónón that included a poetry reading by 15-year-old Franklin High School student Marilyn Munoz and a performance by legendary hip hop artist Cool Nutz. Cool was the primary source for the narrative that accompanies artwork symbol #124, Microphone/ Rap and Hip Hop.
“The celebration was a reminder that community is a blend of many folks that want to see beauty through art and artistic expression,” said Zeenab Fowlk, Kúkátónón executive director.
All airport murals and unveiling events were sponsored by GreenCars.
The Celebrate Oregon! artwork is the result of an 18-month process to design a new Cultural Trust license plate to mark the Trust’s 20th anniversary. The goal was to create artwork that reflects and honors the diversity of Oregon’s culture.
More than 100 people were involved in the process, including statewide nominators, interested artists, jury members and content experts from the Governor’s Advocacy Commissions.
The artwork 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.
“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,” says 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.”
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 the 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,” says 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 artwork is 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.
The Oregon Cultural Trust was established in 2001 as a unique means to reward Oregonians who invest in culture. Oregonians who donate to a cultural nonprofit and then make a matching gift to the Cultural Trust receive a 100% state tax credit for their gift to the Trust. The Cultural Trust relies on matching gifts to provide grants and support to qualified cultural nonprofits, cultural agencies and county and tribal cultural grant making coalitions across the state.
In 2020 Oregonians gave $5.2 million to the Cultural Trust, an all-time record. Sixty percent of that was distributed in FY2022 grant awards. The remaining 40 percent helped grow the Trust’s permanent fund, now valued at more than $33 million.
Cultural Trust grant programs fund five Statewide Partners, 45 County and Tribal Coalitions and qualified cultural nonprofits through competitive Cultural Development Grants.