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Mausoleum Wall’s Heron is Due Some Company

July 22, 2008

By Tara Ballenger, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

Jul. 22–The 70-foot painted great blue heron that overlooks the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Portland is about to get some company.

Later this month, the 3,500-square-foot watercolor-style mural on the west side of the Portland Memorial Mausoleum will be retouched and expanded with images of flora and native migratory birds on west- and south- facing walls.

When completed in mid-September, the 45,000-square-foot artwork will be one of the largest murals in the United States, said Mike Houck, director of the Urban Greenspaces Institute, which is helping lead the project. It’s intended to show the beauty of nature to everyone from bicyclists and runners on the Springwater Corridor Trail to motorists heading south on Interstate 5.

“The idea is to have something that is not garish and does not stand out with superbright colors,” Houck said. “The scale is so big that it will capture people’s imagination.”

The work is being coordinated by Urban Greenspaces Institute and Art FX Murals, a Portland company that paints murals for clients across the nation. They’re the same team that created the original mural in 1991.

“It’s something nice for the city that’s going to be permanent,” said Shane Bennett, a lead Art FX artist for the project. “Most of the murals we do are advertisements and just get painted over.”

This time, there will be an educational component, too. TrackersNW, an organization that teaches outdoors skills to young people, will recruit high school students to help paint under the supervision of Art FX. School-age children also will be able to participate in one-day art workshops and excursions into the wildlife refuge as part of the project, Houck says.

Much of the project’s cost is being donated. Art FX is providing $150,000 in services. The owners of the mausoleum, in addition to donating the wall space, are giving several thousand dollars. Portland’s Miller Paint is providing the paint, as it did in 1991.

“We talked to people whose family members have memorials there,” said Dave Schroeder, who manages the mausoleum. “Everyone we spoke to was very positive about it.”

The mausoleum, he added, was built in 1901 and has been added to in phases since then. “The back of the building is not too attractive the way it is now.”

The Urban Greenspaces Institute, a nonprofit that works to bring nature to the city by preserving habitat and promoting eco-friendly construction and renovation projects, lined up donations to cover the $68,000 remaining after donated services. They include $20,000 from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, which donates a portion of profits from the Spirit Mountain Casino on behalf of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

“Our tribal council and trustees have a passion for the natural environment and were really wanting to highlight nature, especially in the urban setting,” said Shelley Hanson, the fund’s director.

Donations also came from the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the Oregon Community Foundation.

The neighborhood association — the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League — also wrote a letter of support after Houck gave a presentation on the project.

“It will add to the artistic quality of Oaks Bottom,” said Eric Norberg, the league’s secretary.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

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