Multi-cultural mural adorns Parkrose High

No, the mural isn’t in Parkrose High School – this artwork wraps around the top of the Parkrose High Theater. See why this project has several “firsts”

Larry Kangas advises Parkrose High principal Roy Reynolds as he takes a turn on the high lift applying a panel of the mural early in the project.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Portland’s first publicly-funded mural project nears completion – and it’s on Parkrose High School.

“This is the first project of this kind in outer East Portland,” said Peggy Kendellen, Public Art Director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Public Art Murals Program. “The school is the first group to apply for doing a mural in East Portland. I really like the tie-in of the subject matter to the school’s mascot.”

As the project progressed, the east side of the school takes on a new look – one that can be seen from NE 122nd Avenue.

Ideas from students, help from community
Joanne Oleksiak, Parkrose High School Community Coordinator and 2007 Mural Project Coordinator, oversaw the application process, served as the technical advisor, and worked – hands on – during every phase of the project.

“What’s been really fun,” Oleksiak told us, “is the involvement we’ve had with every stratum of the community. Students in our Mural Arts Club suggested many of the images. Several of them worked to help the artist produce the panels doing the decorative detail work, background, gelling.”

Many community members pitched in to help prepare and post the mural Oleksiak said.

Spy’s spectacular canvas
Months ago, when mural artist Larry Kangas visited Parkrose High School as he considered the project proposal, he was immediately attracted to the three-story tall theater riser that faces NE 122nd Avenue.

“Being so tall and broad, it made a spectacular canvas for a mural,” Kangas said. “Sadly, even with the best high-lift equipment available, there wasn’t a way to reach it.”

He wanted this mural to have impact, Kangas said. “We came up with the idea of wrapping a frieze (wall painting) around the building.”

Mural artist Larry Kangas thanks some of the many students who helped develop the concept of the mural and prepare the panels.

Mural celebrates school’s mascot
Kangas said the mural is a “take on the school’s mascot, the mustang bronco. The mural depicts horses through time – starting from ancient cave etchings, through all cultures and eras – until the present. We’ll end up in modern times, ending up with Rossi Farm.”

We watched Kangas as he worked on panels in school’s art center. “It’s painted on Pelon, a stable, non-woven material used in the clothing and printing industries. There is a lot of acrylic medium to saturate it. Then, we put a heavier gel on the front and back. Finally, the panels are applied to the building.”

At a community unveiling, Joanne Oleksiak presents artist Larry Kangas with a remembrance gift.

Broadening community support
One benefit of this project, according to Parkrose High principal Roy Reynolds, is broadening community involvement in the school. “It’s been great working with so many community members on the mural.”

Reynolds added that one of the goals of his administration “is to make the school more than just a brick-and-mortar building in Parkrose, but really a part of Parkrose. Our community celebrates and hosts people from many different cultures; this mural symbolizes our diversity.”

Larry Kangas gives details about his mural that depicts how horses (Parkrose High’s mascot is the Bronco) have been influential in human history.

Special sentiment shared
At the unveiling celebration held on July 28, Kerina Blanchard read this brief essay by Bev Cordova, Chair of the school’s PHS Fine & Performing Arts Academy:

“Parkrose High School students are like students everywhere. They want to learn, succeed and have something to be proud of.

“I challenge you to come close to the mural, study it, or find a face or scene you can connect to. Now, stand back and look at the mural as a whole – it is the story of people, moving forward, into the future.

“Understand that you are part of the movement, and part of the future.”

Members of the community admire the new artwork, completed on August 7, that adorns Parkrose High School.

Project kudos
When we told Oleksiak we’d like to give kudos to those who participated, she replied, “The whole community pitched in on this long and massive project. I hope the list covers everyone involved – each individual’s participation was vital.”

The Parkrose Mural Project was funded by the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Public Art Murals Program.

Mural studio facilities (in the PHS Fine Arts Building) and school-based in-kind support were provided by Parkrose HS Community Center, Parkrose School District and School Board, and PHS Fine & Performing Arts Academy, Bev Cordova, Chair.
Additional in-kind support provided by: American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter, Oregon State Service Corps/AmeriCorps, and Oregon Bench Press Challenge volunteers Jared & “JT”.

Mural visionaries — Design Development & Encouragement Division –include the PHS staff, Mike Taylor (retired Parkrose Schools superintendent), Roy Reynolds, Trevor Todd (SUN Program/Portland Parks & Recreation), May Wallace, Mark Warner, and Meg Kilmer.

Special notice to PHS students Dominique Blanchard, Kerina Blanchard, Isaac Song, Cesar Pina, Nhumy, Truc, Valerie Robinson, Lindsey Thompson, Mara Estrada, Oswaldo, Luis, Christian Leon, Stephanie … and others!

Project painting volunteers included Roy Reynolds, Holly Gillette, Isaac Song and Russell Martin.

Project site logistics volunteers were Hank Frecke, Tony Johnson, Sharon DeWitt, Don, and Dave.

Project volunteers for mural installation included Edison and Temo, Programa Hispano; Erica Martin, Parkrose UCC Church; Tanner Martin, Russell Martin, Bev Cordova, Nick Richmond, Marah, Asa, Joe Cotter, Mark Meltzer, Norma Piper, Eileen Belanger, Dave, Julie, Siena, Brenda … and others.

Project documentarians Jimi & Kim Blanchard, Vaughn, Portland Community Media’s IBPO (Independent Black Programmers of Oregon); Patrick F. Smith still photography; and Joanne Oleksiak on-site/in-studio photographs.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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