Creating Community Through Art

Wattles Boys & Girls Club installs community-based mural with help of local partners

A Mural for Everyone

Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area (BGCP) is excited to partner with Regional Arts and Culture Council, Rosewood Initiative, POIC, Rosemary Anderson High School, and Latino Network to install a community-based mural at the Wattles Boys & Girls Club in SE Portland.

With direction from local artist Rodolfo Serna, the goal of the mural is to create a culturally inclusive installation that represents all community voices.  Not only were youth included in creating the vision for the mural, but they will also help create the final mural itself.

The mural is set to be complete December 12, 2015.

The Inspiration

This project was inspired a year ago when gang-affected youth from the Latino Network and Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. (POIC) came together for a game of basketball.  However, instead of a competitive tournament or match between these two groups, Latino and African American youth were playing side by side.  With the support of staff from both organizations, potentially violently contentious young people were able to build a foundation of trust and faith that enabled this truly unique event to blossom.

This basketball game inspired the artist Rodolfo Serna, who is also a case manager at Latino Network, to facilitate a similar side by side experience through large scale art.  Serna envisioned a mural that told the multicultural stories of youth across Portland with images created by the youth themselves. Not only would the actual mural imagery display communities woven together, but the creation of the mural itself would provide a safe and catalytic space for gang-affected youth to collaborate. This public mural would broadcast the poignant message of healing that art can provide through a story specific to the youth of our city.

The Vision

The mural tells the story of the Four Directions, an indigenous philosophy from the Americas that states that though we may be divided by space and color we are all still within the same circle and are all related.  Youth from each of the contributing organizations are associated with one of these four distinct directions. Each direction features an ancestral figure filling the lower half of the mural. These figures, including Buddha, Isis, Centeōtl, and Athena are symbolic of the Protector spirits of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe respectively. They are pictured united in the underworld supporting the Earth above.

Butterflies representing spirits of the ancestors and rainbows of color surround them. Above these deities, the top half of the mural features our world through the eyes of the youth participants. Their contributions include examples of music, heroes, places, plants, animals and foods with significant cultural value such as the yams, rice, corn, and salmon.  There are also historical cultural references to railroad workers laboring and farmers in rice fields.  Strong themes of traditional dance and music as well as spiritual connections to nature are expressed across the Four Directions.

Special Thanks

The 4 Directions Mural was made possible thanks to Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Special thanks to our partners Latino Network, POIC, Rosewood Initiative, and more.