Portland's Public Art

It’s no secret that Portland is a vibrant city with a passion for the arts. In addition to delving into the fine arts at Portland Art Museum and at the various neighborhood art walks, such as the Pearl District’s First Thursday, public art can be enjoyed through a self-guided walking tour in Portland’s central city.

Oregon’s “Percent For Art” program was established in 1975, mandating that 1% of direct construction costs of new or remodeled state buildings with budgets over $100,000 were to be used for the acquisition of public art – art that can be viewed by anyone at any time. The result is a downtown filled with intriguing pieces that have become a part of the overall look of Portland. The program is managed by Portland’s Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC). The collection is now a part of the City of Portland and Multnomah County’s Public Art Collection.

You can pick up a Guide To Public Art at Travel Portland’s Visitor Information Center in Pioneer Courthouse Square and set out on a self-guided walking tour of artwork that is thought-provoking, accomplished, visually interesting and sometimes even humorous. And you can enjoy all of this fantastic art for free! The self-guided tour includes the University District, downtown, the Pearl District, Old Town/Chinatown, Waterfront Park, the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade and the Lloyd District/Central Eastside.

Here are some brief descriptions of the pieces shown here:

- “The Dreamer” is a bronze sculpture located in Pettygrove Park at 200 SW Market Street. Created by Manuel Izquierdo in 1979, the sculpture is both modern and sensual. The courtyard itself is lovely, and – for additional trivia – was a recent location in the television series “Grimm”.

- The geometric stainless steel fountain is located at SW 6th and Burnside by the US Bancorp Tower, affectionately known as “Big Pink”. The untitled fountain was made in 1977 by Lee Kelly, who is known as “Oregon’s Sculptor”.

- The adorable feline is entitled “Cat In Repose” and was sculpted in Indiana limestone by Kathleen McCullough in 1977. You can view the cat on SW 5th, between Morrison and Alder Street.

- “Interlocking Forms” was also created in 1977, and is also made of Indiana limestone. You can see the piece by artist Don Wilson at SW 6th and Washington Street, by the Hotel Monaco. The piece was commissioned with the hopes of making the transit mall more people-oriented and attractive. Kids seem to really enjoy this sculpture!

- “Pod” is a 30-foot sculpture located across from Powell’s Books at SW 10th and Burnside. Created in 2002 by artist Pete Beeman, the sculpture is supposed to represent infrastructure, vibrancy and energy.

There are dozens more included in the adventure. Enjoy your free self-guided walking tour!


Add to the Discussion (1)


8 years ago

We love Portland's public art, including these sculptures and so many others. Great to know there is a self-guided walking tour, too--thanks, Merlin!

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