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A community art project

With the help of volunteers, a local Sharpie-artist takes to the wall of a Gresham 76 gas station


by: JIM CLARK - Antwoine Thomas designed the Rockwood mural. He says if he had to use one word to describe it, it would be 'liberating.' The painting is so brightly colored because Thomas originally drew the design using Sharpies.

Antwoine Thomas, 24, stands on a ladder, his paint brush sliding green against the concrete.

“Antwoine, ‘sup!” yells a passerby.

“Hey! Not much,” he responds, looking down.

The passer-by stops for a moment, taking in Thomas’s back-of-the-gas-station art — a brightly colored wall of trees, flowers, rocks and people: the community.

Thomas’ mural has been a year in the making. It is expected to be completed Saturday, Aug. 11. The mural takes up the back wall of the 76 gas station on Southeast 162nd Avenue and Southeast Stark Street. There will be a celebration from 1-4 p.m. Aug. 11 in the parking lot of the gas station.

Thomas designed the mural. Addie Boswell, a local artist heavily involved in the planning and execution of community murals, joins him. She says this is the first community mural she’s helped organize that she hasn’t designed.

“It’s enjoyable,” she says. “His style is really different than mine; I learn by watching him.”

The project has sparked community interest. The night before painting began, Boswell, Thomas and a group of volunteers projected the design onto the wall. While they sketched over the lines with giant Sharpies pens, people came out of their houses to see what was going on.

They “came to the wall and asked, ‘How can I help?’ ” Thomas recalls.

Two grants — one from the Regional Arts & Culture Council and one from East Portland Neighbors for graffiti abatement — fund the project.

The project was organized by members of The Rosewood Initiative, an organization “dedicated to making the Rosewood area a desirable place to live, work and play,” says Jenny Glass, executive director of the initiative.

At the center of the mural is the initiative’s home, Rosewood Cafe, a place that in reality is just across the parking lot. In Thomas’ rendition of it, children play ring around the rosy in front of the building. Another kid climbs a ladder in the corner.

Thomas says the boy represents the community rising.

Antwoine Thomas

Thomas hasn’t always been a painter. In fact, this is his first mural. It began in late high school when he became bored with his plain, logo-less clothes and started creating his own designs by taking Sharpies to them.

He graduated from Cleveland High School in 2006 and since has taken a few art classes at Portland Community College.

About a year ago Thomas was homeless. He visited a friend who lived around the corner from the Rosewood Cafe. When he heard they were looking for an artist, he took Jenny Glass a few pieces of his work. She chose him to design the mural.

“Antwoine is passionate about his artwork and using his talent to inspire and challenge people to look at the world in a different way,” Glass says.

“Wild coloring is my style,” says Thomas, who now lives in Gresham. He’s the kind of guy who plays basketball and enjoys watching the Adult Swim channel. So creating a playful community feel, he says, was challenging.

The mural is aplenty with hearts and stars. Thomas isn’t embarrassed by this. “You can’t change everything without love in it,” he says, adding, “I think we’re all stars around here.”

To read more about the mural, go to our website, theoutlookonline.com.

Addie Boswell

In 2002, Iowa native Boswell took off to see the world. Portland was the first place she wanted to visit. She says when she arrived she loved it so much she stayed. She made a little niche for herself, teaching art in schools, painting murals for communities and writing books. by: JIM CLARK - Addie Boswell has been involved with many community murals. She says she liked how the community came together to help with this project.

Boswell says fine art is not her thing. “Murals fit me better. You can reach big and diverse groups of people,” she says.

Projects she has been involved with include the Tualatin Library mural and the mural at Vernon Elementary School in Portland. She also has been a visiting artist at East Orient Elementary School for the Talented and Gifted Program and has run art and writing programs at Multnomah County libraries, including Gresham and Fairview. She says her mission is to “empower people and convince people (who have stopped) to make art again.”

Boswell’s favorite part of the Rockwood mural was seeing the community come together and help.

“Addie is an energetic and experienced mural artist and has helped us make this possible,” Glass says.

Community

by: JIM CLARK - The painting is so brightly colored because Thomas orginally drew the design using Sharpies. Thomas says the project policy is “No matter how big or small, teamwork makes good dreamwork.”

People of all ages gathered to help. Swiping red paint onto the wall, 13-year-old Demareae Luster said, “I’m having fun. I like to get up and do something.”

Glass believes the mural will be “a visible representation of the potential that exists within Rosewood to make this a strong, healthy, vibrant place to live and work.”



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