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Japanese visitors help 'Artistic Darlings' paint street mural

DAVID F. ASHTON - Two of the seven kids visiting from Japan get a taste of Portland culture - by helping paint a street mural in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood. A group that calls itself the “Artistic Darlings of Brentwood-Darlington” came up with the idea of painting a street mural in their neighborhood’s intersection at S.E. 70th Avenue and Ogden Street.

The painting took all day on June 12, and turned into a block party – and an international exchange gathering.

“Carolyn Hauck, one of our ‘Darlings’, thought of the project, learned how to organize it from the ‘City Repair’ people, and directed our group,” explained “Gem Ginger” Martinsen, the artist who created the artistic design of the street mural.

“This project is important to the committee, because they think of art as an ‘amazing communication tool’ for positive change in our community – an historically neglected neighborhood,” Gem Ginger explained.

“We want to help people feel proud of where they live – and perhaps, slow down traffic along our neighborhood streets!” she added.

About the design, Gem Ginger told THE BEE, “We wanted it to represent the diversity of our neighborhood; the urban garden culture of our neighborhood. So, we decided on a ‘Tree of Life’ design – a symbol used in very different cultures, from early Christianity to ancient Egypt to scientific Darwinism.

“There’s a lot of symbolism in the design,” she continued. “And we also have some ivy, because it is, like us, invasive – many of us are not native Oregonians.”

The volunteer project stared at 6 a.m. on June 12; first with the cleaning of the pavement, then the chalking out of the design, and finally the painting. But, not all of the volunteers came from the neighborhood. Seventeen adults and seven kids, all vacationing from Japan, also participated in the project.

Tour guide Yuri Baxter-Neal explained that she organizes “Life Sampling” activities for visitors. “Instead of taking them to a museum or a coffee stop, they get to experience the ordinary life in Portland, is if they were living here.” In this case, by painting the street!

The Japanese visitors sampled some of the American food, snacks, and beverages provided by the organizers.

“And, our group brought a Japanese lunch and they shared it, that so Portland people could have some of theirs,” Baxter-Neal. “It’s all part of a one-on-one cultural exchange.”

The result: another intersection decorated, and a cultural exchange completed as well, on the streets of Brentwood-Darlington.