Rosemont Ridge student's artwork earns him a billboard near downtown Portland

by: VERN UYETAKE - Philip Chan describes his winning drawing about Oregon history, which will be placed on a billboard later this year. Holding the banner are his friends Harry Winsper (right) and Pooja Jain.Philip Chan has big love for both drawing and history — so big, one could say it could fill a billboard.

That is a good thing, as Philip was named the winner of the Oregon History Rocks Billboard Art Competition.

Philip, who was a sixth-grader at Rosemont Ridge Middle School this year, was shocked when his name was revealed for the statewide contest during an all-school assembly June 11. His winning drawing will be transformed into a billboard near downtown Portland later this summer.

Earlier this year, students across Oregon were challenged to design a billboard highlighting why Oregon’s history rocks. The competition was sponsored by the Oregon Historical Society and Clear Channel Outdoor.

“We just wanted to promote something creative in the schools,” said Dan Dhruva, vice president of real estate and public affairs at Clear Channel Outdoor. And, he said, the Oregon Historical Society seemed like a great partner. This is the first time this contest has been held.

During the assembly in the gym, after the band performed, Principal Debi Briggs-Crispin brought out sixth-grade social studies teacher Lisia Farley, who talked about the contest and how she loved the idea of combining two of her favorite things — art and history.

“The combination of history and art is as good as it gets,” she said. Since she learned Philip was the billboard winner, Farley said, she has walked around with a “big grin” on her  VERN UYETAKE - Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society, announces Philip Chan as the winner of the Oregon History Rocks Billboard Art Competition during an assembly at Rosemont Ridge Middle School.

Then Oregon Historical Society Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk and Dhruva took the stage. They showed off an actual piece from the Willamette meteorite, which was found in West Linn, and a branding iron originally owned by Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark exploring duo.

They then talked about the contest and how they received entries from all across the state competing for billboard billing.

“It was no easy decision to determine a winner for this contest,” Dhruva said.

When they finally revealed Philip’s name as the winner, he came down from the bleachers to receive his honor to the wild cheers and applause from classmates and staff. He was shocked.

Philip’s winning design depicts Lewis and Clark and Lewis’ dog, Seaman, as well as Sacajawea, a beaver, the state flower and the state bird, a trio of covered wagons and the state flag, or, as Philip would say, “everything that makes Oregon special.”

“It really captures the history of Oregon,” Tymchuk said. “It was comprehensive.”

Philip’s parents, Joel and Maggie Chan, were also on hand to watch the surprise award — though Philip thought they were there to watch his brother play in the band.

“It’s a big surprise,” Joel Chan said. “We thought he was just one of the winners, not the winner.”

“I like art and I just like entering contests, and history is something I like,” Philip said about why he chose to enter.

Philip almost didn’t even make his entry into the contest. He ran behind schedule and nearly missed the deadline, so his mother express-mailed it for him.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Philip said after the assembly. He grew suspicious, however, adding up the facts that his parents were there, it was about a contest he entered and two of his best friends, Harry Winsper and Pooja Jain, were on the gym floor.

Chan’s billboard will be at the corner of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and Second Street in Portland and will be 14 feet high and 48 feet wide. It will be on display for two weeks, starting the week before Labor Day.

“I will definitely drive by and check out Philip’s billboard,” Briggs-Crispin  VERN UYETAKE - From left, Joel Chan, Maggie Chan, Philip Chan, Pooja Jain and Harry Winsper soak up the cheers from the audience after learning that Philips drawing will be turned into a billboard.

About the Oregon Historical Society

Since 1898, the society has been a research collection and museum about Oregon history and is located at 1200 SW Park Ave. in Portland. OHS has an extensive collection of historical pieces, including more than 85,000 artifacts and 3 million photographs and films. It safeguards and presents Oregon's history through a museum, research library, academic journal, school programs and website content. For more information, call 503-222-1741 or visit

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