Local artists transform historic SE Portland building with a new mural, sharing message of unity

KOIN News AM Extra

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new mural expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement now graces the historic Phoenix Pharmacy building in Southeast Portland. The nearly century-old vacant building sits on the corner of a busy intersection at SE Foster Road and 67th Avenue.

Three local artists– Edmund Holmes, Christian Grijalva,  and Jamaali Roberts— collaborated on the piece they titled: “Honoring our Women.”

“This town is filled with a lot of muralists and artists and I feel like this is a time for us to unite and get together,” Grijalva said. “I feel like in these hard times we got to bring more consciousness to the people here in our community, so hopefully people can see what it means to get together and paint a powerful message.. just, you know, representing love and unity.”

The artists say they used the open space provided to them to create a message of unity. On one side of the boarded-up building, each has painted a portrait of a famous woman activist.

“This is to represent Black Lives Matter, as well as political activists,” Holmes said. “It’s people like Angela Davis, Marsha P. Johnson, [Yuri Kochiyama], and Frida Kahlo that have done things to make mass movement and encourage and inspire people.”

Working together to fill the other side of the structure, the artist painted a wall full of raised fist in unison. 

“I painted the Olympic protesters from about half a century ago… who stood up and resisted and put their fist up in protest,” added Roberts. “I understand that there is a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world and so I try and paint vibrantly and with intention and I hope this provokes thought for people.”

The three artists hope that the mural will create conversation and leave a lasting impression within the community. Each adding that they are honored to be able to put up meaningful art on a building already known for its colorful history.

“[The Phoenix Pharmacy] building has been the beacon of the neighborhood southeast portland since 1922,” building owner and managing partner for “Foster the Phoenix,” Matt Froman said. “Even though it sits vacant and  we are in the long process of restoring it–what was important for me in utilizing the phoenix was an opportunity to give an artist of color a canvas to demonstrate their art.”

Froman helped commission the mural along with the support of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association. He said he is grateful to be able to provide a platform for artists to share their message.

“There are so many things you can do protesting and so forth– but for me, I had this canvas available and it was an opportunity to help put something out there,” Froman added.

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