Street art lands at PDX, celebrates diversity

Special Reports

The sprawling mural gets officially unveiled Wednesday

The 150-foot wide mural painted by Alex Chiu and Jeremy Nichols at Portland International Airport (photo courtesy Jerry McCarthy)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The carpet isn’t the only thing worth taking pictures of at Portland International Airport. Street art has landed in the north pedestrian tunnel.

The Port of Portland partnered with the Portland Street Art Alliance (PSAA) and two local artists to create the Pacific Northwest-inspired artwork.

Mount Hood and Haystack Rock serve as book ends for the 150 foot long, 10-foot-6 inch tall mural. In between, you may recognize some local faces, like 2019 Rose Festival Queen Mya Brazile, the famous blues musician Norman Sylvester, and poet Ed Edmo.

Alex Chiu was primarily tasked with painting the people. Chiu is a second-generation Chinese American who hopes his art redefines what being American means and celebrates racial, spiritual and cultural diversity.

This section of the mural features a portrait of 2019 Rose Festival Queen Mya Brazile (photo courtesy Jerry McCarthy)

“I want to celebrate our differences,” Chiu said in a statement. “I want people to relinquish their fears of the ‘other.’ My art is about breaking those barriers.”

Jeremy Nichols is responsible for many of the shapes and other colorful design elements in the mural. Nichols grew up in New York and Ohio, but regularly visited Tokyo, his family’s home country. The “contrasting cultural atmospheres” greatly influenced Nichols. Now, he said he approaches his artwork like an “outsider looking in,” mixing elements of design and nature.

The artists started painting in mid-September and wrapped up on October 31. The Port planned an official unveiling on November 13. The mural will eventually have a content key so visitors understand who is depicted and why.

The 150-foot wide mural painted by Alex Chiu and Jeremy Nichols at Portland International Airport (photo courtesy Jerry McCarthy)

So if you aren’t in a hurry to get through security, or have a little time to spare before your ride home pulls up, check out the new painting in the north pedestrian tunnel (between the parking garage and baggage claim).

The Port of Portland provided PSAA with $28,000, which was then used to pay the artists, provide supplies, build community engagement and handle all other logistics. The PDX mural is part of the Port of Portland’s broader art program of rotating exhibits throughout the terminal and permanent art space at PDX and the Port Headquarters. For example, a new permanent display by New York-based artist Jacob Hashimoto is coming to Concourse E in 2020.

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