If you see a 20-something perched on a metal platform 30-feet in the air spray-painting a wall this week, do not be surprised; do not call the cops. This is not an ambitious graffiti artist with a death wish (actually, it might be, but at least not a criminal one). This is Forest for the Tress—the second-annual, city-approved, week-long, outdoor mural festival that unites artists from around the world with large-scale concrete canvasses in a battle against blank walls across Portland.
“It breaks down barriers and the general understanding of street art and its purpose,” says North Portland artist Blaine Fontana, who participated both years. “Having a decade-long dry period of mural making, thanks to Clear Channel, gives us artists and our community a starting point of healing and beautifying Portland’s walls. FFTT is a platform to visually represent Portland’s collective free spirit."
Organized by local artist Gage Hamilton and Matt Wagner, owner of Old Town's Hellion Gallery, twenty artists from Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Philadelphia, California, and Portland descend this week onto the streets with paint rollers, spray cans, and hydraulic lifts. “We kind of like mixing in artists who have built a reputation on street work, as well as artists you would never expect to paint a mural," says Hamilton.
Forest For The Trees
August 18–23 Last year, we watched as diverse artistic visions unfolded overnight. And the artists watched us watching. “One particular thing I noticed around the third day was that strangers driving, cycling, or walking by began to simply shout ‘Thank You!’” says Fontana. “At that moment it occurred to me that the FFTT project had began making its way into the local press, social media, and online. The community eventually understood we were doing this for free, to engage the community and to enrich Portland creatively.”
Check out the slideshow and video below of some of last year’s murals, and then see the map and bike tour route to scope out some of the new works in action.