Portland's International Mural Festival

Forest for the Trees will turn global street artists loose on the city's blank spaces.

By Sam Coggeshall August 1, 2013 Published in the August 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Urban murals often just appear, like mushrooms: seemingly overnight, with little warning. This month, a festival imported from Hawaii will transform the mural process—and, hopefully, its results—into prominent art.

Forest for the Trees will scatter more than a dozen local and international artists around the city. Over the fest’s seven days, each member of this elite street gang will complete an original mural. Local artist Gage Hamilton spearheaded this undertaking along with Matt Wagner, owner of Old Town’s Hellion Gallery, which has made itself a popular art-crawl stop with its international mix of poppy, vivid underground artists. Besides lining up talent, the pair convinced businesses to lend large swaths of blank wall and navigated zoning codes; to ward off other cities’ acne of billboards, Portland is historically quite touchy about oversize imagery.

If all goes according to plan, FFTT could replicate the success of its inspiration and close ally, the Pow! Wow! Festival. Launched in Hong Kong and replicated in Honolulu in 2011, Pow! Wow! Hawaii featured about 65 artists and attracted celebratory coverage from Juxtapoz and other publications this year. Key to both the original and the Portland successor: a public display of art-making.

“People will see artists opening up their creative process,” Hamilton says, “making public what’s usually hidden.”

Forest for the Trees: Aug 19–25,

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