By Ellen Spitaleri
The City Repair Project is a nonprofit with a mission to educate and inspire communities and individuals to creatively transform the places where they live and gather.
Although the pandemic put a stop to many of their volunteer opportunities, City Repair is responding to the lifting of restrictions by welcoming summer with two community-building events and intensive environmental work at their site at SE 14th Ave. and Division St.
“Most folks come to know of our work from seeing street painting around town, murals on the ground such as the Sunnyside Piazza at SE 33rd Ave. and Yamhill St., or Share-It Square at SE 9th Ave. and Sherret St.,” said Kirk Rea, Co-Executive Director of The City Repair Project.
This summer, City Repair is working with Prosper Portland and the Portland Bureau of Transportation to support their Safe Streets Initiative, a program to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists and outdoor space for businesses with more space for physical distancing, Rea said.
Sites range from parking spaces to side streets, and for an added artistic component, City Repair has been invited to help install murals.
“For mural design, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has created a few templates and Prosper Portland brought on local artists Loraine Yow and Hampton Rodriguez to each create a mural template and their designs will be replicated across dozens of sites around the city,” Rea said.
A custom design now graces the cul-de-sac next to the Portland Opera, 211 SE Caruthers St. City Repair collaborated on the huge street mural designed by the artists of Intercambio de Artistas Latinos (IdeAL PDX), including Yathzi Turcot, Jessica Lagunas, Daniel Santollo TEKPATL, Alex Valle, José Solis and William Hernandez.
The timing of the installation of the mural is serendipitous, as it not only celebrates Latino culture, but it helps promote the Portland Opera’s production of Frida, that highlights moments from artist Frida Kahlo’s life.
“The invitation from Portland Opera was to prepare a mural to celebrate and reflect the community, bridges, connection, music, storytelling; it reflects and is inspired by our traditions and colors and will reflect folklore and the celebration of our Latinidad,” said Jessica Lagunas, Latino Network’s Arts and Culture Manager and Creative Director of IdeAL PDX, an organization that brings Latino artists together.
“To have an opportunity to be in fellowship and community at this beautiful location, celebrating art and music and the bridges that the arts can build right here on the Willamette surrounded by so many of Portland’s bridges — what could be more perfect?” said Alexis Hamilton, Portland Opera’s Manager of Education and Community Engagement.
Frida is sold out, but virtual passes are available for purchase on Portland Opera Onscreen (portlandopera.org/performances-tickets/20-21-season/frida)
The premiere is Monday, June 28, 7:30 pm and will be accessible on-demand until August 9.
City Repair hosts events such as training, workshops, community conversations and temporary art exhibitions as a way to encourage dialogue and skill building around placemaking.
“This is a way to highlight individuals and organizations that do important work in this field, and a goal of ours is to create a platform for marginalized communities to share their thoughts and their work,” Rea said.
To that end, City Repair is collaborating with another Portland nonprofit, Friends of Noise, in support of Youth Power PDX, a youth-run collective showcasing BIPOC and LGBTQ stories and voices through the crossroads of story, music, visual art and activism.
Rea noted that the City Repair team is currently finalizing plans for two Youth Power PDX collaborative events in July and will be posting updates on details via youthpowerpdx.org.
In addition to street paintings and murals, City Repair Project also uses “ecological landscaping, or permaculture, as a means to integrate nature and humans together through sustainable design and construction, creating highly functional and beautiful outdoor spaces,” Rea said.
He said the organization has been settling into its office space on SE Division St. for five years and has been working to transform the space from a residence to a shared workspace and permaculture demonstration yard.
“Since we do not rely on using pesticides and herbicides, having people power is more necessary to weed by hand or turn our compost.
“We tend to have more than 10 compost bins on site as we process all of our yard and food waste, as well as collect as mulch leaves that fall in the autumn so we can make our own soil,” he said.
“On this lot we have over a dozen fruit trees plus dozens of berry bushes and ground covers with a focus on native-scaping, which has led to us being certified Backyard Habitat,” Rea said.
“Having signage like our Backyard Habitat Certificate, as well as signs for being pesticide free and having rainwater gardens, is important to showcase what is happening on this land.”
For more information about City Repair, 1421 SE Division St., visit cityrepair.org or call 503.583.8532.
Artist William Hernandez photo by Dick Trtek