Home Features Slice of Life: A Humboldt Neighborhood Walk

Slice of Life: A Humboldt Neighborhood Walk

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By Alicia Richards, Humboldt Neighborhood

I have lived in the Humboldt neighborhood for 25 years and while walking I can’t help but notice some of the murals painted within our boundary.  Last fall when I was walking along the Haight Avenue/Going Street walkway near North Gantenbein Street, I saw a beautiful mural painted by Daren Todd. I happened to meet my neighbor Jackie Strong as I walked home that day and he asked if I had seen the mural. He told me about his mother, Opal Strong, who is featured. In the 1960’s, with money granted by the federal government to beautify the area, she and many others helped plant 500 cherry trees; some are still growing strong, like her name. 

I headed north to get to North Killingsworth Street at Albina, where a subtle but powerful mural of the great author James Baldwin is located, on their north facing wall in the bottom left corner.  It is actually a painting put up by wheat paste. See if you can find it!!  His powerful words are written above him: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

Across the street from that one, on the west side of the building that houses Solabee, a great plant and flower shop, look up and you’ll see a mural of fingers gingerly setting the needle on a vinyl record, i a sign for the Freeform Portland low-power radio station (broadcasting at 90.3 FM).  If you know anything about that artist, tell me about them!  

A little further east on North Killingsworth is Enat Kitchen, an Ethiopian restaurant just across the street from KC Food Market and Convenience Store.  The murals here were painted by Joe Riso and portray family and friends eating off a shared plate.  This Ethiopian tradition symbolizes gathering together in love and community.  We look forward to those days again, but in the meantime the owner, Menbere, is offering her delicious food to go. 

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From there if you head to North Kerby Avenue and walk towards the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College, you arrive at the Cascadian Terrace Apartments. Here, the artist Jesse Hazelip painted a blue heron that spans multiple stories. It is accompanied with writing on a vertical column from a collection or work done in collaboration with P’ear who work with unhoused youth. Check out the Audubon Society website for other bird murals within the city.  

Now if you make your way back towards North Albina, another one that stands out is on the Neil Kelly building on North Albina and North Alberta. The late Mr. Kelly opened his business on this corner to promote commerce in the area 70 years ago. This mural is in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement and was painted by Emma Berger of Flat Rabbit Studios — the artist behind the iconic George Floyd portrait formerly on the Apple store downtown. 

At this same corner, on the south side of Luke’s Frame Shop is a beautiful mural painted by Ashley Montague. Cardboard Castle commissioned him to do this and wanted to capture the magic of what their company can do without typical camera imagery. He also did one directly across the street to the east in a building on the corner that housed Switchboard Movement, which sadly has since closed. This was commissioned also from the business owner who wanted to convey the idea of using our mind and body to keep us in balance. Montague did both of those freehand with spray paint.  He painted another one on the building described in the next paragraph, of a human heart cut open with honey insides, and birds feeding off of it.  He is truly a gifted artist.

Crossing the street to the south is the Mississippi Health Center building, which also houses The Albina Press. On both the north and south sides of the building are beautiful works of art designed by Sheri Love Earnshaw, and painted by her and Sara Stout, designed in 2011.  The south wall features panels inspired by Japanese artists from the 1700’s, highlighting medicinal plants. The panels on the north side of sunflowers were painted with the help of Reynolds High School students.  Also here is an Ashley Montague painting of a human heart cut open with honey insides, and birds feeding off of it.

On the very southwest corner of the Humboldt neighborhood, is an apartment building on North Michigan and North Skidmore. Along the front side of it is artwork by Adam Brock Ciresi, painted in 2020 (one GOOD thing from last year).