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Artists hope for grant to create Major Taylor mural in North Portland

Posted by on April 18th, 2012 at 7:39 am

Mock-up of proposed Major Taylor mural on N. Shaver between Williams and Vancouver.

A team of local artists want to create a gold leaf mural of famed bicycle racing legend Major Taylor on the side of a building in North Portland. If funded, the mural would be placed on the north side of a building leased by United Bicycle Institute on N. Shaver, just east of its intersection with Williams Ave.

Major Taylor is a pioneering athlete and civil rights hero who overcame extreme racism to set numerous world records on the velodrome. In 1899, became the first African-American in any sport to become a world champion

New public bike art on Shaver near Williams

“Ristretto Bound” by Amanda Houston
adorns the building next to
where the Major Taylor mural would go.

The mural image has been designed by Janet Attard and installation of the mural will be done by Nancy Thorn and Vanessa Renwick. (You might recall that Renwick was one of the creators of the Zoobomb Pyle sculpture in downtown Portland.) The trio has applied for a grant through the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s public art mural program.

If funded, the mural would join an existing piece of public art on the building next to it (the painting “Ristretto Bound” by artist Amanda Houston).

According to Renwick, the project has received broad community support, including from the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Portland (and they will the artists and the public for a dedication ride during Pedalpalooza in June if the funding comes through). She says UBI has already committed to a donation to help fund the two lights that will illuminate the mural at night. The building’s owner, Jon Kellogg, has also expressed support for the project.

This is only a draft of the
text that would accompany the mural.

Why use gold leaf? Renwick explains that, “The play of light reflecting off the gold leaf, both daylight and night illumination, as well as car and bike lights, will create movement to the piece.” It would also be accompanied by a plaque with text and a photo of Major Taylor (see tentative copy at right)

Here’s how the RACC described the project in their official Notice of Review of Public Art Mural Application:

“The proposed mural at 18 N Shaver on the United Bicycle Institute shop building, will present a 23k gold leaf image of Major Taylor who was the first African American cyclist to win several world championships and set world records. The reflective quality of the gold leaf design will change depending on light conditions, and proposes to bridge a gap between newcomers to the area and long term residents. The mural will include a small informative text display describing who Major Taylor was.”

You can learn more about the plans at a public meeting of the RACC’s Public Art Advisory Committee on April 24th (more details here).

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  • A.K. April 18, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Very cool!! I hope they are able to get the funding and make this mural happen.

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  • Scott April 18, 2012 at 9:19 am

    The only reason that Marshall W. “Major” Taylor is not the winningest athlete of all time is that he was extremely religious and would not race on Sunday.

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    • oskarbaanks April 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      The FIRST TRUE WORLD CHAMPION from the U.S. NOT JUST THE FIRST BLACK MAN TO DO SO> I get suuuuuper pissed when people miss this. C”mon its been 120 years get the facts right!!!!!!!!

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      • noah April 18, 2012 at 10:43 pm

        Wow, you make me want to listen to you so bad.

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      • Scott April 19, 2012 at 10:02 am

        The only thing I mentioned was the Sunday fact, and how it affected his winning percentage. WHY YOU TRYN’A GET ALL CRAZY PLEH BWOI?!?! Seriously though, write a book and maybe I’ll listen to you.

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        • oskarbaanks April 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm

          Please don’t misconstrue my exuberance for anything other than frustration on this topic, I wasn’t insinuating that any one person, ( especially you Scott, btw, you seem to understand the significance,) is to blame for a’lot of mistakes around the history of M.Taylor. My post was actually in support of what you mentioned about his adherence to his beliefs.
          Sorry for the all caps… Zimmerman has a world champion, but before M.Taylor, but ranked at the time as an amateur.
          It is already in the history books, therefore no need for me to write one.

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  • Gordon Inkeles April 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

    The world’s only (?) all pink Cattrike Musashi & it’s color coordinated owner:


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    • Scott April 18, 2012 at 10:04 am

      What does that have to do with honoring one of the greatest black athletes of all time?

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      • Brad April 18, 2012 at 10:12 am

        Agreed! Why gold leaf? Why not inform and inspire African-Americans with a more realistic depiction of one of the greatest cyclists ever?

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        • SilkySlim April 18, 2012 at 10:19 am

          Gentrification – COMPLETE!

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        • wsbob April 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

          At least at the time it was done, after decades of being a simple bronze, people had similar feelings about the Joan of Arc statue over in Laurelhurst.

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          • Scott April 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

            wsbob, I highly doubt people have similar feelings about a depiction of a 16th century white French woman who talked to god as they do about one of the greatest black athletes of all time. Representation medium similarities and all.

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            • wsbob April 18, 2012 at 10:58 am

              Point is, both examples are depictions of people that are heroes. In artistic expression, the material used for depiction can result in a particular association…social…cultural…or otherwise that may not be appropriate to the subject.

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              • Scott April 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

                Art always invokes something. Social, cultural, visceral, etc. I am not sure how the medium for this proposed work, and the coating on a longstanding municipal statue being changed relate. Please clarify your original point.

                “At least at the time it was done, after decades of being a simple bronze, people had similar feelings about the Joan of Arc statue over in Laurelhurst.”-wsbob

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              • wsbob April 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm

                Scott…At the time the discussion leading up to a decision to apply it occurred, there were people that weren’t too keen about applying gilt to the bronze of the Joan of Arc statue. There were a number of substantial, complex reasons some people did/don’t feel too good about the statue of Joan being made to look gold. I can’t remember exactly what they all were.

                Besides the fact that bronze is a highly regarded medium in its own right, there was some feeling that the statue of Joan covered in gilt would have it looking kind of cheap, even though the gold leaf isn’t at all cheap to buy and put on. I haven’t heard what people think of the statue in gold, today, having lived with it for some years now. Reading Brad’s comment up above brought to my mind the controversy over the Joan of Arc statue. You might be able to find the story in the Oregonian archives. Bikeportland may have written a story on it as well.

                Does the picture accompanying this story, of the mockup of the proposed Major Taylor mural, give a fair indication of the effect gilt would have on its appearance and how it would reflect light? There’s no mention in the story about whether it does or not.

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        • oskarbaanks April 18, 2012 at 9:03 pm

          It Should be in SOLID GOLD damnit!!

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  • Steve B April 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    This is going to be amazing!

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  • Stripes April 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Sweet! That would be so awesome to see!!

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  • davemess April 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    I’m curious why they need funding to do this? I know Gold Leaf is not cheap, but if you just used paint couldn’t it be done on a volunteer basis? Also wondering why UBI isn’t footing the bill. It’s their facility, and not public land/building.

    That said, i think it’s a cool project.

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  • middle of the road guy April 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Well this should smooth over all the issues in the neighborhood.

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  • Carl April 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm


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  • Senorita Mysterioso April 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Any chance they’ll reverse the image so he’s traveling facing the right direction down Williams?

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  • dwainedibbly April 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    If funding doesn’t happen, consider KickStarter. Not sure what sort of “rewards” could be offered except good karma and a warm feeling.

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  • Kevin Wagoner April 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm


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  • oskarbaanks April 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    HE WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN TO BECOME A WORLD CHAMPION IN ANY SPORT IN A WORLD ARENA !! not just “called a world champ” while never competing out side the U.S. and that is besides his racial ethnicity. WHEN WILL PEOPLE GET THIS RIGHT!!

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  • jim April 18, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Is there a way to make this graffiti proof? Somebody just went down the block and painting many buildings. This happens frequently. Daytime its a great area, night time it is still a little bit sketchy.
    Perhaps they can put a clearcoat on it that could be scrubbed if necessary? That would maybe diminish the gold leaf effect though?

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  • wsbob April 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Major Taylor is a great subject for a large scale mural. As art for beauty and inspiration, what the mural proposes to be, to the extent that’s accurately indicated by the mockup, shown in the large picture accompanying this story, isn’t much.

    It’s a single tone stencil image on a gray background. Most people commenting to this story seem satisfied with it though.

    By the way, the painting, “Ristretto Bound” by Amanda Houston, shown in the smaller photo accompanying this story, is kind of nice…colorful, complex, and shows exciting movement through its composition. If she hasn’t already, maybe she ought to work up a proposal celebrating Major Taylor, and submit it for a Regional Arts and Culture Council grant.

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