At one time, artists could paint outdoor murals in Portland with a simple agreement between themselves and the building owner, as is the case in manyother cities in the United States.

In 1998, the City of Portland was thrust into a lengthy and complicated legal battle with AK Media (a company that was later absorbed by Clear Channel).

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of a handful of art advocates who pushed for the art of mural-making to be recognized, in 2005, the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) began its Public Art Mural Program. In 2009, following the closing of the Clear Channel trial, and the judge’s decision (in 2007), the City of Portland’s new mural program was created.

Until those two pathways were forged, community murals were either not painted, or were done without City permission, thereby risking citations and fines for building owners being out of compliance with the City’s sign code.

Both the existing mural programs have certain requirements. The City of Portland’s mural permitting process requires a fee and a neighborhood meeting. RACC is a more comprehensive mural proposal submission and funding opportunity that, if approved, the mural is added to the City’s public art collection, ensuring that the artwork is exempt from the City’s sign code and will be enjoyed by future generations to come.

The existing systems work, and many murals have been painted since the drought of mural art in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, there are many ways that certain types of artistic expression are still burdened.

It is time that the City of Portland re-evaluates its Original Art Mural Permit process to ensure that it is still effective and could not be further improved.

Buckman Community Mural by Joe Cotter

Buckman Community Mural by Joe Cotter

Contributors: Joanne Oleksiak, Robin Dunitz & Mark Meltzer