RACC Blog

Artists and youth strengthen community connections within East Portland

Mario De León is a local artist whose playful, detailed murals and paintings can be found throughout East Portland and Gresham. Passionate about his art and sharing it with the community, De León is bringing his talent to a new project engaging youth from the nonprofit Play Grow Learn. In May, these young artists brightened the intersection of 148th Avenue and East Burnside by transforming this traffic signal box into a larger-than-life vintage boombox. Coming up next, they plan to transform the TriMet service building across the street with a large new mural featuring human rights leader Malcolm X. The public art project seeks to connect the City of Portland to the City of Gresham in an area where predominantly Black communities reside and where public resources remain under-invested and under-prioritized.

Muralist Mario De León and youth from Play, Grow, Learn turned this signal box into a work of art.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) has teamed up with Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) supporting local Black-led art projects around the city with financial and technical support and a streamlined permitting process. Locations vary but are focused in North and Northeast Portland’s Historic Albina Area and East Portland, neighborhoods with strong community and cultural connections.

Six community-based organizations are leading or partnering in this initiative including:

  • Play Grow Learn
  • Somali Council of Oregon
  • African Youth Community Organization
  • Albina Vision Trust
  • Self Enhancement Inc.
  • Soul District Business Association

The nonprofit City Repair Project is providing technical assistance and partnership facilitation.

Project Partners
Play Grow Learn strives to help community members feel a sense of positivity, pride, and belonging in public space and to uplift Black and East Portland community spiritually, mentally, and physically during the converging crises of the pandemic, systemic racism, and climate chaos.  Find out more.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is an independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supporting greater Portland’s creative economy by providing equitable funding and services to artists and art organizations; managing and growing our diverse, nationally acclaimed public art program; and developing long-lasting public and private partnerships. For more information visit racc.org. 

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is a community partner in shaping a livable city. PBOT plans, builds, manages, and maintains an effective and safe transportation system that provides people and businesses access and mobility. Find out more.

City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. City Repair has accomplished many projects through a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. They provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim their culture, power, and joy. Find out more.