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Local artists begin work to create PNW-inspired mural at PDX

A partnership with the Portland Street Art Alliance is bringing a one-of-a-kind mural to the airport

Street art is coming to the Portland International Airport. Through a partnership with the Port of Portland and Portland Street Art Alliance, two local artists, Alex Chiu and Jeremy Nichols, are creating a mural in the north pedestrian tunnel at PDX that celebrates the people, history and natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

Port of Portland leaders believed it was important to showcase the diversity of the region and take a fresh approach to art in the terminal, especially in a space that many travelers pass through every day to access the parking garage. That’s why the Port of Portland partnered with PSAA to help breathe new life into the space. The goal was to create a magical and fantastic landscape, inspired by the culture and spirit of Portland and the Pacific Northwest. 

PSAA's Executive Director Tiffany Conklin said, "PSAA is excited to build this new partnership with the Port of Portland. We have always enjoyed traveling; and experiencing street art around the world is a great way to learn about other cultures and traditions. Street art enriches our everyday lives. It can help foster a unique sense of place and pride of our local communities, while also providing visitors with a way to connect and understand the PNW lifestyle."

The Port also saw this as an opportunity to celebrate an art style that is well established in Portland. While art is common at airports, partnering with artists who create large-scale murals on walls and buildings throughout the city isn’t a standard approach. Given the city’s support for street art, a partnership with PSAA felt like a natural extension of the airport’s work to bring the best of Portland’s food, culture and art and music to travelers. 

The PDX mural is part of the Port of Portland’s broader Art Program, which maintains rotating exhibits throughout the airport terminal in addition to permanent art space at PDX and the Port headquarters. The program focuses on creating space for a variety of artists in different mediums. That includes a new permanent display created by internationally recognized artist Jacob Hashimoto, which is coming to Concourse E in 2020.

“It was important to us that the mural reflect themes of community, inclusion and home,” Lise Harwin with the Port of Portland’s Corporate Communications team said. “From the beginning, Chiu and Nichols gathered ideas and inspiration from both Port employees and our community partners at Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Urban League of Portland, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Latino Network and Black United Fund.”

All images, figures and landscapes were inspired by this feedback and the desire of stakeholders to see diversity, family, sharing food and nature represented.

The artists began painting on September 10 and expect to complete the mural around October 31, 2019. When in place, the mural will have a content key to help local, national and international travelers understand who and what is pictured and why.  

Media Note: Media are invited to view the artists in action before they conclude in October and learn more about the mural’s development. Please contact Susie Rantz to find a time where the artists will be painting:

About the Artists:

Alex Chiu is a second-generation Chinese American who has two daughters, a 4-year-old and 10-month-old. His parents began their careers as accountants before transitioning to help other immigrant families start their own businesses. Chiu brings his own childhood experience growing up in the United States – combined with his hope for his daughters – to inform his art. As Chui said, “My art is about redefining what being American means. America is a nation of racial diversity, immigrants and refugees, different languages, different spiritual beliefs, and different cultural practices. I want to celebrate our differences. I want people to relinquish their fears of the “other.” My art is about breaking those barriers.”

Jeremy Nichols grew up traveling regularly between upstate New York and Tokyo – his birthplace and his family’s home country – all the while growing up in the suburbs of Ohio. Like many families with immigrant roots, the contrasting cultural atmospheres confused Nichols as a child – leading him to question where to really call home. Nichols brings this “outsider looking in” approach to his artwork, combining elements of design and nature to “depict the relationship, energy and juxtaposition between nature and culture. I try to present the viewer with a sense of how I feel and see the world around me.”


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