Portland T-shirts

When I arrived in Portland I looked for volunteer opportunities to meet people, possibly network, and to experience the city. If you volunteer in Portland a t-shirt usually comes with the deal. It’s a tradition and now I expect something when I offer my labor. The shirts I have collected show signs of age marking the time I’ve lived here. Every shirt has a story, these stories date back to 2008 when we moved to Portland. Due to  a lack of employment, I had plenty of time for volunteering.

    johnson creek shirt (1)

The Johnson Creek Watershed t-shirt was my first exposure to the Portland t-shirt phenomenon. Going out to a section of Johnson Creek to plant trees and pull weeds seemed worth doing. It was the chance to see an outlying area of Portland. We met a woman who mentioned that it had taken her 15 years to understand the communication styles of Northwest residents. This seemed farfetched at the time but now seems closer to the truth of how long it can take to become accustomed to an area. I drank my fill of coffee and ate pastries on a damp and chilly day and got a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow volunteers but I never quite gained much attachment to Johnson Creek which feels remote in relation to where we live. At least it was cool to see goats in a yard in the valley below the bluff we were working on.

livestrong shirt (1)

Holes around the collar!

It must have been Craigslist where I saw the call for people to gather at a downtown park to participate in a Public Service Announcement. I remember standing around wondering if I was in the right place and then talking to folks who had received the same vague information. There was an actor named Jimmy Carter yakking it up and talking about his work. His name invoked discussion about my favorite President. Another guy was heading off to teach film studies at George Fox University. I later realized it was the same guy I’d seen acting in a local short film. Someone else told me, while we were standing around, that Portland was a great place to live once you found the right job. It all seemed very Portland to gather in this park chatting with folks. I even spotted Art Alexis from Everclear hanging around. I believe he had a stroller with him.

Our costume was the yellow Lance Armstrong Livestrong shirt. I remember the crew being from the advertisement agency Wieden & Kennedy and a tall ladder being set up. The camera operator looked down on a group of us spread out and standing in the park. A couple of people had lines they recited in earnest. I became deathly afraid that I’d have a speaking part to repeat in front of all the extras and the director. I began trying to creep off camera and whispering to Jimmy Carter for acting advice. The most attention I received was a request to take a few steps back. While I know Livestrong had an important message it’s all been tarnished by the doping controversy. To top it off I never saw the P.S.A  but the bold yellow shirt always worked well to add a splash of color to any ensemble I’ve worn. This may not be saying much for someone who has the fashion sense of a nudist. At this point the shirt seems a bit thin and is showing signs of wear with holes around the collar.

Bridges to Unity shirt (1)

I volunteered to shoot a video project in 2008 working with PSU student. It was for a group of kids who were learning about peer mediation. I spent a few afternoons video taping students at Ockley Green school. It reminded me of the time I’d spent working in educational television. It seemed cool when I took a coffee shop meeting. The woman was buying and brought along her friend named Shady. The video taping culminated in a gathering of students in workshops and participating in group discussions with me doing more video taping and picking up a t-shirt. I always liked the brown hand shaking the black hand that was part of the design.

red cross shirt (1)

Boring, but blood worthy.

There were times in my life when a friend and I would have discussions about selling our blood. These would end in resignation when we weren’t able to find a place offering cash for blood. The Red Cross had cornered the market and made everyone accept that they should offer their blood up for donation. I know it’s possible to sell plasma but the places I’ve heard about seem prohibitively far away. My wife, Ronna and I were motivated to donate blood when we heard about a Star Trek vs. Star Wars themed blood drive at the Red Cross building in North Portland. I can’t remember if it was New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, but the t-shirt were an added bonus to the guilt free opportunity to eat cookies out of a plastic bag. Star Trek vs. Star Wars was a nice enough gimmick with people dressed in various costumes but it wasn’t represented on the t-shirt. Unless I’m going to see a Jabba the Hutt or Princess Leia represented I’m not going to get excited.

Parke Diem Shirt (1)

Parke Diem was a city-wide volunteer event. Ronna, and I spent time working in the Kenton Community Garden. Parks and Recreation t-shirts seem to involve some kind of pun. This shirt was more of the bastardization of a famous Latin phrase. The power fist, central in the design has inspired me. This lush and thick shirt has an impressive quality. Of course it has a Nike swoosh on it too.

ivy shirt (1)

For a better example of puns related to volunteer work, I photographed the t-shirt my coworker wore at our temp job. Sam received it for pulling ivy. Note the two punny phrases, “De-Vine Intervention” sits atop No Ivy League with each phrase  attempting to out-pun the other.

If you’re offering your time and effort to volunteer you might want to check in advance to see if you will be getting a t-shirt. Don’t be afraid to ask. Even if volunteering seems a good use of your time for networking opportunities or meeting people, a t-shirt should still be your first priority. If it isn’t offered run like hell. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities with t-shirt payments out there. The shirt for work exchange is your best bet for building your wardrobe. Your time and sweat is worth it.

Photographer: Ronna Craig

Models: David and Sam (No mannequins were available.)

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The Finster Show!

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There is still time to catch the Finster show at the Portland Museum of Modern Art located in the basement of Mississippi Records at 5202 N. Albina Ave. Portland, OR 97217. I would advise you to stop reading now and go directly to see this art, don’t make any excuses or procrastinate. I have not made it over to the show myself but it’s not to be missed. We’re talking about the Reverend Howard Finster, the eccentric, southern preacher who started cranking out primitive folk art late in his life and didn’t stop until his death in 2001.

I’m biased because I like this art so much. It’s colorful, sometimes crude, but always detailed in a energetic way with stick figure angels and smiling clouds. Sometimes there’s a message to the work that’s glaringly obvious because it’s written on the painting whether it’s a biblical verse or another kind of platitude. This is a show made up of work collected by area residents. As a college student in Virginia during the 80’s it would have been difficult for me not to have come in contact with the art of Howard Finster either through album covers which used his art or by having a chance to see an amazing show in nearby Roanoke, VA. I saw more of his art on display in the folk collection of the National Gallery and his pieces were included in other folk art shows that came to the Washington DC area where I lived and there was always a painting or two of his in the shows at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Finster’s art will be in town until March 14 so there is still time to see it. The thought of having a collection of Finster’s work on display in Portland amazes me. There’s nothing like those paintings. I was always captivated by that wild southern spirit of Howard Finster. He was all kinds of charming, yet mysterious, which had me wondering where his creativity was coming from and how it had been inspired. I could never forget the video of him as he told the story of how he got paint on his finger and when he looked at it there was a face that told him to paint sacred art. Paradise Gardens, his home compound seemed like a mythical place with folk art cut outs sprouting out of the yard like mushrooms. I was glad to be able to visit in 1998 and tour the grounds and years later happy to hear about the major restoration that has since taken place. Get to the show. You’ve waited too long already.

Show info: http://portlandmuseumofmodernart.com/Howard-Finster-Jan-2015

Here’s a tour of Finster’s Paradise Gardens from 1998:

Here’s info on a film about the restoration of Paradise Gardens. Hopefully it will make it out to Portland:

http://www.finsterfilm.com

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Here’s some additional memories inspired by Finster. He’s not the type of southerner I would have encountered as a kid living in the Atlanta area in the early to mid 70’s but his portrait of Jimmy Carter I saw while reviewing footage of Paradise Gardens had me flashing back to the good old days. I must have been impressed with Carter because my big brother, Jack, went on a school field trip to the Atlanta state capital and saw then Governor, Jimmy Carter, hard at work at his desk and then soon after he became president. We moved to Washington D.C. two years later and went to Carter’s inaugural parade. In a lawyer’s office, looking down on Pennsylvania Avenue, we saw Jimmy take to the streets with Rosalyn in her teal coat and a then 9 year old Amy Carter skipping around.

Jimmy was too nice a guy to be president for long. I mean the dude isn’t getting much respect from me as I’m using his first name. He used to get on TV and tell us to turn our thermostat down and wear sweaters to conserve energy. Carter was the first president to put solar panels on the White House so I guess he was on to something. Jimmy Carter jumped ahead of the other notable Georgians I remember from my childhood like Lester Maddox, not a hero, but an oddball who ran a strange newspaper advertisement for what I recall was a restaurant. I later adapted the ad for a book report. “Lester Maddox says read Stuart Little.” And there was James Oglethorpe who probably was more of a hero type. I immortalized him in a diorama for a school.

Jimmy Carter Says Yes! Have a listen:

Mural Mayhem: When Rabbits Attack

My expose on the cancellation of Perry Mason is a bit more involved than I realized.

In the meantime I bring you this:

Mural Rabbit Attack

It appeared on a wall on Alberta Street that once had a white movie screen painted on it so the bar could use the patio area to screen movies.  Subject matter aside, it’s colorful, dynamic, but still, somehow, deep down, disconcerting.  The movie screen seemed like a cool idea that didn’t work out.