ReBuilding Center Mural, May 1998 - Oct 1998
Creative Building and Community Interaction Workshops
Angelina Marino - Mentor Artist, Class Programing

November 3, 1998Browse Issues
•        Author/Byline: DAVID AUSTIN
•        Edition: SUNRISE

Summary: The artwork being
created by youths from Out Front
House will be a feature of Portland’
s First Thursday gallery walk
Reggae music thumps out of a pair
of speakers from deep within the
Rebuilding Centers dim
warehouse on the edge of
Northwest Portland’s industrial

Behind the old window frames,
lighting fixtures, sinks and other
materials that are sold by the
center, a handful of teens is hiding
out in the back.

Some are perched on scaffolding,
while others work below to
prepare the brushes for painting.
Still others stand by mixing paint
into brilliant swirls of green, blue
or lavender.
Their goal? To complete a graffiti
mural on the inside walls and learn
a little bit more about art and
community while they do it.

Their finished mural will be
displayed later this week as part of
Portland’s First Thursday gallery

"Doing something like this is a way
for us to study different kinds of
art and give something back at the
same time, says 18-year-old
Jennifer Armstrong as she
playfully dips her palms into a paint
tray with her latest creation, a hazy
orange color.

Up above, Carl Meier, also 18, fills
in a skyline of buildings with a
bright yellow. He says has created
his share of graffiti before, but
nothing like the mural.

"I used to just do the regular
graffiti, and I’ve seen people do a
lot of that stuff, Meier says. When I
came here, I told them I couldn’t
draw but now I feel more
comfortable with it. It helps to get
a sense of what the art means.

Halfway house Armstrong, Meier
and the others are from Out Front
House, a residential halfway house
that provides counseling and
other services for youths who
have run afoul of the law. Their
crimes range from such actions as
misdemeanor theft to minor
assaults. Most residents come to
Out Front House through the
judicial system.

Jason Blumklotz, the program
manager, and his staff came up
with the idea to let the teens
create the mural to help focus
their creative energy on

"These are not bad kids. There just
kids who need direction, Blumklotz
says. Too many times do we
categorize kids who may get into
trouble in negative ways. We
wanted to use the mural as a way
to give them some purpose.

And it’s working. With the help of
local artist Angelina Marino and
volunteer Kristie Willis, the group
has come down to the warehouse
twice a week to work on the mural.
As they paint, the teens get a
hands-on approach to art history.

"These guys all have a great deal
of interest and a lot of creative
energy, Marino says. The thing is
its all untapped. We want to take
the cloth away from it and reveal it.

Marino says she spends time
talking to the youths about oil
pastels, shapes and techniques. It’
s not uncommon to hear chatter
about Chagall or Cezanne in the
same breath as bold graffiti.

Basic skills for life many of the
residents of Out Front House
arrive at the program as a
transition from juvenile detention
facilities, says Jose Serrica, one of
the counselors. They can get their
high school diploma equivalents
and develop other basic skills that
will help prepare them for the

Serrica says creating the mural
does more than teach the teens
about art.

"For some of these kids, this
project is very therapeutic, he
says. They are using this as a way
to work out their feelings about
the world and their surroundings,
as well as their perceptions about

For 17-year-old Darnell Owens,
being creative usually means
spending time writing poetry on
his own. But he sees the project
as a way to learn how to work as a

"It makes me feel like I’m working
on myself and how I get along with
other people, Owens says. You
look at this wall, and it’s not like I
can say, I did this, I did that. All this
work we did together. And that
makes me feel better, like I’m
getting somewhere.

•        Caption: 2 Photo by
Stephanie Yao for The Oregonian