It is said that a “picture is worth a thousand words.” Murals are pictures and therefore suggestive and expressive and very powerful. Artist Matt Shapira uses his murals of Roaming Elephants to shed light on the plight of these magnificent creatures: Loss of habitat, being poached for their ivory, spending their lives in captivity. He believes that in order to see the world, you must “Roam like an elephant,” and that his murals depict the feelings he gets when he thinks of the giant creatures. He has painted these murals throughout the world, including Nepal, Thailand, Zambia, France, Jamaica, Wales, England, India, Niagara Falls, Missouri and now, Port Orford, Oregon. Painting in different countries and locales, he listens to the voices behind him—the languages, the dialects—and they influence the color palette he chooses to create each unique mural. They become the “undercurrent, subtle and symbolic.”
Many years ago, a Port Orford artist was inspired to cover a blank surface with a mural. That became the inspiration for other local artists, all wanting to beautify their little town with artwork. Today, there is hardly any wall that is unadorned. Being a town by the sea, many of the murals are of sea life: whales, fishes, crabs even a mermaid and Neptune make an appearance. Then, there are the scenes specific to the walls they sit upon, like at the Library which is the first mural you will see upon arriving in town (from the north). A wonderful depiction of fairy tales and children’s books, this whimsical panorama on the Library’s north enclosure will delight any child in the car. Featuring castles and pirate ships, fairies and ballerinas, ninjas and even a couple of swashbuckling mice, your child can perhaps name the various books these images are drawn from.
Once again, I am asking that age-old question, “What is art?” Ask 10 people and you will get 10 answers. After much time and exposure, I have come to this definition: Art is anything a person expresses in a creative way that provokes thought. So, when I saw the driftwood and rocks in front of Kat’s Korner (formally Not Just Art), I knew it was art. It certainly provoked thought and each piece of wood, each rock was intentionally placed and I found myself asking, “What was the artist trying to say?” So, I asked her.
When I drive thru the town of Port Orford, I am elated. There are no fast food restaurants, no big box stores, no Starbucks. Nothing flashy to grab your eye. In fact, if you drive thru here on a Sunday or a Monday, you might think it’s a ghost town, where seemingly, no businesses are open except for the all-day breakfast place, the gas station and the supermarket. . .just a bunch of store fronts, some of them empty. But if you drive thru and don’t stop, you are missing one of the hidden treasures of the Oregon Coast and possibly the heart of Port Orford: Art Galleries and Studios, of which, there are now nine. With an official population of 1,190, and only 1.56 square miles of land area for the town, that is a notable concentration.
I read that it was voted #4 on Travelocity’s nationwide list of 10 Best Small City Road-Trip Destinations and located about halfway between the California border and Coos Bay, Oregon, with an enforced 30 mph speed limit, you must drive slowly, but be alert and take note. Everywhere you look there are wall murals, canvasses hung on fences and fences as canvases, even a unique, mosaic lookout at which to view the southern coastline and sea. Plus, there are one-of-a-kind, whimsically-painted fire hydrants, which received honorable mention in the Oregon Main Street 2017 Best Image Campaign Award. And all of it sandwiched between the forest and the ocean.
Port Orford Arts Council
P.O. Box 771
Port Orford, Oregon 97465
Arts at the A-Frame
Buffington Memorial Park
Corner of 14th and Arizona
Port Orford, OR 97465
The Port Orford Arts Council is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization. We are dedicated to furthering the arts for the Southern Oregon Coast, especially Port Orford, OR.