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Another year, another street design, at "Share-It Square"

by: RITA A. LEONARD - A painted fir tree with a door to imagination commemorates the recent loss of a 150-year-old fir at the intersection. For the 18th year, neighbors around S.E. 9th Avenue and Sherrett Street in Sellwood came together to create a new street painting to celebrate “Share-It Square”.

The May 31st event was coordinated by Sarah Heath, and this year’s design was developed during a series of spring potluck meetings, reflecting current interests of the community. The design features trees important to the area, and whimsical flying houses on the backs of birds. The design was sketched out by Frances Michaelson and Naomi Kinnaird.

“We kept a celestial design in the center, similar to last year's painting,” says Heath, “But we touched up the moon, stars, and planets there. Doors in the four trees painted at the corners – fir, apple, walnut, and dogwood – represent our interest in different cultures, and a sense of wonder in exploring our world. “The circle is surrounded by a line of prayer flags, and we also repainted the brick design and the four white chevrons that flare out on the streets indicating the four compass directions.”

Share-It Square was one of the first experiments in community place-making envisioned by neighbor Mark Lakeman, with the assistance of the Village Building Convergence (http://vbc.cityrepair.org), and so far the longest-lasting one.

Since its inception, the VBC has helped other Portland neighbors come together to create a sense of place with collaborative murals and neighbor-built cob structures. Share-It Square features such structures at each corner: An information station, a “Little Free Library”, a hot tea stand managed by neighbors, and an open-air kids’ playhouse.

Lakeman comments that he is thrilled to learn that the “Little Free Library” at the corner is considered to be one of the first such in the world. That movement is rapidly expanding to other states and neighborhoods, helping to promote reading and shared literature. The other street corner structures at the square promote creative community interests and provide resting spots and an open-air “community center” for all to enjoy.

Last year, development of a corner lot into 2 town-houses caused some community concern with the removal of a 150-year-old fir tree and several adjacent orchard trees. However, Heath reports that the new neighbors have become great supporters of the community.

“One of them has even installed a poetry pole on the parking strip that we call ‘The Rumination Station’,” she says. Currently it features a poem entitled “The Man in the Meadow” written by 7-year-old Bram Allahdadi. Adjacent to the poetry pole are a stone bench, wind chime, cherry trees, blueberry bushes, strawberries, and day lilies.

The annual community street painting was completed this year under sunny skies, supplemented with make-your-own peanut-butter-sandwiches at the kids’ playhouse station. A donation jar was available there for those who wished to donate to the fund for colorful traffic marking paint, which Heath says is added to every year.

Throughout the day, nearly 150 painters of all ages wielded paintbrushes to add their own special touches to the street mural that will characterize their neighborhood for the coming year.