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The Marquam Mosaic: piecing together community spirit

by: CONNECTION PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - At a recent workshop at Terwilliger Plaza, artist Lynn Takata helps Joan Rague work on a contribution to the Marquam Mosaic.

In Marquam Nature Park, a 178-acre natural area in the Homestead neighborhood of Southwest Portland, under cover of Douglas fir trees, there sits a small amphitheater, with bare stone seats bisects by tufts of green and muddied grass. Always a place of quiet contemplation for park visitors, thanks to a new public art project, it is now serving as a conduit to artis- tic contribution and community connection.

Through the project, known as the Marquam Mosaic, people of all ages have been coming together at a series of workshops throughout Southwest Portland to create pieces of art that will be assembled in a 100-foot-long mosaic along the Marquam Nature Park amphitheater.

The project was the brainchild of local artist Lynn Takata. A citizen of the Southwest Hills Residential League, Takata lived close to one of the park’s trailheads and would often perambulate its paths.

“Lynn came on a hike that I had organized two years ago June,” recalled Robin Jensen, then the president of the Friends of Marquam Creek board. “I knew her name and knew her work because I’d seen it all over the city, and she said she’d love to do a project down here ... she’d imagined the front of these walls with a mosaic on them.”

Jensen jumped at the idea.

“We spent probably a year talking about it, and then finally applied for a grant from the RACC, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, and they awarded us the grant in December,” she said.

“We decided it would be fun to try to do something here, and then the question was, what was that going to be, and it made sense to do a piece of artwork that is going to help to educate ... and let peo- ple know about the species that are in the park,” Takata said. “So we’re going to put in species that are more common ... but also a few ... that are not visible.”

“We looked at what is the community surrounding the park, and it’s not one community; it’s many communities,” Takata said.by: CONNECTION PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Marlo Dabareiner traces a leaf on a slab a clay at a Marquam Mosaic workshop at the Hillsdale Library.

In addition to numerous workshops at the Hillsdale Library, “Legacy Hopewell House (in Hillsdale) is one; we worked with their bereavement group, and that was an incredible experience ... with Shriners Children’s Hospital, and that’s been very inspiring to work with the children and their families ... after their children are done with their surgeries they come back and participate in all types of activities designed to get them back into life, and their siblings and parents are also included,” Takata said.

“We hope to involve a lot of the different people that are using the trail system and using the park,” she said.

On the other hand, she added, “There’s a lot of people who have never heard of the park, and had trouble finding the park ... one woman told me she drives down the road every day (on the way to Terwilliger Plaza) but doesn’t know where the park is.”

An important aspect of the Marquam Mosaic, according to Takata, is its inclusiveness.

“We are having the workshops on the weekends because I thought that would be a nice way to engage more of the community,” she said. “Even if somebody’s passing by and doesn’t have time at that moment, they can come back. It’s a way that people can contribute something and create a special memory ... of a piece of artwork that’s going to be in the wall for a long time.”

Takata has engaged someone with whom she has collaborated many times in the past, poet Edna Kovacs of Hillsdale, to introduce a poetry component into the Marquam Mosaic project. At the end of the project, poetry will be compiled into a chapbook available for purchase at Annie Bloom’s Books in Multnomah Village, and a fragment will be selected for inclusion on the mosaic.

So far, the poetry workshops have been a resounding success.

“People who had never written poetry before, they felt so intimidated, and they get some easy prompts and the copies of my books to look at too, and they just said, ‘I never knew it was so easy’,” she said. “In terms of our community ... people are very authentic and inspired to come together and move into a larger circle.

“How empowering it is,” she said, “for the community to come together and do a collaborative and co-creative project with art and poetry. It really takes on a life of its own. It’s been really a lot of fun.”

The Marquam Mosaic will be dedicated on Sept. 28 from 2 to 3 p.m. For more information and a list of workshops happening in August, visit fmnp.org/MmosaicWorkshops.php.