PORTLAND, Oregon — With the sound of the gong the art is on at Director Park in downtown Portland. Artists are at the park for two days, competing in a live paint off, hoping to earn some recognition and some of $16,000 in prize money.
But the Director Park Live Paint Off is as much for the city, by creating good things happening downtown to draw people in.
“We thought it was fun to get artists here, because you're leaders of helping us not just survive but thrive,” said the man behind event and arguably Portland’s top art patron, Jordan Schnitzer.
Schnitzer said, the live paint off is the first of what he wants to be an annual event at a downtown park named after his grandparents.
"Director Park is back, it's a park for everyone in the community," said Schnitzer. "Second of all, let's honor artists that work every day, they toil usually alone, here. We're bringing them out under the sunlight so all of us can see how the art sausage is made,” quipped the philanthropist and downtown Portland booster.
There are 30 local artists who made the cut to compete.
“I just kind of work and see what resonates. I build on what does, if it doesn't I get rid of it,” said artist Jesse Reno, who got off to a fast start.
“It's fun, it's great man. I've been in the city for like 20 years painting, doing murals off and on, and showing my work for the whole time. So it's cool to be out here with other artists, that's always a fun thing seeing what everybody else is doing — kind of get that energy,” said Reno.
The artistic event is happening for the love of art, and for the love of Portland. A city that has several challenging years, but many observers say is making a comeback.
“It's not perfect yet but it's a heck of a lot better and it's steps like this that get people downtown; until we get people downtown the city won't thrive,” said Schnitzer.
Anne Bocci is all about her art and a better Portland, so this is her kind of thing.
“It makes it alive down here and fun. You want energy, and vitality downtown and safety — and this is it,” said Bocci, as she worked on three different canvasses.
There are some good vibes in a park that is back to being a community place; where kids can take a dip, and people can relax. Over the next few days, with live art in the mix from folks like Johnny Cool, who was born and raised in Portland, who hopes the good vibes being created here will rub off on you.
"It's like get up and do something with your energy and your time that's gonna serve you; I can't tell you what to do but Portland ain't that bad you know, I'm here," said Cool.
Artists will be back on Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday judges decisions are announced, and the prize money is awarded at an 11:30 a.m. event at Director Park. That’s great for the artists, but also for those who come to see it to support the artists and downtown.
The event is presented by the Jordan Schnitzer Foundation and the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Care Foundation.