Digital arts alumnus creates public murals project in Portland

Artist Gage Hamilton has been painting the town, literally, since his graduation from the Digital Arts Program at the UO in Portland in 2012.  Hamilton is the organizer of a public art project, Forest For The Trees (FFTT), a nonprofit public mural project to promote public visual expression, collaboration, and community engagement with contemporary art and the creative process.  

Bringing together more than twenty Portland-based and international artists to complete more than fifteen murals throughout the city, FFTT was instigated to bring opportunity “for local and visiting artists, and to share their gifts on a large public scale in Portland—a city already known as a creative hub and home to many talented artists,” Gage says.

Gage Hamilton’s Forest For The Trees
Above: Gage Hamilton’s Forest For The Trees 2014 mural on the DeSoto Building, NW Broadway and Couch in Portland’s Old Town.  Image from cargocollective.com/gagehamilton.

Organizing such a large project required that Hamilton “put everything together and do most of the groundwork until it [was] time to paint,” he says. Crediting fellow creative Matt Wagner (Hellion Gallery) as cocurator and fellow molder of the project, Hamilton is quick to also give accolades to his coconspirators on the endeavor, local businesses Band and Empire Green and a core group of volunteers coordinated by Tia Vanich.

“I think the project has been a huge benefit to the city of Portland as well as the art scene,” Hamilton says. “It has given artists, both visiting and local, opportunities to showcase their work to the public on a large scale with complete creative freedom. It's definitely opened doors for the artists involved, but also for others that have wanted to create contemporary murals that are representative of their art practice [but that] don't fit into the traditional expectations of what a public mural should be. The city is more supportive of it now, and so are a lot of local property owners.” 

Having created nearly forty murals in the last two years with his fellow creatives, Gage says he’s “hoping to push past the expectations of what this type of project is. …”

As for his own work, he says, “I love having the ability to paint freely on such a large scale. It's opened a lot of doors for me and given me a chance to let my work evolve in a public setting. That was the impetus to all of this, I just wanted to paint, and to see other artists' work unfold, and to share that. To let the artists influence the visual landscape rather than putting it all into the hands of the developers. Life is more interesting that way.”

View more of this story in the Portland Monthly article.

View an interview with Gage on The Oregonian’s Oregonlive page.

Hamilton painting his mural as part of the Forest For The Trees project.
Above: Hamilton painting his mural as part of the Forest For The Trees project. Image from saybonjourmonsieur.tumblr.com.

March 3, 2015