How Portlandia. A Saga.
The concept of “Portlandia” begins with the 1980 design of the Portland Building, but the inspiration for the female figure of Portlandia dates from a century earlier on the 1878 City Seal of Portland. The City Seal obviously came first, but like the chicken and the egg, without the Portland Building we wouldn’t have either a statue or the name Portlandia. So let’s begin the saga of Portlandia with the Portland Building.
The name “Portlandia” originates with architect Michael Graves – the first person known to coin the name. In 1980 Grave had entered a city-sponsored competition to design/build a new Portland Public Services Building (later shortened to simply Portland Building). National-caliber architects were given budget/space/etc requirements and asked for design proposals. The contest whittled down to Graves and two other finalists. The other finalists proposed smaller “modern” buildings akin to the architecture du-jour of the age, namely boxy glass structures with fountains adorning the front plaza. Graves went the other way, going past “modern” architecture to “post-modern”, which really means that his design harkened back to a past when buildings had ornamentation and character built onto the structure rather than having some art out front of the plaza. Think ornate iron facades or carved porticos and roof lines. In a way, Graves’ version of “post-modernism” means a revival of Classicism. In addition to Graves’ colorful, garlanded design, he also designed the entrance portico to be topped by a monumental sculpture that would harken back to the figurative sculptures of antiquity rather than the modern “what the hell is that anyway?” sculptures that were all the rage those days (“Tilted Arc”) Graves named this yet-to-be-designed sculpture “Portlandia”, and he saw her as the embodiment of the toga-clad trident-holding “Lady Commerce” from the Portland City Seal. Graves and his post-modern” “Temple-like” design won the competition, helped mightily also that Graves’ design was both bigger and less expensive than his competitors, thus giving the city more building-for-the-buck as well as a unique design that would surely make America stand up and take notice of Portland.
Upon winning Graves and the city council formed a citizen Art Selection Committee which would then use the new “1% for the Arts” funds available ($220,000) to solicit sculpture designs via another nationwide competition. This committee, questioning Graves about his “Portlandia” concept, found that Graves felt that Portland already had a mythic icon on its City Seal and he thought a sculptural representation of our classical Lady Commerce would be part and parcel of his entire “Temple-like” post-modern building design. Portlandia wasn’t intended as an add-on artistic feature but rather an integral part of the entire building design. Funny thing though, many members of the Art Selection Committee had no idea what Graves was talking about when he referenced our classical Lady Commerce from our City Seal.
Lady Commerce, akin to Lady Liberty or Columbia, is a standing toga-clad female on our 1878 City Seal. She stands at water’s edge with a trident grasped in one hand while the other hand waves at the pretty Mt. Hood scenery behind her. A ship, a sheaf of wheat and a cog wheel complete the scene. Oddly, even today nobody knows what the mysterious star above our Lady’s head represents. The trident though has a story behind it and the trident’s significance might have inspired Graves to give a proper name to our generic Lady Commerce – hail “Portlandia”!
Chances are that Graves knew that Britannia, the female personification of Britain has for centuries been depicted holding a trident. Back in the day Britannia’s trident symbolized British naval powers and the nation’s dominion over the seas. In the mythological past of Britain the god Neptune/Poseidon relinquished his legendary trident to Britannia, symbolizing a sort of “passing of the torch” over who was in control of the seas (there are famed paintings of Neptune handing-over his trident, the most famous being William Dyce’s “Neptune Resigning to Britannia the Empire of the Sea”).
OK, so now back to Portland. In 1878 the unknown creator of the Portland City Seal borrows the classic toga of Columbia and the commerce icons from the Oregon State Seal and goes on to place Britannia’s trident in Lady Commerce’s stout clutch, symbolizing young Portland’s maritime focus as a fast growing West Coast post city. Fast-forward 100 years and Michael Graves sees the Columbia/Britannia figure on our Seal as he ponders post-modernistic architectural styling’s and has an “a-ha” moment – “Portlandia” could come to life as a classical goddess figure to .complete his proposed post-modernistic classically-themed Portland Building. Imagine a century-old-semi-forgotten lack luster civic icon, re-named and revitalized to herald a new era for both Portland and Portland architecture. Postmodern PDX in the guise of a new blue/red/green building adorned with garlands, terra cotta pilasters and keystones …and a mammoth classically inspired civic goddess…whoa.
A Portland Building Art Selection Committee was formed, including Graves, artists, officials and citizens. They compile an art-submission prospectus that shows the building, the City Seal and a mock-up of how Graves envisioned that statue on the building. Also included were the necessary height/weight specs as well as the $200,000 budget. An impressive prospectus! Ads were placed in national art magazines such as “Art in America” and notices sent out to art organizations. Artists were instructed to send in slides and drawings of potential art pieces as well as a descriptive paragraph.
The response was large and the Art Selection Committee received over 200 entries. The Committee was specifically looking for figurative/allegorical sculpture featuring Portlandia as well as themes from the City Seal. The Committee soon whittled the entries down to five (to our knowledge the 195 disqualified entries were not kept or recorded in any way). The five chosen semi-finalists were then given a couple thousand dollars each to mock-up a miniature model of their proposals (around 2-3 feet tall). They were also asked for a detailed description of their theme, an outline of the materials to be used and a proposed budget for the completion and shipping/instillation of the final work of art.
Here are the five models sent or delivered to Portland in April 1983. These models were put on display at the Pacific Northwest College of Art so the public could review and offer comments to the Art Selection Committee. (Below each photo we’ve excerpted and “artist description” from each’s submission papers).
Cascieri Sculpture Group, New York
“Portlandia sits on a landscape of waves and clouds, symbolic of her location near ocean and mountains. She has a backdrop of the cogwheel representing her roots in the commerce of the city”
Frudakis and Hesness, Philadelphia
“In one hand Portlandia bears the trident representing the predominant importance of a maritime economy to the existence of the city. The other hand extends a rose, symbol of the Rose City, with its museums universities and cultural institutions. By holding both items, Portlandia indicates the importance of establishing a harmony between cultural and economic values in society. The figure stands on the bow of a ship which moves through waves of water, wheat and fir branches, symbolizing the continuing importance of agriculture, forest and maritime aspects of Portland’s growth.”
Penelope Jenks, Boston
“The figure of Portlandia will be emerging from the building…with attached to the hands – one to a trident continuing out of the building, the other holding a sheaf of wheat.”
Richard Savini, Washington D.C.
“The sculpture’s motifs are formed as an expression of the building’s architectural narratives, and further, the motifs make direct references to the characteristics of the Portland environment: the mountains on its horizons; its waterways and procession of its beautiful Columbia River Gorge; its hilltop views, and the spectacular clouds of its skies that seem to make of it a city “in” the sky. The pose of the figure with its elated draperies and the garden gate motif are used in the classical sense as they refer to transcendence and the unity of contrasts”
Raymond Kaskey, Washington D.C.
Kaskey’s says, “I decided to stick with the idea of a wind-blown figure. It suggested sea breezes and seemed a good symbol of the city of Portland
From the semi-finalist 5 mock-ups the budgetary and weight constraints of using metal on so big of a sculpture became apparent. All the 5 mainly used reinforced fiberglass with some metal flourishes. Jenks mentioned using some hammered copper as a weight-saving device over bronze casting. It became clear that being monumentally big, yet light-weight was not easy at a $200,000 budget. Some entries offered the use of copper or bronze, but at a significantly higher budget.
Thus, after a comment and review period, the selection committee chose two finalists for the commission – Kaskey and Savini (the details of this selection are unknown and unfound by us). The selection committee was far from happy though with their two finalists. Both sculptures proposed reinforced and painted fiberglass. The committee wanted “further refinements” to each entry and sent the two finalists “back to the drawing board” with a slew of comments. Both Kaskey and Savini were given a couple more thousand each and about three months to refine their offering in terms of modifications, materials and budget…and then re-submit a finalized model for the ultimate showdown. (Note: from reading the available documents, it didn’t appear at this point that either submission was a clear favorite – each fiberglass piece had its ups and downs).
It seems appropriate to comment on the inspiration the finalists drew on to craft their versions of Portlandia.
Kaskey: Kaskey often stated that the source of inspiration for Portlandia’s crouched pose was the famed 1794 painting “Ancient of Days” by William Blake. In this painting Blake’s version of “God,” named Urizen, crouches down from the heavens on one knee, hair billowing sideways in the wind and reaching downwards with a compass-like geometric “divider,” supposedly organizing the world below from chaos into order. Kaskey commented that he liked this “tight bit of geometry” because it allowed him to get more statue into the allotted space – a crouched 50 ft woman rather than a slender 30-foot woman.
A lesser-known inspiration for Kaskey’s pose comes from an art-book photo that Kaskey donated to the National Building Museum with his Portlandia archive. This art book page not only shows Ancient of Days, but also a cropped depiction of God from Teddeo Zucarri’s “the Conversion of St. Paul.” Here we have God zapping Paul off his horse while also reaching back and upwards with his other hand…as if…as if…he were grasping a trident. Wow, one look at these paintings side by side and Kaskey’s inspiration for his Portlandia pose becomes clear.
Savini: Savini’s inspiration is less clear (and likely undocumented), but Oregon Journal arts writer Andy Rocchia commented in April 1982 that Savini’s first proposal evoked the goddess Nike in her famous “Winged Victory” pose, gown blown against her torso as she strides forward. Whoa, imagine a visage of Goddess Nike as Portland’s civic personification – ha, that sure would’ve melded our commercial interests with our allegorical!
In August 1982 the final models were air-freighted in from the sculptors’ workshops for the final review, as well as adjusted budgets, etc. Both models were put on display in the lobby of the Portland Building…and the favorite quickly became apparent. Savini extensively re-worked his Portlandia figurine as well as the V-shaped backdrop relief, but to no avail. If anything the committee disliked it more than the previous model often commenting simply “Too busy” (according to the written committee documents). Kaskey, on the other hand, made great strides forward. First he removed the arching wreath from Portlandia’s down-reaching hand and replaced it with an open hand with a beckoning and friendly gesture – a big hit with the committee! Even more impressive was that Kaskey now offered to construct the entire 38-foot monument out of hammered copper, a-la the Statue of Liberty. Whoa, that impressed the committee, especially since Savini only offered to use bronze at an $80k increase in expense. Thus, Kaskey’s final entry took a favorable step forward while Savini’s entry basically stepped backwards. The decision was made – a hammered-copper goddess from the hand of Raymond Kaskey.
So, Kaskey wins the Portlandia design competition in August of 1982. His contract with Portland stipulates that he begin work on 1/1/83 and deliver and install the finished Portlandia by 6/1984. A monumental task to say the least, especially since Kaskey had little to no experience at either creating monumental sculpture or hammering copper.
A discussion here might be appropriate as to why Kaskey would propose a monumental sculpture in a medium he wasn’t familiar with. A sketch of Kaskey’s past might help shed some light. In his younger years he was very much a modernist, teaching modern architectural design at the University of Maryland, all while practicing modern sculpting in his free time. But reading past interviews, you get the distinct impression of Kaskey wanted to “change course” with his sculpting, desiring to become a more figurative sculptor – against the tide of his contemporaries. On his own he began learning to sculpt the human form, sometimes using his wife Sherry as a model. According to our readings, he avidly pursued the Vietnam War Memorial sculpture competition, but his figurative proposal lost to Maya Lin’s angling walls.
Thus, in 1981 at the age of 38 Kaskey was at a tipping point in his career right when the prospectus for Portlandia walked through the door (in the guise of an ad in a sculpting publication). Whoa, here it was…a monumental allegorical female – right up Kaskey’s desired alley, literally a HUGE opportunity to re-create his career. Portlandia could be his Big Break! Fast-forward nine months of creating/refining his Portlandia proposal and now Kaskey is a finalist for the commission. At this point he might have decided to significantly “up the ante” by suggesting an impressive hammered-copper Portlandia in competition with Savini’s metal/fiberglass proposal. Kaskey wanted Portlandia bad, damn the cost or labor involved! His second proposed budget for hammer-copper drops the mention of the previous “sculpting fee.” Basically he said “I’m all in.” The Art selection Committee was duly impressed and the hammered-copper proposal won the day by a longshot. But…damn those be-deviling details… how do you create a monumental hammered-copper goddess in a short 18-month window for a mere $200,000?
To begin with you find some high-ceilinged studio space which Kaskey found in a Maryland suburb at a wine distribution warehouse where he leased a curtained off back corner. Hire and assistant and let the monumental task begin. First order of business is to enlarge the 3-foot Portlandia – the model that won the design competition – into a 12 foot plaster replica using a scaling tool called a pantograph.
Once Portlandia grew to 12-feet, then she was ready to be scaled-up to her final 36-foot proportions. The trick to making gargantuan hammered-copper Portlandia parts is to construct honeycombed plywood lattices in the shape of Portlandia’s bigger bits and then hammer the copper sheets over the lattice in her forms.
This goddess-scaled sculpting technique had not been tried since the Statue of Liberty a century before. Kaskey embarked on a laborious learning curve as he basically had to re-create the art of large-scale hammered copper. Pounding the copper over a honeycombed form worked for the bigger parts such as knee/leg/arm/body, but the more detailed features like face/toes/hand required a completely different technique. Kaskey and his assistants learned to sculpt, say the outreached hand, in clay which then they could make an epoxy resin mold around. They would then pound the copper into the negative mold to bring out the fine details of the fingers, face and toes (the mold for Portlandia’s face is still on display inside the Portland Building atrium.
Thus, the work. Kaskey kept a journal of his activities, and like Peter Paul and Mary once sang, it was hammer in the morning, hammer in the evening. Not much was written about Kaskey’s monumental task in its first year other than an excellent biographical piece done by a Washington Post writer and reprinted in the Oregonian in July 1983.
Portlandia’s progress found renewed media attention in March of 1984. At this point, 14 months into the project which had been slated for 18 months, Kaskey reported that he was but half done. The fabrication had been far more laborious and time consuming than he had anticipated. But, the “half” that was done was very impressive! The Metropolitan Arts Commission (MAC) loved what they saw and when Kaskey petitioned them for a year’s extension, they seemed more than willing to grant him the extra time to do such exquisite work. Spring 1985 became the new target date.
Next word the public hears is bad news. Front page Oregonian 11/25/84 declares that there’s not enough money to finish Portlandia. As Kaskey neared the end of hammering the copper into form, he realized that he won’t have enough money left over to also construct the inner iron armature skeleton needed to support the nine separate Portlandia pieces, nor will he have the needed funds to pack, ship, assemble and install the sculpture onto the Portland Building. The Oregonian article opened, “Kaskey woefully, but honestly, underestimated the time and money it would take to create the statue.” Norman Gleason, head of MAC commented, “It appears that while he can get the work done, he’ll go broke doing it.” Thus, the true cost of attempting a monumental sculpture using an invent-it-as-you-go method on a limited budget is finally becoming all too apparent.
At this point in time, autumn 1984, Kaskey has seen little to no income since he embarked on the Portlandia project back in autumn 1981. Ever resolute though, Kaskey commented that Portlandia had become his “life’s work” and he had no intention of not finishing her. On his own he began to solicit donations of iron armature materials from east coast contacts, but alas, he reported that likely sources had already been tapped-out by helping the concurrent restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Kaskey also commented that it wasn’t easy to get the donations from east coast art patrons for a statue destined for the west coast.
In Portland, MAC took serious Kaskey’s dilemma, but they didn’t have a staff to assist the needed fundraising and Chairman Gleason lamented, “I don’t see the possibility of going to the city and asking for general fund money, because you know how tight funds are.” Yikes our damsel was in distress – we needed a knight in coppered armor! Up stepped Portlander Charles Hall.
The Oregonian on 1/15/85, in an article detailing the woes of Portlandia’s financial plight, leads with, “People around Portland it seems are always willing to assist a lady in need.” The article describes how Charles Hall a marketing consultant, upon reading of Portlandia’s plight, stepped forward to volunteer to coordinate a fundraising campaign named “Portlandia to Portland.” In a way, Charles Hall became Kaskey’s on-site angel, the volunteer marketing-guru fundraiser who enabled Kaskey to actually finish the fabrication of Portlandia instead of spending his time scrounging the needed money and materials. More than that though, Charles Hall banged the drum in Portland and got both the media and the people excited for Portlandia’s imminent arrival. Up to this time the statue had been a far-flung “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” project, the public only being reminded of the monumental sculpture-to-be every few months via Oregonian articles. Hall changed the Portland perception. He “marketed” Portlandia as a lady in need and he (and MAC) asked the entire city to step up with donations in order to “bring her home.” He struck the right chord and made Portlandia’s deliverance a People’s Project, a celebratory civic cause! Raise funds he did, like a generous $10,000 donation from PDX arts patron Eleanor Lieber and also 50 other smaller donations such as $500 from the kids of West Tualatin Elementary School and $250 from Mayor Bud Clark. Probably more important than this money were Hall’s successful efforts to get the entire cost of shipping Portlandia to Portland donated, as well as assembly space at Gunderson’s crane-enables barge-construction facility…and getting Kaskey and his assistant’s free housing and cars…and coordinating all the donated services to barge and truck and crane Portlandia to her final place on the Portland Building. Without a doubt, Charles Hall was the behind-the-scenes hero of the final stages of the Portlandia saga.
This might be getting a bit ahead of our story here, but this seems the fitting spot to include how Hall got special recognition in Portlandia’s welcoming event, the Director of MAC stating, “He was our front-man, master-minding the logistical and marketing plan,” and “The MAC’s small staff could not have handled project of this magnitude without him.”
Also, a few years later Kaskey lauded.
In late July 1985 all $200,000 worth of Portlandia is packed aboard two rail cars for a 3-week cross-country journey. Lady P., being precious and fragile cargo, rides in the front two boxcars of the freight train. This turns out to be a big deal when the railroad later informed Kaskey that much of the back end of the train had derailed during its journey through the Midwest. Whew…Our Lady P. must have made friends with Lady Luck before she packed her bags for Portland.
Portlandia, unscathed arrives on August 9th and on the 9th/10th, at Union Station is a public showing of Portlandia’s head as she gazed out of the boxcar door. Mayor Bud Clark biked down, as did other curious PDX’ers to get their first-ever glimpse of Portland’s new coppertone girl and her creator before the boxcar were moved to Gunderson’s barge facility for the behind closed doors assembly.
Throughout August and September the Oregonian kept the public intrigued with weekly progress updates. Kaskey wouldn’t be pinned-down as to how long it might take to assemble the 38-foot goddess…because he had no idea. Few people knew at that time (except Kaskey and his die-hard assistants Lasell and Pettengill) that Portlandia had never been fully assembled before. Kaskey’s “studio” in Maryland had only a 20-foot ceiling, thus only allowing piecemeal assembly of her nine separate copper-clad armature parts. At Gunderson’s-on-the-Willamette the Kaskey trio and a group of Portland volunteers embarked on the first-ever full assembly of Portlandia…and…thanks to Kaskey’s architectural background and precision sculpting, the armatures all locked together without a hitch. The work progressed quickly (with a large nod of thanks to Gunderson’s cranes, space and knowledgeable staff, which Kaskey referred to as “a sculptor’s heaven”) Portlandia grew into her finished form faster than Kaskey had dared to hope. By the last week of September a delivery date was set for Oct 6th, but not before a gala invite-only unveiling of the completed goddess.
On Oct. 3rd the Oregonian’s front page shouted “Portlandia takes a bow at showing,” the public gets their first-ever view of the full-size fully-realized monument. Our Lady Commerce, finally bigger than life – wow! (As an aside, imagine if you will, Kaskey’s trepidation at this point. Nearly four years after submitting his first Portlandia proposal, here he stood finally to witness the public unveiling of his long-overdue labor–of-love, the possibly “career-making” copper goddess that he had been laboriously crafting in near solitude for the past three years. Would Portland love her? Imagine his personal doubts and worries. Would his sculpture live up to the public’s oversized expectations?) On Oct 2nd Sherry Kaskey signaled a crane to lift the veil and…gasp…applause…Success! The crowd cheered, the champagne flowed and the media glowed. She’s big, she’s great and she’s Ours!
The Portland procession was set for October 6th, she was to be lifted from Gunderson’s dock onto a barge, floated up the river under bridges Fremont, Broadway, Steel, Burnside and Morrison…then crane-lifted off the barge and over the seawall onto a flatbed truck for a slow seven-block parade to where she’d be lifted onto her new home on the Portland Building. That was the plan – Charles Hall’s meticulously planned public parade. Kaskey was slated to ride the Sternwheeler alongside Portlandia and tickets were sold to accompany him on the river route. The big question in everyone’s mind was, “how much would the Portland public care?” Nobody knew for sure and everyone involved was still apprehensive as to what the public would think of their new monumental civic icon.
On the overcast Sunday morning of Oct 6th the nervous wait and planning were over and a joyful surprise greeted the Kaskeys, Hall and all the other key players – an armada of private boats gathered around the dock at Gunderson’s all eager to escort their new first lady upriver. Spirits ran high as the public tooted and applauded their first view of the full-size Portlandia. The Portland people loved Portlandia! More than 200 boats cruised beside the gleaming goddess who rode solo on her barge. News helicopters flew overhead, the fire boat jetted arcing sprays of water. Under the Fremont she went, under the crowd of well-wishers who stopped their cars on the side-lanes of the upper deck to get out and have their first view. Onwards into the city every bridge was packed with a festive audience. Mayor Bud joined with the flotilla in his stand-up canoe, surely “Whoop-whooping” along with most every other Portlander. Pulling alongside the Taylor St. seawall Kaskey disembarked from the raucous Sternwheeler to an ovation from the massive crowd that gathered in the waterfront park around the waiting flatbed truck. Did Portland care for Portlandia? Hell yes! Kaskey later commented, “This was the best day of my career!”
Thousands thronged the waterfront as Kaskey, Campbell Crane and Wilhelm Trucking coordinated the delicate lift from barge to flatbed. Once successfully placed onto the truck trailer, the one-mile-per-hour seven-block parade commenced amongst the “couldn’t be contained” exuberant crowd. The slow parade became a legend – the only day ever that you could reach out and touch Portlandia’s extended fingers as the truck eased her along stop-lights removed and wires-lifted streets. Charles Hall’s planning was perfect and the use of Wilhelm’s special lowboy flatbed was a stroke of genius, as it put Portlandia’s hand at the peoples reach. Wow, a one-time chance to actually touch the eagerly-awaited copper goddess before she would be lifted to ever preside from her Portland Building perch.
A light drizzle began en route, but nothing could dampen Portlandia’s parade and the crowd roared with approval as the shining copper goddess was finally lifted out of their reach and onto her pedestal. Portlandia, our Lady Commerce, the new pride of Portland, had arrived home.
The good citizens of Portland loved Portlandia. They loved having a new bigger-than-life civic personification who drew constant comparison to the Statue of Liberty herself. Portland beamed with pride. Two days after the instillation procession the city hosted and official dedication ceremony. Thousands came to see Portlandia shine like a new penny on the sunny October afternoon. Mayor Bud spoke, as did former Mayor Ivancie.
TV news cameras buzzed around interviewing luminaries like Michael Graves. Famed author Tom Wolfe sauntered about in his tell-tale white suit. The crowd trilled to it all, often waving the Portlandia T-shirts and sweatshirts that were for sale all over town, or clutching a signed Raymond Kaskey Portlandia poster. (Bud and Portlandia) The official dedication speech echoed the public’s love for the statue as well as thanking the citizens who stepped forward with donations especially Charles Hall for all he did to bring Portlandia to Portland. In a rousing finale Ray Kaskey was lifted in the crane bucket up to Portlandia’s out stretched hand to place an honorary bouquet in her copper grasp. News cameras zoomed while the people cheered and applauded. Everybody happy!
A scant two weeks later Portland and Portlandia beamed with an even greater pride when Portlandia was featured in a multi-page spread in People magazine. Wow, the national spotlight shining, showing and aerial photo of Portlandia on the barge surrounded by the boat armada, a photo celebrating Ray Kaskey and another pic of Sherry Kaskey nose-to-nose with her look-alike. Everyone in the nation now knew of Portland’s new queen.
Portlandia stayed in the news the next few months as Kaskey announced the sale of 500 collectors-item miniature 8-inch bronze Portlandia replicas, as well as a set of 12 limited-edition 4 foot bronze replicas. Charles Hall became Kaskey’s Portland agent as Portlanders jumped at the chance to buy miniature replicas. Ads ran weekly in the Oregonian for the miniatures and (Portlandia ad) one was on put on display in the lobby of the Heathman Hotel for the public to see firsthand. The first of the 4-foot replicas was purchased by Kaiser Permanente and Oregonian photos show Kaskey inspecting the casting as well as the new owner beaming over his new showpiece.
Into the summer of 1986 much of the nation was abuzz with the hoopla surrounding the 100-year anniversary of NYC’s hammered-copper monument, the statue of Liberty. Portlanders had their own Lady and many now owned their own mini-P, but the nation’s gaze had turned back east as NYC celebrated their refurbished statue in gala fashion with President Reagan presiding over a grandiose 4th of July “Liberty Weekend.”
A week later though Portland got an unexpected surprise. In Newsweek Magazine’s 7/16 coverage of Liberty Weekend they ran a two-page article penned by famed favorite-son author Tom Wolfe, titled “The Copper Goddess” this article showed Portlandia to the nation in full-color copper grandeur, but even more gratifying than that was that Portlandia and the people of Portland were the focus of the article, rather than the Statue of Liberty. Wolfe’s prose was full of Portland praise, not only for the celebrity arrival that he had witnessed, but for Portland itself, its quirky “whoop-whooping” mayor and the citizen committee that had the gumption to choose a monumental figurative civic personification rather than some abstract piece of art that cities had been choosing over the past few decades. High praise indeed from the renowned author, Portland getting props for doing things the Right way instead of the Expected way. Wolfe lamented how classical heroic sculpture had fallen from grace in our country, but he finished his piece by lauding Portland for having the character to choose a mythic copper goddess to represent the city’s civic spirit, stating, “Over the past 40 years, Portlandia stands virtually alone.” High praise indeed in the nation’s news magazine, Portlandia celebrated.
Here are some highlights from Portlandia’s 30th birthday celebrated on Oct 8th, 2015.