Looking for something fun and free to do this summer? The streets of Portland are lined with sculptures, engaging the community and enriching the city.
The city’s public art is profoundly reflective of the creative, innovative culture of its people. Of the 170 outdoor sculptures around Portland, I’ve narrowed down the city’s most striking modern pieces. I invite you to dedicate a day to the city’s renowned public art and take this curated sculpture tour of Portland!
View the tour map here!
Frank E Beach Memorial Fountain, Lee Kelly (1975)
The Memorial Fountain was created in memory of Frank E. Beach, who officially coined Portland the “Rose City”. Artist Lee Kelly was commissioned by the Beach family to create a piece reflective of Beach’s love for Portland — the city where industrial meets nature. The striking, modern sculpture is composed of two 12-foot arches, towering over a reflective pool and small pathways atop the water. Installed in the Portland Rose Garden, the sculpture contrasts urban beauty to nature.
Lee Kelly has created some of Portland’s most notable masterpieces. As a revered artist of the northwest, Kelly brought a new perspective to modern sculpting. D.K Row of The Oregonian perfectly described Kelly’s work as utilizing “fundamental notions of scale and form, the nature of expression, and…monumental-sized works that used materials in original ways.” Dive further into his life and career and check out the Modern Home Portland blog dedicated to Lee Kelly.
The Dreamer, Manuel Izquierdo (1975)
Born in Madrid, Izquierdo arrived in Portland in 1942, bringing with him his experience in his grandfather’s woodworking shop. Izquierdo was a multimedia virtuoso, best known for his woodwork, pastel prints, and flowing sculptures. His art reflects the mid-century value of balancing industrial and natural elements.
Installed in Pettygrove Park, The Dreamer depicts a reclining woman, adorned in gold. Izquierdo constructed a sensual figure from Navy bronze (known for its durability), filled with porous foam. This sculpture, like many of Izquierdo’s pieces, mimics and interacts with nature. When it rains, droplets hit the surface of the sculpture and create soft, ringing “chimes”.
Pod, Pete Beeman (2002)
One of the city’s proudest structures towers over NW Portland’s busiest street. Along West Burnside, in the center of a traffic island, the Pod stands 30-feet tall. The majority of Beeman’s structures are mobile and interactive. The brush-like appendage in the center of the Pod sways naturally in the breeze and can be moved by pushing the bulb at the bottom. Movement breathes life into Beeman’s sculptures — he stated the swaying brush is representative of Portland’s revolutionary infrastructure and the vitality of the community.
Split Ring, Clement Meadmore (1969)
Prior to his art career, Meadmore established himself as an aeronautical engineer and industrial designer. Meadmore valued sculptures to be comprehensible and unique from every viewpoint. He artfully described his designs as, “configurations that enable the viewer to see and understand the whole sculpture from any single viewpoint.”
The massive steel structure is lightly textured with flowing, natural lines. The dark steel creates a beautiful contrast to the red brick wall behind. Although the base of the ring is rounded, the structure is perfectly engineered to stand balanced on level surface. Meadmore’s sculptures are stripped down to their most fundamental form — brilliantly engineered and engaging with the viewer in an intrinsic way.
Facing the Crowd, Michael Stutz (2001)
Adorning both sides of Providence Park, this pair of sculptures depict the faces of a jovial man and a young boy. The structures are constructed of bronze strips, woven together to reflect moving muscles in the face. Artist Michael Stutz recalls his inspiration for the project to be the changing characteristics — internal and external — of an individual throughout a lifetime. The famous faces invite the Portland community, at all stages of life, into the stadium.
Portland’s public art adds an incomparable depth and vibrancy to the city. Reflective of Portland’s culture, the city’s art allows the community to share their stories, marks moments in history, and illustrates the city’s collective experience through art. Let’s take a stroll this week — enjoy the art around every street corner!
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View map here!
Portland Modern Sculpture Tour and artist info: