If you walk or bike around inner Southeast Portland, you’re sure to stumble across stunning examples of street art. (No surprise in a city that’s home to nearly 2,000 pieces of public art, including many murals.) These include an enormous snake that winds its way across several walls and robots that ask, “What brings you joy?” There’s also the oft-Instagrammed arrow mural on Hawthorne. Many of these works are products of the annual Forest for the Trees Northwest festival. Don’t leave your Portland mural sightings to chance — follow this itinerary to see the area’s most iconic works of street art.
Southeast Portland mural crawl
417 S.E. 11th Ave.
The buildings on the corner of Southeast 11th Avenue and Stark Street host several very different murals, each more captivating than the last. The artistic spectacles include a cheeky pop/Egyptian art combo, a monument to Kalief Browder, a massive green monster giving a toothy grin, and a black and white snake that winds its way around co-making space ADX. Around the corner, you’ll find even more art, including an abstract 3-D installment in soft pinks and blues. When you’re done documenting them all, order one of the phenomenal poke bowls at nearby Poke Mon.
215 S.E. Stark St.
As a nod to specialty importer and distributor Alexis Foods, which offered its outdoor walls to the Portland Street Art Alliance, graffiti artists put their own spins on Hellenistic vases. The collaboration depicts mountains, streams and forests in maroon, white and black. After taking your requisite photos, walk a few blocks through the industrial Central Eastside to locals’ favorite City Liquidators. This massive store is home to screaming deals on everything from pool floaties to scraps of PDX carpet. (Bonus: There’s also a swirling Technicolor mural on the City Liquidators parking lot wall, which was painted by Yatika Fields for a Native arts event.)
1205 S.E. Stark St.
These two-story-high, absurdly cheerful robots across the street from Revolution Hall ask important questions: What brings you joy? How can you help? And what’s your inspiration? Snap a picture and answer on Instagram with the hashtags #botjoy and #botpdx. Artist Gary Hirsch’s interactive murals encourage visitors to create an online “gallery of reflections, ideas, and beliefs.” While you’re here, stock up on vegan twinkies and other plant-based essentials at Food Fight! Grocery. Order a dairy-free soft serve cone for a sweet selfie. (Want more #botjoy? Find additional bot murals at 3050 S.E. Division, 1037 S.E. Ash, 1006 S.E. Salmon, S.E. 17th and Rhine and 2043 S.E. 50th.)
Art fills the void!
S.E. 12th Ave. & Division St.
This eye-catching mural depicting an enormous banana was created by a pioneering group of street artists called “Gorilla Wallflare” in 1982. Equal parts simple and quirky, Portland’s oldest piece of street art was restored in 2015. Its all-caps call-out, “Art fills the void!” could be a rallying cry of all Stumptown graffiti. Bring your fish-eye lens to capture the expanse of this fruity mural. Afterward, head around the corner for falafel bowls and soy curl shawarma at vegan Israeli hot spot Aviv.
916 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
This vibrant arrows mural, painted by prolific local artist Blaine Fontana of North Portland’s Fontana Studios, is a must-see. Wait for a break in traffic and (safely!) step into the parking lane for a wide-angle shot of the whole wall. (Bonus: It’s only a few blocks west of beloved Portland sandwich shop Lardo and late-night food cart pod Cartopia.)
1308 S.E. Morrison St.
On the side of Buckman bar There Be Monsters, a life-size rhino runs amok, spearing street signs on its horn. The piece was painted by Pacific Northwest native Josh Keyes — whose work often places animals in urban environment — as part of Forest for the Trees 2015. Located in a parking lot, this street art may be obscured by people going about their daily business (the nerve!). Visit in the evening for a better chance of an unobstructed view.