PORTLAND – The Pioneer Place Apple Store in downtown Portland has become a canvas for a memorial to the Black Lives Matter movement. Painted by Emma Berger of Flat Rabbit Studio after the store was boarded up in the wake of damage during a protest earlier in the week, the plywood canvas has grown to become a community project.
Somewhat ironically, the Pioneer Place Apple Store was open for only a single day after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before property damage caused it to close again. As one of the Stanford style stores, three sides were panes of glass which has a known incompatibility with bricks. The store was quickly boarded up, and the plywood proved a fruitful canvas for graffiti, so it was pretty quickly all painted black. When Emma Berger saw that empty expanse, she knew what it needed to be.
I spoke with artist Emma Berger Thursday, and she said she saw the plywood as an opportunity. She took that opportunity on Monday and spent about four hours painting a mural in honor of George Floyd, the man killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day. She spent four more hours Tuesday adding portraits of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbary.
Ms. Berger said (as of Thursday afternoon) she had not spoken with anyone from Apple HQ or this particular Apple Store, she just got her gear and started painting. Also as of this afternoon, she had a number of people helping paint more artwork embellishing her initial efforts. In some areas, the volunteers were working around the impromptu memorial items that had been placed in front of the windows.
There are additional storefronts in downtown Portland that have also been boarded up and painted black, and I asked if perhaps she was going to create more art on those as well. She wasn’t sure if she was going to do it, but did say she would be glad to coordinate other artists who want to try working with paint and plywood.
You can see more footage of the mural and Ms Berger in this news story from KPTV, a Portland television station.