World Wide Wall tells the story of the Portland Mercado Mural.
In the fall of 2014, two artists were chosen by Hacienda CDC to collaborate and represent Southeast Portland’s brand new mercado as a haven for Latin American culture in Portland. This original THRU documentary tells how the mural at Portland Mercado was created by artists Pablo Solares and Rachel Oleson. Nobody is there to show you how a breakthrough for the filmmakers is happening at once.
Pablo and Rachel talk about finishing the mural with a great sense of relief (it took 2 years), but they waver in their feelings of moving on. The scene in World Wide Wall has Pablo saying he’ll miss it while Rachel stresses the importance of letting go. Writing this intro now, the last step before publishing our first documentary one year in the making, I face my own reluctance to let it go, or to sum it up.
I entered the story shortly thereafter, interviewing Pablo and Rachel for a double artist profile. I was intrigued that they were both athletes and artists, and the piece we published at the time focused on the intersection of sports and art in their lives. Only at the end did I describe what they would paint on the Mercado’s south-facing wall, mostly as a device to end the story by looking toward the future. I had no plans then to follow up, but I see it now as a cliffhanger of an introduction to this new documentary.
A year later, Sean Ongley and I met videographer Forrest Brennan on a wet, dreary November night. He was offering himself for creative video ventures. While brainstorming ideas for a new project, I remembered the Mercado mural. Rachel had recently updated me that she and Pablo had been set back, but they were beginning it that month. We all agreed that following up on the mural would make a great video piece.
That was a year ago, and this past Monday night, a night as wet and dreary as the one when we met Forrest, we screened World Wide Wall for the first time at the Mercado. The yellow of the mural glowed somehow in the dark behind steady rain. When I walked up that night and looked up at it, I felt like I had watched its three figures grow up. I remember when you were just a pencil sketch and that bowl was just a few blue lines!
About thirty people made it out to that first screening, in the rain. The Mercado was closed by the time we screened the video, but a few food carts and El Barrio were still open, with barkeep Chris Shimamoto acting as the gracious host for the night.
This is the second introduction I’ve written. The first I wrote before the screening and it was mostly a response to the election and aftermath, highlighting public art and projects like the Mercado as oases in a society that is fractured and grim. The screening, however, called for more than just a reaction shaped by unsettling national news and warranted its own celebration, as the screening and the enthusiasm there led me to see why we took on this project to begin with; something that eluded me during the process.
You see, we didn’t have any money to do this, or much experience. If it came with a blooper reel or a behind-the-scenes, you’d see the story of a scrappy media outlet with one camera, hectic work schedules, scenes of biking up to 72nd and SE Foster with the camera in a milk crate; learning how to produce and edit a film on the fly and grateful for free burritos and pozole in return.
You’d see Forrest’s on-site tutorials on basic camera settings and Sean spending nearly 50 hours at his desk cutting down over three hours of footage. You’d see us passing a job shift or two up to work on it. You’d see us struggling to edit with our own Spanish comprehension and making friends with Ben Citalán who translated several pages of interviews only a week ago.
I thought of the people who helped just because we needed it. The connections we relied on were fostered through longstanding friendships, especially Jamie Melton, whose service to Portland Mercado is coming to a gracious end as she moves on to bigger and better things.
Our goal — well, it started as a project to exercise our first foray into video. But at the screening, as I watched the video with everyone else, I also watched Rachel, her wife and friends smile at parts that referred to the duration of the project (no doubt, its never-ending feeling became something of an inside joke). I watched my friends show up without ever really knowing what it was I was working on over the past year. I watched people I didn’t know sit and watch the film, because they cared about the Mercado, or art, or just found they had the time to take part in something.
Chris spoke after our screening, summing up my feelings: this gathering is important. All the time we give each other and bigger projects like this is important.
This is not the oasis: This support, trust, persistence, and creativity happens all the time. It happened every day we filmed or worked on the story. It happens everyday at the Mercado.
And that’s where I think my reluctance comes from, writing this now and putting a cap on the project. It was good to be a participant in something outside of a job. Meeting with Sean and Forrest to discuss edits and sift through our differing opinions; to talk with vendors about their food; to talk to Pablo about art and running and Rachel about art and soccer: these relationships established by an external point leave you feeling that you are a part of the entire world.
But today is a wrap, and here is the video. These other things will keep on going. Thank you for watching and I hope you enjoy.
A previous upload of this video showed Luis Pozos incorrectly in the credit roll. Additional audio enhancements were made while we were at it.