Portland’s public transit system offers travelers a unique, rich emersion into the local art scene. The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met) promotes transit use and community pride by integrating permanent and temporary art works that celebrate the contributions of the cultural richness in the region.
The art project at the Rosa Parks station was completed by a team including Native American artist Lillian Pitt, Ken MacKintosh, Rick Bartow, Elizabeth Woody, and Gail Tremblay. The artists used traditional motifs to symbolize the life-sustaining relationships of nature. Pitt served as team leader of five members to complete her vision. She states, “The Interstate project was the first public art project I worked on. At the time, there was not one public art project in Portland that was done by a Native American artist. So I thought, that’s not right, and I went ahead and applied for the job.”
Artistic interpretations of historic petroglyphs from the Columbia River Gorge appear on columns, custom benches, and railing panels. A traditional basket weave pattern is repeated in the pavement. And, at the ends of each of the shelters near the apex of the roofline, are sculptured images of birds, fishing apparatus and other symbols of cultural significance. “I designed the bricks into a basket design, the fence railings and the gable ends,” states Pitt.
Pitt’s artwork along the Tri-Met has become known for an iconography rooted in the Columbia River petroglyphs of her ancestors. Through her use of this and other petroglyph symbols, Pitt has helped to bring the Indigenous iconography of the Columbia River to the public eye and affirm the ancient as well as contemporary Indigenous presence in the region.
Lillian Pitt is a Pacific Northwest Native American artist. She was born and raised on the Warm Springs reservation in Oregon and her ancestors lived in and near the Columbia River Gorge for over 10,000 years. The focus of her work is on creating contemporary fine art pieces that delight today’s art lovers, and at the same time, honor the history and legends of her people.
For more information about Lillian Pitt’s work and a list of her other public art pieces to view in the area, please visit http://lillianpitt.com.
More information about artwork along the Tri-Met can be found here: https://trimet.org/publicart/index.htm