The Unity Project: Color Outside the Lines


Photography by Ashley Courter.

Portland foster children and at-risk youth are adding color to the city by pairing up with local artists. Color Outside the Lines is a locally based program that paints across Oregon and California through creative workshops and art therapy. Its Unity Project is, in many ways, an emblematic representation of the organization’s mission. For three months, 24 Portland artists and 24 foster youth—most of whom are up for adoption—have been working together on a collaborative public art project to design and redesign art panels that will be displayed on an East Burnside building.

There are more than 1,200 foster children in the Portland metro area, and the organization is dedicated to providing them with opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive, using art to support their mental and emotional health. Join Color Outside the Lines on October 12th for an art show and fundraiser at the Redd Ecotrust on SE Salmon, where the foster youth and artists will present their 24 mini-murals to the public for the first time. Until then, we spoke with four of the pairs about their experience on the project.

October 12, 2019/ 6:00pm11:00pm/ Calendar Event

Why was this project important and meaningful to you? What were your favorite things about it?

Mariah and Jordyn

Mariah - Art is medicine. The successes of creative/integrative therapy have become widely embraced, while issues under the immense umbrella of social justice have remained a constant battle. When we bring visibility to our most marginalized relatives, we help share their voice; when we do it with beauty, people listen. Hence these murals. My father was a young indigenous boy who spent much of his childhood in and out of the foster care system. I invest myself in the programs I know should exist for them.

Jordyn - This project has been cool for me because I get to spend time with Mariah and make art. I've never had art supplies of my own really, but I've always loved to make art. I am always so excited to come make art in the studio, and I can't wait to start painting on my own.

David and Ayana

David - Working with Ayana was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed sharing my trade and showing how to create something through a step-by-step process. Ayana’s enthusiasm made the project extremely enjoyable and rewarding.

Ayana - I am really happy I got selected to do this project. Learning from David has taught me so much about painting, and it will be really special to go see my art for years on the outside of the building. I'm sad that it is over, but I hope I get to see David again.


Yuji and Destiny

Yuji - My favorite part of this project was spending time with Destiny. She was so fun and has good energy. We laughed a lot. Sometimes, I taught her, but she also led me and taught me.

Destiny - I was so happy I got to be a part of this project. Yuji is someone I will always remember, and I can't wait to bring my friends to this building in the future and show them what we've created. I love art so much, and now all I want to do is paint in my free time.

Klutch and Waldon

Klutch - My favorite part was hanging out with Waldon. We were an awesome pair. We both love metal music and spray painting. I was stoked we got to incorporate his heritage into the piece.

Waldon - This project meant a lot to me. It was so cool to get to hang out with Klutch and make art together. My favorite part was him, but I have always wanted to learn how to spray paint, so that was also super cool.