The Visual Chronicle of Portland is a city-owned collection of works on paper—prints, photographs, paintings and drawings—that focuses on artists’ views of the city’s social and urban landscapes. The intent of the collection is to capture the zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, as our city evolves and changes. It is both an eclectic view of life in Portland and a record of artists working in the city. Each year, a selection committee reviews submissions and purchases new artwork, and currently there are 256 works by 146 artists in the collection. The program budget is modest, but has been generously supported by many artists, writers, historians and arts patrons who have volunteered their time and expertise over the years.
The idea for the Visual Chronicle of Portland was first suggested to the Metropolitan Arts Commission in 1984 by Portland artist Henk Pander, whose native city of Amsterdam started a similar collection in the 1930s called theTopographical Atlas of Amsterdam, a chronicle that depicts over four centuries of city history. The Arts Commission secured a National Endowment for the Arts grant to fund the Portland project for the first three years at $5,000 a year. The Regional Arts & Culture Council (successor to the Metropolitan Arts Commission) has continued to fund Visual Chronicle acquisitions and now regards it as one of the organization’s outstanding successes.
Artwork in the Visual Chronicle of Portland can be viewed here as part of RACC’s online public art search tool. You can also find a book featuring the first five years of acquisitions, The Visual Chronicle of Portland: Volume One, available at the Multnomah County Library and at the RACC office.