Bilalian Odyssey, the masterful artwork depicting the history of African Americans in the West, has been relocated to a more prominent location in the Oregon Convention Center. Once located in the south wing of the convention center, Cary Stacey of the Metro Chief Operating Office lead the effort with the support of Oregon Convention Center Executive Director Scott Cruickshank to move the 8’ x 16’ mural to a wall near the main southern entrance off of NE Hoyt Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
Painted by local artist Isaka Shamsud-Din, the mural depicts important but little-known figures from the African American community dating from 1805 to the late 1920’s. Part of the Regional Arts and Culture Council collection, the mural was created as a Percent for Art Project in 1983 for the Justice Center in downtown Portland, but it soon attracted vandals. In 2003, the mural was moved to the Oregon Convention Center as part of the building’s expansion.
Keith Lachowicz, Public Art Collections Manager at the Regional Arts & Culture Council is thrilled with the piece’s new placement.
“It looks great in its new spot, and the new lighting looks spot on (no pun intended),” Keith said. “Ryan Hixson and Bill Kosciolek at the Oregon Convention Center were FANTASTIC to work with—a big thank you to them for all their help, equipment and support.”
Shamsud-Din spent 20 years conducting historical research for the mural. From a bicycle corps of black infantry men in Montana to the first black woman to practice law in Oregon, the mural pays tribute to the generations of courageous people who rose from slavery, endured the hardships of the westward journey and contributed importantly to the settling of the West.
A survivor of the Vanport flood, Shamsud-Din grew up in Portland in the 1950’s and studied art in the 1960’s at Portland State University. Frustrated by how little information he could find about his cultural heritage, Shamsud-Din devoted himself to preserving and promoting African American culture through his life and art.
The Oregon Convention Center is owned by Metro and managed by the Metro Exposition and Recreation Commission. OCC is a LEED Platinum certified facility hosting groups from around the world and bringing millions of dollars into the Portland and Oregon economy.