It's hard to show up two-dozen kids on stilts, especially when you're carting around a giant piece of artwork.
But that's exactly what Antoinette Myers and Sade Beasley did last Saturday, as they marched down Alberta Street in the "All Eyes on Alberta" Art Hop parade holding an enormous oil painting.
The teens – 16-year-old Myers is a junior at Grant High and 13-year-old Beasley is a seventh-grader at Fernwood Middle School – smiled and kept a steady pace while circus performers, bicyclists and other parade participants got the crowd going.
Between the teens, an oil painting created by Myers and local artist Kathe Swaback, showcased local women of color who have, as Swaback puts it, "blazed new trails and persevered with passion."
Their faces gleaming in shades of burnt umber and ebony, six local women of color – Sen. Avel Gordly; Performance Artist damali ayo; youth advocate Kathryn Hall Bogle; award-winning Oregonian Columnist S. Renee Mitchell; education advocate Dr. Ethel Simon-McWilliams; and civil rights leader Willie Mae Hart – smile from the canvass of Myers' painting.
When the parade had finished, Myers and Beasley lounged on the grass outside Swaback's Art Up studio at 1614 N.E. Alberta St., where they and eight other young women have spent the past five months paying homage to local women of color by rendering their faces in oil sticks and oil paints.
"It's been awesome," Swaback says of her 2007 "Project: Look Up," which paired 10 Portland teens with artists to research the contributions women of color have made in the Alberta Street neighborhood, in Portland or in the girls' individual lives.
Guest artists Lillian Pitt, Adriene Cruz and Roslyn Hill assisted with the project. The 10 young women who have met once a week for five months to create the 80-inch oil paintings are: Sade Beasley, Monie Bowles, Naj Ford, Janelle Hill, Alesha Johnson, Lavonne Jordan, Tricia Knope, Antoinette Myers and Trisha Taylor.
The women they chose to honor include the already-mentioned women of Myers' and Swaback's painting as well as: Thelma Johnson Streat, Lillian Pitt, Adriene Cruz, Sen. Margaret Carter, Gladys McCoy, Roslyn Hill, Maya Angelou and Beatrice Morrow Cannady.
The Project: Look Up students will showcase their artwork at the next Alberta Last Thursday Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 31 at 1614 N.E. Alberta St.