On Tuesday students and supporters of student interests involved in the Oregon Beyond Coal campaign used art to put our vision of Oregon’s clean energy future on canvas. In the morning a group of young activists set up a seven-foot canvas in Portland’s Waterfront Park and invited passersby to join us painting a depiction of the transition to clean energy in Oregon. At noon we walked to Portland General Electric’s customer service station, where we asked PGE to replace the Boardman Coal Plant with cleaner energy sources by 2015, the shortest timescale recommended by the Department of Environmental Quality.
Tuesday morning passersby from small children to grandparents took time to pick up a paint brush and add some color to a wind turbine being erected, or a community garden in the foreground. It took four hours to finish the painting, and then we walked to PGE’s nearby Portland offices. During a sidewalk rally outside we showed off the completed painting, while from the building people emerged to see what was going on. This was an important lesson from the day’s work: while just a crowd of people with signs might have turned onlookers away, a colorful painting on a giant piece of canvas made them want to stop, look, and learn more.
Students at the sidewalk rally spoke about the importance of this moment for Oregon’s clean energy future, the impressive degree to which student groups have already weighed in on the Boardman Coal Plant issue, and the value of art for envisioning the future. The local indie media cable tv station attended the rally along with radio station AM 750 KXL. Security personnel from the building kindly accepted a petition urging the Boardman Coal Plant’s speedy retirement, and promised to deliver it to PGE president and CEO Jim Piro. The take home message from the day was that we will keep pushing clean energy solutions for as long as it takes. If PGE needs a picture to make the message hit home, we’re more than happy to oblige.