St. Johns banners finally see the light of day

I've always enjoyed creating designs for businesses, nonprofit organizations and events in my own North Portland neighborhood. Back in early 2002 I designed a series of banners for the volunteer organization Destination St. Johns. The banners were to be displayed on utility poles in the business district of St. Johns, less than a five minute drive from my home studio.

And then nothing happened with the designs and the banners never appeared in public.

In an October 2009 article in the late, great neighborhood newspaper The Sentinel (a past identity design client of mine), Meg Farra, one of the founders of Destination St. Johns, explained, “It was a group we put together to do some projects within St. Johns. For example, we planted native plants in the tree wells through downtown and organized some cleanups before the parade for a few years."

As reported in The Sentinel, "The group decided to create banners for downtown and applied for a grant from the North Portland Trust Fund [the Portland International Raceway noise mitigation funded.] They received $4000 along with support and in-kind donations from many businesses and other groups in St. Johns and North Portland."

I didn't realize that the banners had ever been produced - but instead of adding high-flying color over downtown St. Johns, the banners and all hardware were stored in the basement of the historic Kenton Firehouse.

According to The Sentinel: "...the set of 20 or so vinyl banners were never hung due to political squabbling and the high cost of insurance."

"When the banners were ready to hang, bureaucratic difficulties and a policy change at Portland General Electric entered the game. Partway through negotiations about the banners, PGE changed its insurance requirements. Instead of $1 million, groups now had to carry $2 million in insurance before PGE would allow them to use its poles. PGE also asked Destination St. Johns to coordinate with the St. Johns Boosters, who had a long-standing arrangement with PGE to use certain light poles at Christmastime. A rift developed between some of the leaders involved and for over a year the groups were unable to negotiate a compromise.

"At that point, according to Tom Griffin-Valade of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the banners were rolled up and stored in the basement of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement at the Kenton Firehouse. Seven years passed."

The mystery of the missing banners had always intrigued Sentinel publisher Cornelius Swart. With a little detective work, he learned that the banners were in the Kenton Firehouse all along. Swart presented the banners to members of the St. Johns Neighborhood Association in May 2009. At the time of the October 2009 Sentinel article, efforts to hang the banners were being driven by members of the St. Johns Boosters and the St Johns Main Street Coalition, which have representatives from both neighborhood associations, businesses, and individual residents.

I'm not sure what transpired over the past year in regards to insurance issues and neighborhood politics. However, My partner Ed and I recently decided to make a Saturday morning visit to the St. Johns Farmer's Market - and were very surprised to see the banners lining the streets and the farmer's market venue, St. Johns Plaza.

On a recent sunny afternoon, I went to St. Johns to photograph the banners in place (above). I popped into St. Johns Booksellers, the location of my 2007 book signing for Identity Crisis!, to say "hi" to co-owner Nena Rawdah and explain why I was wandering the business district with my camera. She told me that upon learning that the banners were actually going to be installed, she requested a red and yellow one for installation in front of her store (above center).

"I didn't know who was responsible for the design of the banners," added Nena, "but, I'm certainly not surprised."

© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.