Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Struggle and Hope by William Dyas Garnett

  • Title: Struggle and Hope
  • Artist: William Dyas Garnett
  • Medium: Acrylic on panel
  • Size: 12'h x 16'w
  • Creation date: 1988
  • Added to collection: 2015
  • Donor: Portland Central American Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: Exterior B3 E wall

This mural, designed by former PCC art faculty member William Dyas Garnett (1939-2004) and painted in 1988 by over 50 community volunteers, celebrates the struggle for political freedom and land reform in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua during the time of U.S. Military involvement and the region was in the grip of widespread poverty and political repression. This mural celebrates the hope for grassroots movements in healthcare, education and land reform amidst this turmoil.

The painting memorializes two casualties of this struggle. On the left is the funeral procession for Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a heroic advocate for freedom and justice and an outspoken critic of government political oppression and torture, who was assassinated in 1980 while performing Mass. On the right is Portland engineer Ben Linder, shown working on a hydroelectric dam project to bring energy to local farmers in the remote mountain region of El Cua-Bocay, where he and Nicaraguan co-workers Pablo Rosales and Sergio Hernandez were killed in an attack by U.S. backed Contras in 1987.

Garnett's dramatic narrative design shows his deep love for the political mural traditions of Mexican artists Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera combined with his own strong graphic sensibility, which is clearly evident everywhere even though he did not physically paint this work.

In spring of 1988 the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) began organizing for the creation of a public mural which would be a visual history of the role of the United States in Central America in the 1970s and 80s, particularly in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The mural was to be a chronicle of the darker aspects of U.S. Military involvement as well as the positive role of internationalists such as Ben Linder. Nancy Webster, director of PCASC at the time, found a site for the mural at SW 14th and Yamhill on the outside wall of David Orange's Riverway Inn restaurant. William Dyas Garnett was asked to design the mural. Work began in August 1988.  Among those mainly responsible for the painting of the mural are Kolieha Bush, Joe Cotter, Mark Meltzer, Tim Calvert, Seth Rockwell, Gideon Hughes, Bill Boese, Kyle Kajihiro, Nancy Webster, Susan Bloom, Joanne Oleksiak and many others. Charlotte Lewis, a Portland artist and muralist, was also a vital team member of the Struggle and Hope project. Her mural work and large format paintings of local African American history and community life can be seen on the walls of the McMenamins Kennedy School and at other locations around town. The Struggle and Hope mural was unveiled on November 14th 1988 with painter Michele Russo (whose work is also in the Rock Creek Collection) giving a welcoming speech to the appreciative crowd.

The mural was put in storage when PICASC's offices moved in the mid 1990's. In 2008, Struggle and Hope was temporarily re-installed at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center for the May/June exhibit of The Portland Mural Show and remained on display there for six months. Joanne Oleksiak, one of the mural's organizers wrote in 2016: "It is important to note that this was entirely a community generated project from the committee that had the idea, to the design team, to the over 50 community volunteers, many of them youths and children, to the final party. In these days of Portland murals primarily being painted by a single artist or a two-artist team and lacking any community involvement, not to mention social conscience, Struggle and Hope is sadly, one-of-a-kind – where a community came together during a time of US military intervention & violence in Central America to make a public work of art of public dissent.

In storage for 20 years, the mural was donated to PCC Rock Creek in June, 2015 thanks to the unanimous approval of the Rock Creek Art Advisory Committee, support of collection curator Prudence Roberts and generous funding provided by Dean of Instruction Cheryl Scott. At that time three original members of PICASC — Susan Bloom, Mark Meltzer and Lizz Schallert – wrote to the Art Advisory Committee:

"Thank you for siting the "Struggle and Hope" mural at the PCC Rock Creek Campus. We, current PCASC staff and those who helped organize and paint this mural in 1988, are very enthusiastic – not only for the placement of the mural in its new home at Rock Creek – but for the educational community it will live among. Our hope is that aside from its artistic value, the mural will create stimulating conversations about past and recent history.  With the growing Latino student body at Rock Creek, we hope the mural will be a constructive source of dialogue and inspiration about our country's relationship with Central America.

"When the mural was painted in 1988, it was the hope of Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) to express solidarity with Central American educators, healthcare workers, and campesinos, as well as to create a memorial to the peace and justice work of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. We also wanted to honor the work of young activists in the international community, especially Portland engineer Ben Linder. The project Ben started has been completed through the efforts of many Portlanders and for the last 14 years a scholarship in Ben's name has been awarded to engineering students at the PCC Sylvania campus.

"This mural is also a memorial to local artists—particularly its designer William Garnett, and the proximity of the mural to the place where Bill worked would be a fine tribute to his memory and his connection to PCC. The mural is the only publicly displayed mural that local community muralists Joe Cotter and Charlotte Lewis worked on together. The late Joe Cotter's community murals were full of local history and he was beloved in the mural community. The late Charlotte Lewis was revered as an artist and community educator in the African American community. We feel honored that Joe and Charlotte's work would find such a fruitful home."