Veterans Memorial Coliseum

By BRIAN LIBBY

When Portland’s Memorial Coliseum (as it was originally known) was completed in 1960, America was entering perhaps its most tumultuous decade, one of both tragedy and promise. The country sent its first troops to Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Jr., was arrested for leading nonviolent demonstration for the first time, and John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard Nixon to win the presidency.

As Kennedy would declare in his inaugural address the following January, a torch had been passed. Optimism abounded as the nation enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, explored outer space, and saw revolutionary ideas transform music and visual arts.

Avantika Bawa, “Coliseum 07”, 2017. Graphite and pastel on paper, 40 x 94 inches/Courtesy Ampersand Gallery

Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as it was renamed in 2011, embodies its time even as it remains timeless. That Avantika Bawa’s drawings, on display at both the Portland Art Museum and Ampersand Gallery, depict the Coliseum so beautifully owes first to her artistic talents, but the building’s simplicity and translucence are undoubtedly conducive to such portrayals.

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