Call Detail
Multnomah County Central Courthouse, Portland OR
411 NW Park Avenue, Suite 101

Contact Email:
Call Type: Public Art
Eligibility: National
State: Oregon
Entry Deadline: 12/20/16
Application Closed
Images - Minimum: 6, Maximum: 8
Video - Minimum: 0, Maximum: 2
Total Media - Minimum: 6, Maximum: 8

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is pleased to invite professional artists living in the United States to submit qualifications for a percent-for-art commission for the lobby of the new Multnomah County Central Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. There is a budget of $500,000-$750,000 for a 30’H x 80’W wallwork. The artist's fee will be 20% of the fabrication/installation costs if s/he chooses to work with a fabricator. Construction will begin in 2017 and the courthouse is scheduled to open in 2020. The deadline for submitting materials is 11:59PM (MDT), Monday, December 19, 2016. All applications must be submitted through CaFÉTM.   A second RFQ for additional permanent sites will be posted in early 2017.

SITE DESCRIPTION:  Multnomah County Central Courthouse 
When the current central courthouse was built in downtown Portland between 1909 and 1914, the county had one-third its current population. This was long before modern building code standards for earthquakes were in place. A century’s worth of public use combined with increased demands from today’s much larger population of about 750,000 county residents has created major functional difficulties and serious safety problems. The new courthouse will incorporate 21st century best practices in courthouse operations, security, and design that will be capable of adapting to changing needs over a planned 100-year useful life. 

The new 17-story building will be located at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge on the northwest corner of SW Madison and SW First Avenue, bordered by Naito Parkway and the Willamette River on the east, and the downtown core along the other elevations. The east section of the 17-story building will be clad in glass and house ten floors of courtrooms and a jury assembly room. The west section of the building will be clad in limestone and hold judges’ chambers and staff offices. Jefferson Station, an historic building immediately to the south, will connect to the new courthouse and include a waiting room and high volume courtrooms. The lobby has a three-story atrium that serves as a welcoming entrance to the Courthouse. While the ground floor functions as the security check-in area for all visitors, the second and third floors will have the highest number of visitors with views overlooking the Willamette River. The building’s design phase is already underway and construction is scheduled to begin in February 2017.

The new courthouse will include the essential functions of the current courthouse, many of which will expand in size and space --  the Multnomah Circuit Court operations departments, judicial officers, and courtrooms handling offenses from parking and traffic violations to capital murder cases, civil cases from small claims and evictions to multi-million dollar lawsuits, and domestic relations and probate matters; orientation and deliberation rooms for jurors and grand jurors; Multnomah County Probation Intake offices; courthouse security and transport of in custody defendants provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. 

Immediately upon entering the three-story atrium at the corner of SW Madison & SW First Avenue, visitors will see the artwork -- an 80’L x 30’H wall, the bottom edge of which is 15-ft above the ground floor. The wall is also visible from several blocks away to the north and by car, bus, bike and pedestrian traffic heading east across the Hawthorne Bridge. Four concrete columns (each 42” in diameter) are located 4’ from the art wall. Two rows of 7 columns each span the width of the lobby with three additional columns in the exterior entry plaza alluding to the pillars of justice. 

The Selection Panel is seeking an artist to create an artwork for the wall and to subsequently oversee its fabrication and installation. Because of a skylight directly above this wall, materials that are resistant to UV light degradation are preferred. Site plans and renderings of the site can be accessed on the Central Courthouse website. These renderings are only placeholders and do not indicate a bias to the color or type of artwork desired for the site.

The Multnomah County Circuit Court serves many of the most vulnerable members of our community. The art placed in and around the courthouse has the potential of easing tension and offering some respite from contentious civil disputes, victim/defendant conflicts, and highly sensitive family and juvenile court matters by providing elements of interest and beauty to visitors. It is important to recognize that some visual images and themes can trigger anxiety, anger, or fear in individuals who have experienced traumatic events. It is our hope that the artists and works selected for the new Multnomah County Central Courthouse will consider the circumstances of the citizens that come to the courthouse to resolve their conflicts. The artwork should be timeless, welcoming, bold and visible from a distance.  

The general guiding principles for the Courthouse’s public art program include (1) creating a visual link from the courthouse to both the immediately surrounding city environment and Multnomah County; (2) stimulating and enriching the public’s engagement with art; (3) encouraging original creative expression. The artwork will serve as an identifier of the building and guide the Selection Panel as it moves forward with selecting artists for other permanent sites in the building. The general goals for the building’s design is that it be welcoming, open, and transparent, and convey the qualities of order, stability, prominence, permanence, and strength.

Due to increased interest in this project, we have extended to the call to artists living in the United States who have successfully completed at least one large scale commission over $100,000 that was informed by dialogue with a design team or commissioning panel. (updated 11/17/16)

An Artist Selection Panel of artists, architect, Multnomah County Courthouse employees and other creative professionals will review submissions and evaluate artists to be invited for interviews based on (1) artistic merit of submitted past work; (2) statement of interest; (3) ability to think and work in a scale and with materials appropriate to a site; (4) ability to successfully collaborate as part of a design team.

The Artist Selection Panel will review artists’ materials using the on-line CaFE™ system and intends to choose no more than four finalists for on-site interviews from which the artist will be selected. Specific proposals will not be considered during this phase.

A three-day site visit will be required of all interview finalists. On Day One, artists will visit the site and meet with the design team and Multnomah County staff to learn about the construction project and the uses and functions of the Courthouse. Day Two is reserved for reflection on what was learned and for development of a short presentation for the next day’s interview that reflects initial thoughts, questions and direction for the artwork. Interviews will be conducted on Day Three. Specific proposals are not required at the interview stage.


There is a budget of $500,000-$750,000 for a 30’H x 80’W wallwork. The artist's fee will be 20% of the fabrication/installation costs if he/she chooses to work with a fabricator

Depending on the nature of the proposed artwork, the artist/team and design team may work together to supplement the construction drawings with notes about the artwork installation. The selected single artist/team will receive a Proposal/Design Phase Contract and begin collaborating with the design team of SRG Partnership | CGL RicciGreene Associates and Multnomah County.  The final design will be approved by the Artist Selection Panel and the final contract will be approved by the Board of the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Finalists will be paid an honorarium plus travel expenses for the initial site visit and interview. Once awarded the commission, all expenses will be the responsibility of the selected artist unless otherwise negotiated.

All applications must be submitted through CaFE™. Artists unfamiliar with or requiring assistance with the system may contact CaFE's technical advisors who can provide support during the application process. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. The system will prompt the applicant if the application has not been completed but it is the responsibility of the applicant to complete and submit it by the deadline 
– 11:59PM (MDT), Monday, December 19
, 2016.  The application must include the following materials:

  • Statement of interest (a.k.a. artist statement).  In 2000 or less characters and spaces, explain why this project is of interest to you. Describe how your previous work addressed site and similar goals stated for this project. Include descriptions of how you worked with a design team and other comments that might help to differentiate you as a candidate for this project.  (When this item is printed, the CaFE™ system automatically omits all characters/spaces that exceed the 2000 limit.) 
  • Two-page résumé uploaded as a PDF that outlines professional accomplishments and includes three professional references (name, affiliated organization, email address and phone number) for both individual applicants. For team applications, submit a single PDF that consists of a 2-page résumé for each team member that are combined into one PDF with a total of 3 references.
  • Up to 8 Images* of past work including details. These images are the primary way the quality of your work is judged. Provide the following information for each visual: title, year produced, dimensions, budget, media and a brief description. Do not embed label information into the jpeg image. Up to 2 videos, maximum of 3 minutes each, may be included as part of the application.

Application deadline                         11:59PM (MDT) Monday, December 19, 2016
Artist selection for interview             January/February 2017
Artist (s) site visits, interviews          March 2017
Heavy construction begins               Early 2017
Completion                                       Spring 2020

Peggy Kendellen
Public Art Manager

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