Hundreds of members of Portland's Chinese community called for the removal of the Regional Arts and Culture Council's (RACC) controversial new dragon sculpture on NW 3rd and Davis, at a heated meeting last Monday night.
Of the 19 people who spoke at the January 8 meeting with RACC Executive Director Eloise Damrosch, artist Brian Goldbloom, and a Portland Development Commission (PDC) rep—many expressed respect for RACC and Goldbloom personally, but not one person liked his sculpture.
In the banquet room of the Legin Restaurant on SE Division, just off of 82nd, more than 50 people waved bilingual signs that simply said, "REMOVE!" Meanwhile, the crowd of about 300 greeted every suggestion to remove the sculpture with hushed cheers and the occasional breakout of applause—the audience had been asked by the session's facilitator to quietly wave their arms in the air to signal approval.
The Chinese community feels that Goldbloom's dragon—the strongest symbol of being Chinese, according to some members of the community—looks like it's collared, caged, even hung ["Chasing the Dragon," News, Dec 14]. The sculpture has also served as a lightning rod for Chinese dissatisfaction with the "renewal" of Old Town/Chinatown by the PDC ["A Tale of Two Chinatowns," News, Dec 28].
"If it would help you understand the sculpture's offensiveness," said Joseph Keller, a teacher and former gallery owner, "imagine taking something as simple as a cross, and putting it upside down. Or inverting the American flag. Or putting a metal shackle around the neck of the American eagle."
Stephen Louie, the former owner of the House of Louie restaurant, which sits directly opposite the sculpture, told the room he had informally surveyed more than 500 Chinese people passing the sculpture one day in November, and everyone agreed that it "didn't look right," according to Louie.
A smaller group of representatives from the Chinese community will now work on a committee with RACC to decide what to do next. Suggestions include commissioning a Chinese artist to replace the piece, or giving Goldbloom another shot at it.
Stephen Ying, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, wants the sculpture removed as soon as possible. "I believe if the community wants to remove it, then we should remove it first," said Ying, who organized the two-hour meeting. "Then, we can think about the future."
"Well, we'll see what the committee has to say," responded Goldbloom, looking somewhat stunned. "I want to do the right thing."