When Portland, OR-based artist Julie Keefe saw that rapid gentrification in her neighborhood resulted in neighbors who were strangers to each other, she initiated Hello Neighbor with local arts organization Caldera. Local children learned interview techniques and portrait photography basics and set out to meet their neighbors. The results were made into large-format banners now hung around the area.
What happens to neighborhoods when your neighbors aren’t your neighbors any more? When interviewed about his rapidly changing North Portland community, my neighbor, Charles, said he didn’t mind the streets being safer, the businesses returning, or the houses being fixed up. What he did mind was that people didn’t say hello anymore.
When I moved into the neighborhood in 1991 with my husband and 6-month-old daughter, I was a new neighbor. As an artist, I wanted to find a way to publicly address the changes I was a part of.
My idea was to work with children to seek out neighbors of all ages. I wanted to begin a dialogue about community from their point of view. The resulting artwork would be displayed throughout the childrens’ neighborhoods. Mural-sized, black-and-white photographs with text would introduce the neighborhood to its children and neighbors to each other.
It all begins with a simple hello.
– Julie Keefe