A Mural to Inspire a New Space

By Emily Irish and Arcadia Trueheart


Late last year, Willamette Partnership moved offices to the renovated Washington High School building in central SE Portland. In our new space, three chalkboard panels cover our “classroom” office suite. From there an opportunity was born to create a space that would feel welcoming and inviting to our partners once we felt safe to host meetings in person again.

We sought to hire a local artist to design a mural representing our’s and our partner’s work. Arcadia Trueheart submitted a proposal that not only connected with our mission and vision but captured the inclusivity and engagement we strive for every day.

Arcadia Trueheart's Mural Design

Arcadia’s original concept drawing for the mural.


After she completed the project, we interviewed her about the piece, her art career, and more. Check out the interview below:

Q: When did you first start making art, how did you get into it, and what made you want to pursue it as a profession?

A: I have been surrounded by art and art-making throughout my whole life. Both my parents are professional artists and run a public art business, Site Painters, here in Portland. I spent many afternoons and weekends at their studio drawing, painting, and sculpting from scraps of their projects. As a teenager, I ran a summer arts camp for neighborhood kids and later used that experience to teach art workshops in Guatemala and Peru. It’s always been important to me to do work that contributes to my community through activism and education. Because of that, I focused my career in nonprofit social service for many years. However, I always felt this really strong urge and call to be making art. In the last few years, I have dedicated much more of my career to creative projects and art-making. I am finding more and more that social justice work is not separate from being a professional artist and that I can provide healing and support through my art.

Q: How do you connect with Willamette Partnership’s mission and vision? 

A: I feel most at home when I am outside hiking, wading through streams, or drawing in a grove of trees. On a personal level, it is extremely important to me to care for the earth and also to make access to nature possible for more people. I am the Program Coordinator for Betties360, a nonprofit that brings outdoor opportunities to middle school girls and nonbinary youth. Hiking in the forest or painting from nature with these kiddos brings me a lot of joy. I really resonate with Willamette Partnership’s belief that “the well-being of communities and natural systems is inextricably linked” and I’m very inspired by Willamette Partnership’s wide range of projects that support the environment and the wellbeing of human communities.

Q: What inspired the mural? Anything in particular that stood out?

A: To create this mural design, I met with several Willamette Partnership staff to learn about the specific projects the organization is supporting. I focused on visual elements of these projects like Coho Salmon, Shortnose and Longnose Sucker fish, Oregon White Oak, a green schoolyard, outdoor recreation, adaptive camping, vineyards, and ranches. The most important focus of the mural for me was to represent the interconnectedness of communities and natural systems. To do this, I created a spiral centered in the middle of the mural and expanding out in both directions to represent the way that all of these ecosystems and activities are connected – ideally in a way that is mutually supportive.

Q: What’s your next, or another current, project you are working on?

A: Over the last year, I’ve been working on a series of charcoal portraits that combine representational imagery and abstract form to express my relationship with the subject and the mutual experience of witnessing each other. I’ve just started learning about how to make natural pigments from stones, soil, and plant life. I want to incorporate these pigments into my portraits to speak to how we are formed and impacted by the land we live on.

Q: What other types of commissions do you do? 

Springwater Environmental Sciences School in Oregon City, OR, 2021, design and painting of acrylic mural inspired by student participation

A: I design and paint interior and exterior murals for private homes, schools, community centers, businesses, and healthcare facilities. I also create designs that can be digitally transferred to wall coverings for healthcare facilities and other businesses. As a portrait artist, I do commissioned drawn portraits for weddings, anniversaries, new babies, graduations, and more. Additionally, I have a background in mask and large-scale puppet creation and I take commissions to create puppets for performances, parades, and other events. I love commissioned projects because of the opportunity to learn from the client’s vision and bring it to life in a visual format. Please reach out if you are interested in discussing a commission!

Arcadia Trueheart in front of the mural at Willamette Partnership’s office.


You can learn more and connect with Arcadia below!

Instagram: @arcadia.truehe_art
Facebook: @arcadiatrueheartarts 


We hope to see you soon in our new office to celebrate the work we’ve all accomplished these last few years, reconnect, and admire Arcadia’s “Interconnected” mural.

Emily Irish believes that in order to be good collaborators, we have to be good communicators. With this in mind, she brings technical graphic design and visual storytelling to Willamette Partnership's outreach and engagement. Managing the Partnership's digital and print content including the website, e-newsletter, Counting on the Environment Blog, social media, and design content.


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