Christine Lassiter assessed the situation in Multnomah Village in the middle of March as COVID-19 closings became a reality. She decided she would do something.
"One day after everything got shut down, I started just looking at the buildings themselves and I thought, 'Gosh, our community is very iconic. The storefronts are very iconic. It would be very interesting if I painted them.' So I started with Thinker Toys, just because it's just bright and cheery," she said.
By Mother's Day, Lassiter had completed three 12-by-16-inch oil-on-canvas paintings. She's selling them for $150 each and promising to spend 20% of the profits on gift cards, food and services at local businesses. That's on top of what she already spends locally.
After selling the Fat City Cafe painting, she bought four of the legendary Saturday night spaghetti dinners there on May 2. Picked up curbside, of course.
Lassiter, an insurance agent and very active volunteer with the Multnomah Village Business Association, thinks she tapped into a deep well of support for the people who make their livings as merchants along Southwest Capitol Highway.
"People got very excited. They jumped on board very easily with it," she said of the social media reaction to her work.
"We want to make sure that these businesses that we love are still here after all this.They've had a really tough couple of years with the construction and now … now this. I really firmly believe that in the darkest time you try to bring beauty," Lassiter said.
"I know that my contributions alone won't save the businesses, but it certainly draws attention to the businesses and spurs other creative people to think outside the box to come up with creative ideas to help," she wrote in an email.
Lassiter realizes that any help comes too late for Prosperity Pie Shoppe/Sacred Money Studios, which went out of business shortly after Gov. Kate Brown's directives on doing business in the midst of a pandemic.
"It's hard and it's emotional. I can't imagine putting your savings and your heart and your soul into doing something that you want to do well and can't, for so many reasons that are out of your control. I know that that's heartbreaking," she said.
Lassiter does her painting after an eight-hour, work-at-home day. She plans to paint one storefront per week. Each painting takes 12 to 15 hours to complete. Though she rpobably could paint them from memory, she uses photos, online images and Google Earth shots.
So far, Lassiter has sold the paintings of Fat City Cafe and Thinker Toys. And she already is planning her next three paintings of Annie Bloom's, Anastasia Salon and Journeys. You may have seen one of her earliest works, done long before the pandemic struck. It's the mural on the side wall of Healthy Pets NW at 3612 S.W. Troy St.
Since unveiling her pandemic painting project, Lassiter has received two commissions for her paintings and hopes to soon have prints available for $25 online. She's also looking into jigsaw puzzles based on her paintings. Twenty percent of proceeds from any of her sales will be plowed back into the Multnomah Village economy. She can be contacted through Facebook (Christine McCrary) and on Instagram @unfocused_arts.
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