Learn about the inclusive design process, the participants and the artist selection.
From a distance, the “Celebrate Oregon!” Cultural Trust license plate is a vibrant tapestry of Oregon geography. Look closer, and symbols – 127 in all – tell the story of the history, heritage and cultural practices that make our state unique. The marriage of the two in this piece of art speaks to the inextricable link between the physical and cultural diversity of Oregon.
An interactive key to the symbols, available here, is a highly informative resource. The symbols represent all aspects of our shared culture including food traditions, artistic practices, heritage sites and historical figures. Many speak to our way of life and cultural traditions. The key is written for all ages and levels of knowledge and serves as an educational tool for learning about Oregon and its diverse cultures. Celebrate Oregon! recognizes and celebrates the many reasons Oregonians love this place.
Liza Burns is an illustrator, muralist and designer based in Eugene, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University and an Associate Degree in Graphic Design from Lane Community College. After graduating from BU, Burns lived and worked in Los Angeles where she painted her first large-scale mural at Blue Cow Kitchen in downtown Los Angeles. Her mural art now appears in restaurants, shops, businesses and office buildings across Oregon, California, Texas and Connecticut. She has exhibited her work at the First Friday Artwalk, Lane Community College, and has illustrated for publications like Eugene Weekly, Ruralite, and others. Her illustrative work can be found with a variety of clients: Lane Transit District, Downtown Eugene, Mendocino Farms, Falling Sky Brewing, Eugene Concert Choir, the Kiva Grocery and more. Burns’ work rewards discovery; she uses details and minutiae within larger and more colorful pieces to create layers of meaning and story. As a child she was deeply inspired by the work of Graeme Base (illustrator and author of books like “Animalia” and “The Eleventh Hour”), where she found a love and respect for art that tells a secret story that can only be unraveled by taking your time.
Capturing “Oregon Culture” in a single piece is an extraordinary challenge as Oregon is a diverse and beautiful arrangement of many cultures, each with their own subcultures and nuances. This abundance became the foundation of the piece. I focused on selecting imagery from sources big and small, obvious and obscure, to create a patchwork of symbols in which every Oregonian can see themselves. I began with the Oregon landscape. To me, Oregon culture starts with the land, the sea, the mountains, the forests, the plains, the river valleys and the high deserts. The diversity and richness of the Oregon geography mirrors its people, which worked well as the foundation of the piece. Once the landscape was in place, I built a concept of a “symbol overlay” to accommodate two things: First, the concept of an ever-evolving cultural group identity needed multiples, not singulars; Second, this project had a lot of stakeholders, and the design needed to serve both my vision and withstand/be improved by more cooks in the kitchen. I did initial research to find symbols and imagery that covered a wide swath of Oregon culture, and was careful to seek out pieces that were new to me. But with the help of a diverse group of content experts, the list of symbols and images swelled to include facets of the Oregon experience that I could have never found on my own. I am excited to share this with other Oregonians, and to take them on the same journey of discovery I experienced.
A limited edition print of the Celebrate Oregon! artwork is available here.
Proceeds from the Celebrate Oregon! license plate support promotion of the cultural tax credit, Oregon’s unique tool for funding culture statewide. Oregonians who donate to qualifying cultural nonprofits and make a matching donation to the Cultural Trust can claim a 100 percent tax credit for the Trust donation, thereby directing a portion of their state taxes to fund cultural projects. Learn more about the tax credit here. Through the tax credit, the Cultural Trust provides funding for arts, heritage and humanities projects in all corners of the state.