Lynn Basa's mural at the new Multnomah Courthouse


Hosted by: 
Produced by: 
Air date: 
Tue, 06/29/2021 - 11:30am to 12:00pm
More Images: 
Joseph Gallivan interviews Chicago-based artist Lynn Basa

On Tuesday, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. Joseph Gallivan interviews Chicago-based artist Lynn Basa [PRONOUNCED WITH TWO HARD As, BASS-a] about her giant installation in the lobby of the new Multnomah County Courthouse at First Avenue and the Hawthorne Bridge. Basa explains how it moves from hot orange to cool blue, like an incarcerated person calming down and reforming, how it is based on a one-inch sliver of one of her encaustic paintings, and how Bullseye Studios turned it into over a hundred richly colored glass panels.   


The American justice system is ultimately based on hope.  Hope that if you do something wrong and get caught, that you’ll get a fair trial; hope that if you go to trial you won’t get convicted; hope that if you get convicted, you’ll get a light sentence.  Judges hope that they will be fair and impartial.  Underpinning all of this is the hope for rehabilitation, to re-enter society, to lead a productive life.

Every crime has a ripple effect on society.  People who have been incarcerated  say that it took them a long time, and sometimes several stints in prison, to realize the effect their behavior had on the people who cared about them and for them to care about something beyond themselves.

The composition reads from left to right.  It starts out hot and in turmoil then becomes cooler and calmer.   The crime and the criminal run hot.  The job of the justice system is to treat that heat with cool rationality, to calm the waters.

On another level, the artwork is a landscape.  Living in the Pacific Northwest means living with the constant awareness that you’re on top of a volcanic chain, contrasted by being surrounded by water.  The Wilmette River runs next to the courthouse and, of course, Portland’s famously rainy climate.

Bullseye Glass in Portland fabricated the mural from a painting by the artist.  It consists of 120 kiln-formed glass panels and took more than 200 firings over three years.   Steve Simpson AIA of SRG Partnership was the lead architect.   Artech did the installation.

Lynn Basa is an artist living in Chicago. In addition to having completed numerous public art commissions, she is a painter. She has taught in the Sculpture department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the author of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions.


Lynn Basa has completed numerous public art commissions around the country in mosaic, glass, steel, terrazzo, and light.  In her studio, she paints with an ancient medium called encaustic that is a mix of beeswax and oil pigment.  She is the founder of the Milwaukee Avenue Alliance, a community organization dedicated to the equitable cultural and economic reawakening of three blocks of the vintage, working-class main street where her storefront studio is located.

Basa has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MPA in public art policy from the University of Washington.  Her undergraduate degree is in ceramics from Indiana University.  She wrote a book called The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions, based on a class she developed and taught at SAIC.


Multnomah County worked with the Regional Arts and Culture Council on public art for the new courthouse, using 2 percent of funds from the project as required by county ordinance. The courthouse lobby features a large-scale glass art mural by artist Lynn Basa(link is external).


Art Focus airs live at 11.30 am on Tuesdays and is archived to the KBOO website that evening.



Are you listening? 

KBOO Radio is a volunteer-run nonprofit and it needs your money if you are listening. 

Go here to donate.

It’s like an old school version of smashing the like and sub buttons. 

To hear previous episodes of this show or any of our KBOO public affairs programming, just go to KBOO dot F-M or listen on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Joseph Gallivan has been a reporter since 1990. He has covered music for the London Independent, Technology for the New York Post, and arts and culture for the Portland Tribune, where he is currently the Business Reporter. He is the author of two novels, "Oi, Ref!" and "England All Over" which are available on


This show was recorded by Zoom videoconferencing software on June 24, 2021.

Topic tags: 

Audio by Topic: