Meet The Artists

Isaka Shamsud-Din

Isaka Shamsud-Din
Isaka Shamsud-Din is an artist, activist, and educator known for his rich murals, paintings, and community projects in Portland. Much of his work celebrates the cultures of African Americans and people of the African Diaspora. His work has been exhibited at the Portland Art Museum, and in 2019, he was honored by Portland City Hall with the proclamation of “Isaka Shamsud-Din Day” in recognition of his life’s work as an artist and community leader.

Isaka was born in 1940 and his artistic talent was recognized early as a child. He won his first scholarship to a Portland Art Museum class at the age of 13 and proceeded to win scholarships to Midwestern Music and Art Camp at the University of Kansas. He graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland and attended Portland State University, where he painted his first mural.

Isaka would become known for his vibrant murals in Portland and for the mural programs he created over a 50-year span. He was director of the Albina Mural Project, and organized community art projects  in the historically Black Albina neighborhood, where Isaka and his family moved after being displaced by the Vanport flood of 1948. Isaka’s commitment to racial equality led him to Arkansas, where he worked for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee before moving to San Francisco in 1966, where he joined the Black Panther Party. He worked with the Black Arts West Repertory Theater and was an instructor at San Francisco State University. Isaka helped initiate the Black Studies program at San Francisco State and returned to Portland to establish the Black Studies program at Portland State in 1968 where he founded the African American Visual Arts Scholarship. Isaka was also artist-in-residence for Reed College. 

Isaka’s expressive paintings illuminate the walls of many McMenamins locations, including Kennedy School, the Crystal Hotel, Hal’s Cafe, Ringler’s Pub, and the Crystal Ballroom. Many of Isaka’s portraits bring to life legendary Black musicians who performed at the Crystal Ballroom during the golden age of Soul and R&B music in the early 1960s, including Mary Wells, Little Richard, and Wilson Pickett. Other works by Isaka highlight a wide range of history, including his painting of Buffalo Soldier Sergeant Moses Williams, displayed at Gearhart Hotel on the Oregon coast. 

“Creating has been the mission of my life. As long as I am breathing, I’m doing art.”- Isaka Shamsud-Din, The Oregonian, 2020

Browse Artwork

  • Keep a Knockin

    Keep a Knockin
  • Midnight Hour

    Midnight Hour
  • The Bluebird & Musicians

    The Bluebird & Musicians
  • Bobby Blue Bland

    Bobby Blue Bland
  • Bo Diddley

    Bo Diddley
  • Mary Wells

    Mary Wells
  • Etta James

    Etta James
  • Fats Domino

    Fats Domino
  • Buffalo Soldier

    Buffalo Soldier