Polar bear. saber-toothed cat. the dinosaur. The dragon.
South Portland artist Chris Miller can depict these creatures in the waters west of Portland during the last ice age or in the constellations of the night sky. He plans to bring them to the park this spring in the form of seven carved wooden benches as part of an upcoming installation by the nonprofit TempoArt. The piece, titled "Space Carousel," is inspired by both bedtime stories and astrophysics, which can appeal to visitors of all ages.
"My art process has a lot to do with my reading habits, which have been children's books for a while because I have two kids," Miller said. "A lot of that comes from learning with them, from having curious eyes to see them."
TempoArt was founded in 2015 and funds installations in public spaces in Portland. The pieces stay in place for a year or two and are then returned to the artists who can move them to a new home. Founder Alice Spencer served for many years on the Portland Public Art Commission and helped develop the city's policies on temporary public art. He founded the nonprofit in part because he found the city didn't always have the resources to work with arts and programming.
Key to any project commissioned by TempoArt is the ability to engage the audience, and the sculptures have been the focus of planned and unplanned meetings: poetry readings, community dinners, yoga classes, dance performances, birthdays, art conferences, summer camps.
"One of the main ideas is that art in museums is great, but there are a lot of people who don't go to museums for various reasons," Spencer said. "It's so far from where they live, it's scary. Even though museums are making great efforts to get people there, a lot of people are still left out."
"Part of our mission is to make art more accessible to people in the neighborhood," she added. He did not hide in a palace with a door and paid entrance. He is in their backyard and they can befriend him."
TempoArt issues a request for proposals and then pays the selected artist $25,000 to complete the work. (This year, the organization increased the grant to $35,000 to increase the original offer from five tents to seven.) When the city permit expires, the artist will own the work and be able to decide which house it goes to next. after.
Last year, the organization commissioned Pamela Moulton's Under the Wood, Under the Sea, which has been extended through 2024 at Payson Park. The three tall sculptures are made from discarded fishing gear and painted bright pink. Moulton, who lives in North Bridgton, worked with more than 5,600 students and staff to solve, weave, color and assemble the figures. During a recent visit to Ocean Avenue Elementary School, a group of young students recognized her and remembered her role in the sculptures.
"There's a lot to be said for them," Moulton said. "It means a lot to me that these children are so attached to the sculptures and have a deep sense of belonging to them."
Moulton said the installation opened the door to other professional opportunities and assignments. She's not sure what will happen to the sculptures when the permit expires next year, but she hopes they will stay in the Portland community somehow.
"If it's just a temporary exhibit, it allows Tempo to take a chance on somebody," he said. "I have never made large-scale outdoor sculptures with this material. I wanted to challenge myself. Who would believe you and who would give you such an opportunity, if not an organization like Tempo? They believed me , and I said no, they will be allowed to go down and now they helped me in a very professional way".
In 2020, Tempo funded Jesse Salisbury's installation "Gathering Stones". A series of basalt and granite cliffs have created a natural gathering place along the east coast near Fish Point. Last year, the city bought the work for $60,000 for the permanent collection, so it remains off the beaten path.
In 2019, Daniel Minter installed Mother's Garden at Fox Field in the East Bayside. Five wooden statues, painted red, blue, green and yellow, draw on cultural traditions and symbolize the food of Portland's African diaspora and recent immigrants. TempoArt also hosted three community garden dinners that summer hosted by local chefs.
"It was a really good opportunity to put a piece in a public space that shouldn't have artistic expression," he said.
Minter said the work was short-lived and stopped after two years. He hopes future designs will allow for permanent installation or offset the cost of stronger materials.
"It is difficult to remove a work of art from a public space that society attributes or gives meaning to," she said.
Pets for everyone
This year, TempoArt has chosen the Cosmos Carousel for the western parapet of the city. Miller, who lives in South Portland, studied sculpture in college and architecture in graduate school. One of his ongoing projects is the redevelopment of Bramhall Square near West Embankment, where he will eventually create a stone sculpture of a bear. (He also painted the 'Golding' and 'Ice Age' mural at Bramhall Hill on an electrical box in that arena.)
"Almost all the pieces I'm currently working on are monster-friendly," he said. "Like Maurice Sendick's monsters, monsters that help you understand complex things."
The Cosmos Carousel consists of seven wooden benches arranged in a circle around a flower bed at the end of West Street. Miller was working on his proposal when he saw an image of stars taken by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and became immersed in the world of astrophysics and cosmology. He began to think about what it means to be a living being in the universe and on this planet. The end result is a fun and philosophical design.
"This ride is inspired by beauty, adventure, space, bedtime stories, dinosaurs, and ice cream," Miller wrote in his proposal. “It's inspired by the West Coast's endless vistas, gorgeous sunsets and contemplative atmosphere. Spin like the earth when the sun sets in a quaint town with a school community that speaks over sixty different languages. This carousel is powered by the energy of the Big Bang that happened billions of years ago, which also caused the sun to rise, rain to fall, and flowers to grow. It also depends on the imagination. You can go on an adventure in these distant mountains or the far edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. You can sit down and travel into the future, to the edge of our expanding universe.”
The seven seats will feature a humpback whale, a prehistoric sea urchin, a polar bear, a saber-toothed cat, a rinkosaurus (an early dinosaur found in neighboring Nova Scotia), a dragon and Crenatocetus (an ancestor of whales). ). . ). Part of their look is inspired by sea creature legends and historical sketches. The benches will contain QR codes that will take visitors to a website with more information about each animal, as well as stories about geology and constellations.
The organization is working with several community partners — Oak Street Arts, The Telling Room, Chickadees and more — to plan next year's park bench program. Meredith Healy, director of TempoArt, said the piece will appeal to different people for different reasons.
"Interacting with this piece, you can go to a Western-style ball, sit on a polar bear and watch a beautiful sunset," Healy said. Or you can go to Chris' website and learn about the rotation of the Earth, the humpback whale that lived in Portland mythology, and dragons across cultures.
The Cosmos Carousel was approved by the city's research center on Friday and is expected to be installed in June.
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