PORTLAND DAILY SUN
Sculpture relocation lacks council support, says Marshall
By Matt Dodge
Jan 21, 2011 12:00 am
The future of the controversial Tracing the Fore sculpture is still uncertain as the Portland Public Art Committee considers either relocating the piece or removing it from their collection permanently.
While the head of the group's Tracing the Fore committee discussed possible sites where Shauna Gillies-Smith’s sculpture could be reinstalled, both the PPAC chairman and a city councilor voiced concerns that the committee might lack the funds to have the piece reinstalled.
While sub-committee chair Terry DeWan displayed maps and photos of a possible site for relocation along the Fore River adjacent to Mercy Hospital’s Fore River location, PPAC Jack Soley slowed down the proceedings, citing the cost of any such relocation.
“We don't have budget right now to relocate it,” said Soley, who hopes to have the committee devise a plan of action by spring so the much-maligned sculpture may be removed as soon as the ground thaws at Boothby Square.
“My concern is that we have a plan for spring and can hit the ground running as soon as it thaws,” said Soley.
Soley estimates that removal of the piece to run about $8,000 including landscaping, and another $25,000 to reinstall the sculpture at another location. “Bare minimum that’s a $35,000 to $40,000 project,” he said.
City Councilor Dave Marshall, who serves on the PPAC board, also brought a reality check to the process, advising his fellow members that they would likely lack the support of the city council if they attempted to relocated the piece.
“I’m not confident the votes will be there on the council to move the piece,” said Marshall, suggesting that the council might favor deaccessioning the piece — removing it from the PPAC’s collection so that it may be sold to a private collector or corporation.
Marshall said he would talk with the mayor and solicit some specific feedback for the committee on the issue, but advised the PPAC to not get too deep into the relocation process.
The sculpture initially cost the city $135,000 in materials, labor and artist fees — $71,000 more than the project’s original estimate.
The committee voted 7-3 in November to remove Gillies-Smith’s sculpture after an outcry from Boothby Square business owners, who circulated a petition to have the jagged-metal landscape sculpture removed from its location, citing issues of aesthetics and safety.
During the same meeting, the committee also discussed plans for a "second call" for entries in the Bayside seating project citing an underwhelming number and quality of entries in the first round.
At issue for the Bayside Seating Committee is how to solicit a larger and more impressive crop of bench designs. The project calls on local artists and designer to submit proposals for benches to be installed along the Bayside Trail, but the PPAC decided to reopen the search after receiving far fewer proposals than expected and having no clear favorites. “We need dozens [of submissions], not a dozen,” said Soley.
Some $2,174 of the $3,000 budgeted for the project has already been used, according to Alex Jaegerman, planning division director for the city.
“We’ll probably need to allocate additional funds,” said Jaegerman, who suggests that the process could be done cheaper the second time around. “I think by simplifying the process it will be manageable,” he said.
Some said the language of the call for submissions should be relaxed to encourage more adventurous, daring designs. The last proposal places a focus on Bayside’s historical context, asking for designs which tied into the industrial and maritime history of the neighborhood.
“We need to have a lighter touch,” said Alice Spencer, chair of the Bayside Seating Committee. “At the bottom it said ‘have fun,’ but it was clearly at the bottom.”
“Sometimes you get more interesting, lively ideas where you don't require too much heavy lifting from your candidates,” she said.
One artists in attendance said that the project’s requirements turned even him, a furniture maker, away from the bench-design contest.
“I read the proposal and said 'forget it, that’s way too much',” said Jamie Johnston, who taught at Maine College of Art and is considering joining the PPAC. “I don't do a lot of [requests for proposals] because I don't want to do the work before I know I have the job,” he said.
Councilor Marshall said that the idea of artists-designed benches is by no means an original project, suggesting the PPAC might receive more compelling submissions if it were to relax the guidelines even further.
“My feeling with the benches is that we didn't inspire a heck of a lot of people with it. It's been done before, it’s not a fresh new idea. I would like to be on the verge of doing something that is new,” he said.
Soley said that the bench project “does have merit” and he's willing to give it another try. “It seems the will of the committee is to try it one more time. If we don't get results we're looking for, we’ll know the idea is done and we don't need to pursue it anymore.”