Monday, February 21, 2011


Council considers sculpture relocation

By Matt Dodge

Feb 08, 2011 12:00 am

The city council may well have sealed the fate for the controversial “Tracing the Fore” sculpture last night, voting unanimously to deny a resolution to support relocating the piece.

Without the support of the council, the Portland Public Art Committee (PPAC) must now decide whether to remove the piece from their collection or continue with plans for relocation or storage of the piece. It seems likely that the group will return the work to the artists.

“It’s time for us to move forward and let Tracing the Fore go,” said city councilor Dave Marshall before yesterday's meeting.
Marshall, himself an artist who also serves as a member of the PPAC and sponsored the resolution. “I’m going to ask the council to vote in the negative,” said Marshall, adding that “if it seemed like a close decision, I would want the committee to proceed [with relocation plans].”

He asked his fellow councilors to vote against the resolution.
At a meeting on January 19, the PPAC had begun looking for a new site for the sculpture when Marshall, a member of the committee, suggested the PPAC float a resolution to the council to gauge interest in spending more money on the maligned sculpture.

“I thought it would be a good idea for the committee to check in with council before committing a lot of time and energy of a volunteer committee and city staff.” said Marshall.

“There was some passing conversation with a couple city councilors and it seemed as though there were some concerns about the idea of spending a lot of money moving Tracing the Fore,” said Marshall.

The PPAC 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.

The sculpture initially cost the city $135,000 in materials, labor and artist fees — $71,000 more than the project’s original estimate.

“We’re kind of at the point where we need to accept that Tracing the Fore didn’t work out for us in our collection,” said Marshall. “Outside of the public art committee, I’ve heard very few voices saying we should spend the money to relocate this,” he said.

The PPAC had been exploring relocation to a site along the Fore River Parkway Trail in the northerly open space of the Mercy Hospital campus plan on land owned by Mercy Hospital which is subject to an open space and public access easement to the City of Portland as a conditional rezoning.

The likely cost to relocate the piece is expected to be in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 according to the city’s website.

“The cost has already exceeded what everyone expect by far. I don't feel as though it the best expenditure of public art funds to be relocate this piece when we have a lot of pieces in our collection that need maintenance and we have some good opportunity to add some other pieces,” said Marshall.

Marshall said the money that would be required to relocate the sculpture would be better spent on future public art project, such as the Bayside Trail seating project, which aims to install unique artist-designed benches along the city’s newest walking path.

“If we decide to move forward with that, it will take up a good amount of funds,” said Marshall.

Before Monday evening’s vote, councilor Cheryl Leeman said she was also wary of relocation, especially given the cost. “We have enough money invested in a failed art project,” said said, calling the $30,000 to $50,000 price tag for relocation, “outrageous.”

“That’s taxpayer money, and at some point you have to be realistic,” said Leeman. “It’s like any project in the private sector of personal life, you get to pint where you need to make a decision if you keep spending money on it,” she said.

“It looked good on paper, but it might be time to bite the bullet and say this didn't work,” she said.

Leeman said that ideally she would like to see a private collector or organization step in and buy the piece. “That would be a nice option,” said Leeman.

Mayor Nick Mavodones was reserving judgement on the resolution until last night’s meeting.

“I’m going to wait and see what the testimony is on it,” said Mavodones. “I’m kind of on the fence, I hate to have an artist put in the work on commissioned piece and scrap it, but the additional cost is a deterrent,” he said.

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