The City’s Public Arts Committee hosted a hearing this afternoon to receive feedback from the community on the three bench proposals for the Bayside section of Portland Trails. The next step is for the recommendations to go to the city council for its approval. The public hearing was held at Zero Station art gallery, 222 Anderson Street in East Bayside.
Following introductory comments by Committee co-chair Alice Spencer, Alex Jagerman, city senior planner, told the group of about 40 attendees that this was the second round of proposals because the Committee was not satisfied with the first round of proposals received from a Request for Proposal previously. Jagerman introduced each proposal and its creator in the order of popularity by the Committee.
The Committee asked for diverse feedback and that’s exactly what it got at the hearing that co-chair Patricia Murtagh moderated following introductory remarks. The favorite of the Committee was by SkyDesign, of Washington DC, called the swirl benches. If selected, they would use the entire Committee budget. Speaking out against this proposal was Andy Graham, chair of Creative Portland and owner of PortlandColor. Rather, he supported the proposal of Aaron Stephan, a graduate of Maine College of Art (“MECA”)and a local resident. It was the most controversial proposal because the bench resembles industrial crates – representing the industrial history of the area. Supporting Graham was Don Tuski, president of MECA and several others.
Several expressed concern about these benches being targets for tagging. Spencer assured them that the city would maintain the benches properly and that included erasing grafitti. Several others called for the process to be stopped and restarted at a later date, because they didn’t like them or because it was to early to install them. “This is too soon. We want them to be successful,” said Sally Nelson of the Hill. Nelson found them “colorless” and probably not comfortable.
Spencer said the Committee was unable to pull back from this process now. The public can attend the Committee’s next meeting on Wednesday, September 21st, from 4 pm – 6 pm at the Portland Public Library, Room 3. (The room is air-conditioned.)