Street Artists Task Force Addresses Tensions With Portland Farmers’ Market on Monument Square

Larry Bruns: "I'm glad to see the arts community getting involved in this. It's a step in the right direction."

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,127)

Tensions between street artists and the Portland Farmer’s Market on Monument Square have existed for several years now said Larry Bruns, its market manager. At its second meeting today at noon at city hall, the task force looked for solutions that will ease those tensions between the two factions.

Last July, city manager Mark H. Rees, issued new rules and regulations that said on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 2 pm Monument Square and Monument Way are reserved for the Farmer’s Market and that street artists may only be located within the “sidewalk portion” of Monument Square. Street artists may set up providing that a minimum of four feet of open space is preserved for free passage of pedestrians within the sidewalk area and entrances to the businesses on the square are not obstructed. According to Bruns artists don’t abide by those regulations. “People ignore the rules even if they know them,” he said. And he, Bruns said, ends up being the enforcer for the city.

Jan Beitzer, Portland Downtown District, said the “city needs to step up and enforce these rules. It is not doing its job.” City attorney Ann Freeman will talk to the Code Enforcement office about enforcing the rules as they stand currently. Bruns said that often artists plead ignorance of the ordinance and wondered if there is any way to legally get artists to register at city hall and receive a copy of the rules simultaneously. What is the penalty for not obeying the rules? Freeman agreed to find answers to these questions for the next meeting.

It was also agreed that task force members will work to produce an appealing educational sheet to be distributed by the arts community. The material will be created under the auspices of the Maine College of Art. This will be done on an experimental basis initially and the results reported back to the Public Safety Committee in June.

At the end of the meeting, Bruns said: “I’m glad to see the arts community getting involved in this. It’s a step in the right direction.”

The next meeting of this task force is scheduled for May 17th at noon in the State of Maine Room, City Hall.

For more information, please visit Post # 1,007, dated March 25, 2012 herein as well as Post # 1,085, dated 2/19/12.