Published Date Written by David CarkhuffThat idea of temporarily installing Maine sculptor Wendy Klemperer's steel animal sculptures on the Eastern Prom — it's been scrapped.
Despite an enthusiastic push behind it, the idea of installing temporary steel sculptures of a caribou and a mountain lion on a grassy hill projecting into Cutter Street died quietly in committee this week.
Although widely embraced by a neighborhood group and the city's parks commission, the concept fell afoul of a host of questions and concerns by the city's Historic Preservation Board Wednesday night. The board ultimately tabled the application, despite unanimous support from Friends of the Eastern Promenade, and the Parks Division of Portland's Department of Public Services.
"We did not get the sculptures approved by the historic preservation board; ultimately the general sense was they're a little bit concerned about the precedent being set about allowing temporary art to be installed within the park," said Diane Davison, president of the Friends of the Eastern Prom.
Deborah Andrews, Historic Preservation program manager, had sounded a cautionary note in a memo to the board prior to Wednesday night's meeting.
"Although thc request is for a temporary installation only, the proposal to introduce public art within the Eastern Promenadc Historic Landscape District raises certain policy questions that might warrant consideration, particularly if thc installation sets a precedent for future installations — either permanent or temporary," Andrews wrote. "As well, the length of time proposed — one year — is sufficiently long to prompt the question."
Davison said she left the meeting with the message that future proposals for temporary art installations will need to follow a set of as-yet unscripted policies. The board urged a "meeting of the minds" in the arts community so the city can develop criteria about temporary art installations.
"At this time, it's on hold. We had run it through Friends of the Eastern Prom, we had supported it unanimously, and the parks commission had supported it unanimously, but there were some avenues that we didn't explore," Davison said.
June Lacombe, Pownal-based arts representative for Klemperer, said she considered approaching the city's Public Arts Committee, but didn't because of its involvement with permanent pieces.
"This was a temporary exhibition, so I thought it was not in their area," she said.
Councilor David Marshall, an artist who represents the city council on Portland's Public Arts Committee, expected more discussion about temporary art installations.
"In the past we've handled requests for temporary art placement administratively, but it should be worth considering other processes as well," he said.
The Portland Public Arts Committee is limited to reviewing permanent art, "so it has to be placed and there for 20 years or more," Marshall noted.
"We haven't had a lot of requests for temporary public art placement in the past, but it seems the requests are increasing and involving other layers of decision making that could involve some policy guidance," Marshall said.
Lacombe said she would be happy to help the city identify locations suitable for temporary art installations.
Meanwhile, proponents of temporary art will brave the uncertain waters of Portland regulatory committees. Another Klemperer installation, with similar see-through steel pieces fashioned from scrap, was approved for the entry road to the Portland International Jetport with little to no furor.
"There isn't really a clear procedure for bringing temporary sculpture before the city," Lacombe said.
As for the Eastern Prom art proposal, "it's unfortunate to lose that momentum and energy. It's possible to revisit it at another time," Lacombe said.
She expected the caribou and mountain lion replicas to end up at her Hawk Ridge Farm in Pownal.