Client: Regional Arts and Culture Council
Location: Portland, OR, United States
Completion date: 2007
Artwork budget: $52,000
This Percent for Art commission is installed in a renovated and expanded Portland Parks Community Center. The two low-relief wall sculptures and linoleum mural each respond to different architectural contexts. Starting with “Welcome” in the entrance foyer and continuing with “From Here to There” in the lobby, the artwork invites visitors to explore and enjoy the interplay of color and rhythms. Media include painted and carved wood, mosaics, ceramic carvings, found objects, and forged iron. “Promenade” a mural of tightly-fitted linoleum cut-outs is installed further along in the Center, opposite the gym.
The Community Center has a long history, serving as a meeting place for naval shipyard workers during WWII. With the expansion and development of the neighborhood, a larger space was needed; meeting rooms were added, a full-size gym was erected, and the entrance and lobby were transformed. The desire to acknowledge the history of the site while embracing the exciting future was expressed by all. The artwork is woven with metaphors about the Center's history, purposes, and hopes for the future. "Welcome" suggests symbolically the integrating of people from many walks of life, spiraling outward, weaving together, growing and forming community. With many references to the history of the Center, "From Here to There" explores the venture of change and exploration -- personal and in relationship to others. "Promenade" sweeps across the curved wall featuring a rhythmical parade of tree forms, bringing the park-like setting indoors.
We, Site Painters (team of Laura Bender and John Early), responded to the public art call for artists, meeting at the site during reconstruction and hearing about goals for the project. As one of three semi-finalists, we presented our proposal and were chosen for this commission. Much research went into the initial proposal; learning about and then incorporating references to the history of this community were an inherent part of the project. We worked with the Parks and Recreation staff as well as the architect in determining best sites to address. We deliberated over lighting together and the flooring of stained cement tiling was closely considered in relationship to the nearby linoleum mural. We also worked with a blacksmith in creating the forged metal armature in the lobby installation. The installation crew formed a crucial end piece to the whole process.