Portland group aims to educate children about public art

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The statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow created by Portland-born sculptor Franklin Simmons was dedicated to the city in 1888. An illustration of the statue is included in a coloring book created by the Portland Public Art Committee to publicize the collection of public art of the city. Michael Kelley / The forecaster

Portland’s Public Art Committee is expanding an effort it began last year to put public art on the radar of some of the city’s youngest residents.

To raise awareness of the more than 50 pieces the city has in its public art collection, the public art committee created a small coloring book that was distributed to children at the YMCA of South Maine, Portland Parks. and Recreation, of the Boys and Girls Club. , and Portland Public Schools.

“We are really excited about coloring books,” said committee chair Jess Lipton. “It’s a happy and easy way to engage with the community. “

“Puffin” located at the Casco Bay ferry terminal is one of more than half a dozen pieces by Maine artist Bernard Langlais that is part of the public art collection. Michael Kelley / The forecaster

The coloring book pages, which can also be found on the website of the Public Art Committee, feature illustrations by Kavya Seshachar, committee member, of the statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Longfellow Square; “The Little Water Girl” at the Portland Public Library; “Great Black Hawk” at Deering Oaks, “Cod” at Portland International Jetport and Bernard Langlais coins at the Ocean Gateway Center, Casco Bay Ferry Terminal and Peaks Island branches and the main library library Portland Public.

Seshachar is now working on other illustrations, including Art Underfoot, a collection of 125 bronze tiles located in the bricks of Longfellow Square, as well as two located at the jetport: “Glimpse”, a series of metal animal sculptures by Wendy Klemperer, and “Acrobatic Dogs”, another play by Langlais.

“What inspired me to do this was when I first came to the country, I connected to Portland through art,” said Seshachar, an architectural designer by trade who came in Maine in 2012 from India. “Going everywhere and trying to draw something made me feel like I was part of this place.”

Meaghan Woodsome, of the YMCA of Southern Maine, said his organization used the coloring books to learn more about Portland, including its history, to 16 children in the school-aged program.

Kavya Seshachar, a member of the Portland Public Art Committee, hopes to add more illustrations to a coloring book created by the committee last year. She is working on an illustration for “Glimpse”, a series of animal sculptures from the Portland International Jetport. Michael Kelley / The forecaster

“Coloring books have helped kids develop a new awareness of our public spaces,” said Woodsome. “The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Statue in Longfellow Square and the Grand Black Hawk Statue in Deering Oaks have been a huge success. The kids loved learning that there is a similar statue of Longfellow in Washington DC ”

Woodsome said coloring books “help children see and experience the world from a different perspective.”

Coloring books are just one of the committee’s public awareness and education efforts. He’s working with Greater Portland METRO to list public works of art that can be found on public bus lines, Lipton said, and Creative Portland is in the process of creating a cultural app listing the location of art across. the city.

Awareness efforts are funded by private donations because the city code requires the Public Art Committee only uses the money it receives from the city (.05% of annual capital improvement budget) to maintain current pieces or acquire / buy new works.

The committee, Lipton said, is finalizing the artwork for the redesigned Congress Square park, accepting art submissions for Bramhall Square and hoping to add Jesse Salisbury’s “Gathering Stones” to the permanent collection. The artwork, located at Fish Point on the Eastern Promenade Trail, is part of the city’s temporary art program. Several other Salisbury plays, including “Tidal Moon” and “Beach Pea”, are located at the jetport.

For more information on Portland’s public art collection, some of which date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, visit publicartportland.org.

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