Portland is asking for applications from artists to create a memorial to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

The memorial would be placed in an open area on the Bayside Trail in the city’s West Bayside neighborhood. The city has set aside $100,000 for the project.

Portland leaders have talked for decades about how to properly honor the slain civil rights leader. Several other efforts, including the renaming of Franklin Street, have faltered.

Although King never visited Portland, he did speak in Brunswick and Biddeford. The University of Maine dedicated its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza at the Orono campus on the 40th anniversary of King’s death.

The Bayside Trail is used as a transportation route by cyclists and as an exercise path for joggers and walkers. It was first identified as a possible location for an MLK memorial in 2008, when it was in the planning stages. A campaign to raise $750,000 for the memorial, including benches and other trail improvements, was launched at that time, but the effort fizzled during the Great Recession.

Another task force set up in 2017 eventually recommended the creation of a memorial along the trail.


Artists who want to apply to create the memorial can do so through the city’s website.  Interested applicants have until June 26 to submit their qualifications.

The MLK Memorial Selection Committee, co-chaired by City Councilor Jill Duson and the Rev. Kenneth Lewis, will choose up to three finalists to move on to the proposal phase.

“A monument to the life and legacy of Dr. King will serve as a special place of reflection and inspiration for all Maine people,” said Lewis, pastor of the Green Memorial AME Zion Church in Portland.

According to the city’s invitation to artists, the memorial is intended to inspire visitors to reflect on King’s life and values and prompt them to consider how they can contribute to an equitable and fair society. It also says the city encourages proposals that can offer an educational or interactive element that makes the project more than just a plaza or statue.

This application process is open to all artists, architects, landscape architects, or teams engaged with public art, site responsive design, project management and construction administration. Artists from the Portland area are encouraged to apply.

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