Rendering of shelter design, “The Mainer Project,” by Pigeon. Courtesy Creative Portland

Creative Portland, the city’s designated arts agency, has begun installing its first three public art pieces in Portland bus shelters this month. The art is meant to celebrate Portland’s diverse communities, including the immigrant and refugee populations. Two out of the three shelters are designed by immigrant artists.

The installation is funded in part by a $25,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts awarded as part of the NEA’s Our Town program. The grant supports the first phase of the project, which Dinah Minot, Creative Portland’s executive director, said includes the implementation of three to four shelter designs. Additional partners and sponsors, including American Steel & Aluminum, Designtex, Portland Industrial Coating and Rock Row (Waterstone Properties), enabled the organization to commission artists to create the designs.

The designs were approved by a volunteer review committee comprising Minot, Jamie DeSimone of the Portland Museum of Art, Daniel Minter of the Indigo Arts Alliance and Maine College of Art, independent art consultant Fred Yaloris representing Rock Row, Zoe Miller of the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Greg Jordan of Greater Portland METRO.

Rendering of Ebenezer Akakpo’s shelter design “Hope & Friendship.” The design uses powder-coated steel composed of Adinkra symbols from the artist’s native Ghana. Courtesy Creative Portland

“The goal is to encourage multimodal transportation, to increase ridership, and to amplify the voices of diverse, underserved populations and to facilitate a discussion of social acceptance and community bonding through art installations that utilize bus shelters as the canvas for public art,” the organization said in a news release issued Friday.

The first installment is by Pigeon, a Portland-based French street artist whose real name is Orson Horchler. Located at the bus shelter on St. John Street near Dunkin’, the design features four portraits representing the artist’s friendships and personal relationships. The shelter was installed Monday.

“The artist’s hope is to incite community-building by inspiring discourse on identity and by confronting the attitudes that prevent us from feeling at home in the place we live,” the news release said. It’s part of the larger “Mainer Project,” which Pigeon started in 2015, working with the Maine Historical Society, the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, the University of Maine, the Maine Humanities Council, the Attorney General’s Office and public schools across the state to collect hundreds of diverse testimonials.

The second shelter is located at Bedford Street near the University of Southern Maine and is designed by Justin Levesque, a Maine native and USM graduate. Entitled “Glacier Retreat,” the design includes shapes carved of glacial imagery and data showing cod mortality rates as a result of increasingly high temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. The arrow shapes show the Gulf of Maine currents and “potential paths of human movements necessitated by climate migration.” The installation will take place Monday from 8 a.m. to noon.

The third shelter is located on Congress Street by Mechanics Hall. Created by Ebenezer Akakpo, the design is titled “Hope & Friendship” and uses Adinkra symbols of hope and friendship from Ghana, where the artist is from. The intricate patterns are designed to instill community and cast “shadows of hope on people walking by or waiting for the bus.” The shelter will be installed Aug. 31.

Public ceremonies will take place at the shelters on Sept. 10 from 2-4 p.m.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.