The busy intersection connecting the University of Southern Maine campus to Portland’s Oakdale neighborhood will be getting a high-concept makeover.
On Wednesday, the Portland Public Art Committee voted to nominate an original sculpture from Mark Pettegrow to sit at the center of a 45-by-50 foot roundabout to be built next year at the intersections of Brighton and Deering Avenues and Falmouth Street, outside the USM School of Law. The proposal and budget now seek approval from the Portland City Council.
Pettegrow, a sculptor from Machiasport who now makes his home in Kennebunkport, was given the recommendation of a five-member breakout panel from the Portland Public Art Committee last week. His proposal — titled “Passing the Torch” — contains two individual sculptures of three rippling bronze flames set on granite bases lit from below.
The sculptures are projected to be 13.5 and 11.5 feet, and meant to “lead the eye and mov(e) with the traffic around the space,” per his written description.
“It’s a cultural symbol everyone knows,” Pettegrow said during public comment at a decisive Public Art Committee meeting Wednesday. “From the Olympic Games to passing the torch to future generations.”
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Pettegrow’s submission was selected from a pool of four finalists that included work from Anna Hepler of Eastport, Maine; Will Vannerson of Kansas City, Missouri; and the design team Quincy Owens and Luke Crawley of Indianapolis.
The city called for proposals for the roundabout that were visually interesting without being a distraction to drivers.
In “Passing the Torch,” the bronze pieces will be textured, cast and finished in a patina to withstand changes in color by time and weather conditions. Some surfaces will be polished to reflect sun and artificial light, and finished with sealant. LED lights will be installed in the gravel at ground-level to uplight the bronze sculptures after dark.
The work is projected to cost roughly $75,000, city officials say. Roughly $30,000 of that comes from the city’s budget, and further funds await approval by city councilors at an upcoming meeting. The roundabout itself will be designed by the Department of Transportation and will be completed in 2020.
The five-member Roundabout Public Art Committee, a subcommittee of the city’s Public Art Committee, includes artist Daniel Minter (Indigo Arts Alliance); Diana Greenwold, associate curator of American Art at the Portland Museum of Art; neighborhood activist Carol Schiller of the University Neighborhood Association; Keith Smith, architect with Terrence DeWan and Associates; and Lydia Swann, representative of the University of Southern Maine.
The City Charter requires 0.5 percent of the annual capital improvements bonding to be spent on public art.
A spokesperson from USM seconded Pettegrow’s nomination at the meeting, calling the roundabout a critical project for the university that would create a gateway to the Portland campus.
“We’re thrilled with the selection, and we’re thrilled that our piece would be done in Maine, by a gentleman who graduated from the University of Maine System,” said USM Chief Operations Officer Nancy Griffin.
“What they want is that cars can see it from a distance so that they will slow down. The height is critical,” Griffin said.
Pettegrow’s work was nominated by the subcommittee with the understanding there will be further small considerations to maintenance and design. “The site has a lot of conflicts with utilities below and above ground,” Cameron said. “The recommendation is not only for the artist but also a budget. Lighting and some landscaping would come out of the public art budget.”
Each proposal for the roundabout contained a distinct concept. Two proposals had a maritime theme — Vannerson’s “Pelagic Dream,” a large ocean vessel, and Hepler’s “True North,” a smaller boat design nodding to a time in history where Maine’s coastal communities were connected by harbors rather than dry roads. Owens + Crawley’s proposal included tall, LED-lit aluminum sculptures bearing colorful acrylic patterns resembling DNA.