PORTLAND, Maine — The city added to its collection of art-enhanced bus stop shelters on Thursday, unveiling five more eye-popping, thought-provoking works, for a total of nine.
Now, even more local mass transit passengers can wait for their rides not just in comfort — out of the sun and foul weather — but in style, too.
“We want these to be places of thought and community,” said Greg Jordan, executive director of the Greater Portland Metro bus service. “We’d love to someday see all the stops with art.”
A gaggle of city officials, art curators, community organization administrators, politicians and artists traveled to all five new shelters across the city on Thursday, speechifying and cutting ribbons on each shelter.
The creative bus shelter project began in 2017 with a $25,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. That helped fund the first four shelters, which opened last year.
A new matching grant was awarded in the spring of 2021, funding the current crop of shelters.
The entire project is a joint collaboration between Creative Portland, the official arts agency for the city of Portland, the Greater Portland Metro and the Greater Portland Council of Governments.
Each artist is paid $4,500 for the design. With supplies, fabrication, curation and administration added up, each shelter has a roughly $10,000 to $20,000 price tag.
In May, the bus shelter initiative hit the national news when Ebenezer Akakpo won Streetsblog’s national competition for the Best Bus Stop in the USA. His shelter, located at 519 Congress Street, beat out bus stops in Boston, Baltimore and Juneau.
Akakpo’s design was part of the initiative’s first phase, being unveiled last year.
Bus shelter artist Titi de Baccarat made an impassioned speech before cutting the ribbon on his shelter, at the corner of Forest Avenue and Congress Street.
De Baccarat called up the memory of civil rights leader Rosa Parks, who would not give up her bus seat to a white person, asking the assembled crowd to take a knee in her memory and in honor of all those searching for economic and racial justice.
“We cannot leave the most vulnerable behind today. We cannot forget them,” he said. “We are all waiting for the bus that will transport us to the destination of happiness.”
We the people
Artist Zenab Bastawala celebrates after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at and enhanced bus stop shelter she helped design on Congress Street in Portland on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. The shelter celebrates the city’s diverse collection of languages and cultures; Kristina Egan, of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, speaks during the ceremony. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
By Zenab Bastawala and Karen Merritt
Outside the Portland Public Library on Congress Street
Using vibrant, transparent colors and zinging typography, this shelter honors and celebrates the city’s many diverse cultures. Currently, at least 63 languages are spoken in the Portland public schools.
The Reason We Come Together
Artist Titi de Baccarat kneels during a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside a bus shelter he designed on Congress Street in Portland on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. De Baccarat urged those assembled to work toward social and economic justice for all; de Baccarat makes an impassioned speech at the ceremony. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
By Titi de Baccarat
Corner of Forest Avenue and Congress Street
Multicolored, three-dimensional panels stand in relief on three sides of this shelter. Each panel depicts a human figure kneeling, some with crossed arms and others with raised fists. It’s a continuation of a much longer, often performative art piece about social justice the artist has been working on for some years.
Carter Shappy talks about his colorful work at a ribbon cutting ceremony outside a new bus shelter he designed near the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022; Sun shinning through Shappy’s transparent work on a Portland bus shelter creates a graphic tableau, along with dark shadows, bright concrete and a cigarette butt. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
By Carter Shappy
Near the Deering and Brighton Avenue rotary
The artist has documented lost fishing gear on the Maine coast for more than a decade. This swirling work, done in polyester film, represents that kind of ocean-going flotsam and jetsam.
Artist Ben Potter speaks outside a bus shelter he designed near Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022; Potter cuts the ribbon on the bus shelter. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
By Ben Potter
Outside Northern Light Mercy Hospital
This work is a tribute to the landforms and patterns left behind by centuries of river action in the estuaries and marshes surrounding Portland. The shelter stands just yards from the Fore River.
Youth in Bloom
Photographer and artist Jocelyn Lee stands inside a a bus shelter she designed near Deering High School in Portland on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022.; A grid of photographs depicting young local people adorns the bus shelter. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
By Jocelyn Lee
Stevens Avenue, across from Deering High School
This shelter features open air photographic portraits of local youth, depicting them as vibrant and diverse. The portraits are interspersed with seascapes and flowers, as well.