PORTLAND – The city’s residents will have a chance to connect with their neighborhoods and reconnect with the past through a community art project that will go on view this weekend.

The Meeting Place program, funded mostly with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, aims to promote neighborhood connections, pride and civic engagement, said Marty Pottenger, who is leading the initiative.

It will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in Libbytown, the area that includes St. John Street, Thompson’s Point and the Westgate Shopping Center. The neighborhood had a much greater sense of identity before the construction of Interstate 295 in the 1960s divided it, Pottenger said.

The Meeting Place program will help stitch historic relationships back together.

Residents worked with former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl to remember longtime Libbytown traditions, including Steepsie’s sliding hill, circus elephants in Douglass Park and the legendary Pop Tate, who sold doughnuts at Union Station.

Saturday’s celebration will begin at Tony’s Donuts and include walks along the Fore River guided by Portland Trails, stories about the old days, and a bike ride through the “hidden gems” of Libbytown, hosted by resident Fred Dillon. The ride will start at 9 a.m. at Douglass Field.

Various locations in Libbytown will display banners large and small with poetry written by residents that narrates the neighborhood’s past and characteristics.

Other neighborhoods that are part of the project include the West End, Bayside and East Bayside.

The West End will celebrate its history from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday with a display of photographs, taken by residents, at the Maine Irish Heritage Center on Gray Street.

Under the guidance of photographer and West Ender Tonee Harbert, residents were invited to take photographs of favorite spots, places in their homes or people of significance in their lives.

Residents submitted hundreds of images that capture the character and essence of the West End.

The Bayside neighborhoods will have their celebrations on Sept. 29.

The visual artist Daniel Minter collaborated with Bayside residents to create 3-by-5-inch art cards.

He made woodblock prints of local people, and residents collected stories to narrate them in writing.

In East Bayside, mural artists Jan Piribeck, Christopher Wright, Tim Clorius, Johnathon Cook and Kelly Rioux teamed with residents to make fence murals with mostly recycled materials.

They brightened up fences in blighted areas by turning them into colorful displays.

Pottenger, director of the city’s Art at Work program, has spent several years working with city employees to improve efficiency and understanding among them through art projects.

She helped members of the police department express themselves in words and images, and inspired city leaders to tackle roles in plays and like-minded events.

With this project, she and her artist team will work directly with residents.

“After working for several years helping tackle municipal problems with arts projects, it became clear to me that the relationships between the city and the public that the city serves is the actual heart of the matter,” Pottenger said.

“That’s what this project is all about. It’s about creating, inviting and inspiring new relationships and connections that reflect the diversity of each neighborhood.”

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes