April 5, 2011

Portland council officially orders removal of sculpture

The Public Art Committee must now decide what to do with the controversial 'Tracing the Fore.'

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The City Council ordered a controversial piece of art removed Monday night – and its decision isn't likely to inspire any protests.

The council officially removed "Tracing the Fore" from Portland's collection of public art.

The Boothby Square landscape sculpture was commissioned from the artist Shauna Gillies-Smith more than five years ago for $135,000. Its stainless steel waves and rolling mounds of dirt with grass were supposed to resemble waves on the Fore River.

But the grass never grew properly, the mounds soon got covered with weeds and business owners in the area began lobbying for the artwork's removal.

Late last month, the council briefly considered another art issue – whether to accept the mural that Gov. Paul LePage had removed from the state Department of Labor's headquarters in Augusta. It abandoned the idea, after opponents of LePage's decision said that accepting the mural would represent tacit approval of its removal.

"Tracing the Fore" has had far fewer supporters.

Earlier this year, the Portland Public Art Committee looked into moving the sculpture to the Mercy Hospital Campus on the Fore River. The council rejected that suggestion.

The art committee then voted to recommend that the sculpture be removed from the city's collection. On Monday, the council agreed unanimously.

Now, the panel must decide what to do with it. City Planner Alex Jaegerman said a couple of people have expressed interest in the piece, but it's not clear what they'd pay.

The city wants the piece removed and soil added to the raised planter where it was installed, with new grass in its place.

Also Monday, the council accepted acting City Manager Pat Finnigan's $200.7 million budget proposal for the next fiscal year and sent it to its Finance Committee, which will begin a review this week. The council is tentatively set to vote on the budget May 16.

The council also tightened the city's rules for declaring a house or apartment building a "disorderly house," which can lead to fines and ultimately an order shutting the building down. City officials, however, said they will continue working with landlords to correct problems before seeking sanctions.

And the council appointed an advisory committee to oversee a study of Forest Avenue from near Deering Oaks to Woodfords Corner. The goal is to come up with changes to the transportation system and new land use policies along the busy street that will encourage development.

 

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