PORTLAND — An old-fashioned clock in Monument Square that hasn’t worked for years has been quietly turned into a work of art.

One clock face, atop a 12-foot black pole on the edge of the square, is covered by a painting that looks like a mirror reflecting the top of the Time and Temperature building, with a UFO hovering nearby, on Congress Street.

On the other side, aliens peer out from where the clock face is supposed to be. Their slack bodies and faces evoke “The Scream,” by Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch, or creatures from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

The temporary artwork is part of a “stealth” fundraising campaign by the Portland Rotary and the Portland Downtown District to raise $25,000 to repair and maintain the clock.

But $25,000? For one clock?

“It is a lot of money, but it’s not like a Honda Accord that’s made by the millions,” Rotary President Cyrus Hagge said. “It’s pretty unique.”

When the clock stopped working about three years ago, the city didn’t have the money to repair it.

Jan Beitzer, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, said she approached the Rotary Club about taking on the fundraiser.

“We tried to find a white knight,” she said. “We know the Rotary tries to do community service projects, so that seemed like a good fit.”

But why put so much effort into such a small piece of downtown furniture?

“It’s an historic piece of the fabric of downtown,” Beitzer said. “And we believe in preserving historic things.”

The clock in question, on the brick sidewalk near the entrance to the square’s parking garage, is on a pole that looks much like nearby lamp posts. Structurally, the clock is sound, but its insides are fried, Hagge said.

So, until enough money is raised for repairs, the clock’s faces will be covered by art, changing every few weeks with new images until the end of the year.

“We kicked this around for awhile,” Hagge said. “I’m good friends with (Scott Nash) an illustration instructor at Maine College of Art and I said ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a project where your students design clock faces?’ “

Every time new art is installed, the ones removed will be returned to the students. Sometime next year, Hagge envisions an art show to display all of the art. It’s possible that some pieces could be auctioned to help raise more money, Hagge said. So far, he’s raised $6,500 from area businesses.

Hagge said he didn’t want to publicize the “stealth” project but rather let it speak for itself, hoping people would simply take notice over the next several weeks.

“There are a lot of different types of pieces,” he said. “I think there will be some buzz, which is what we want.”

It may have worked too well: About a week ago, the current pieces were taken down by police who mistook them for graffiti.

They have since been reinstalled.

 

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: @PPHEricRussell