The Portland City Council delayed action Monday on a proposal to spend $25,000 on a street light sculpture for Woodfords Corner.

Councilors Edward Suslovic and Justin Costa said the delay would give residents of the area a chance to learn more about the project, which became public Wednesday.

“It will be helpful to have a better conversation with the community and the (Public Art) Committee,” Costa said. “There’s no sense in starting from a place of division.”

Residents in the Woodford and Oakdale neighborhoods weren’t aware of the sculpture until they got a mailing from the city Wednesday, the same day as a community meeting on the city’s broader plan to remake Woodfords Corner. During that meeting, some residents were skeptical about the design.

Steve Leighton, president of the Woodford-Oakdale Neighborhood Association, thanked the council for the delay Monday night. After the meeting, he said, “All of us travel through that intersection every day. … It’s important to us that (the art) be something that works for everyone.”

The sculpture would be part of the city’s effort to give Woodfords Corner a uniquesense of place, making it more enticing for people to visit.


The council last month approved a $2.6 million project to improve the intersection traversed by more than 22,000 vehicles daily. The project includes a public plaza in front of the Odd Fellows Hall, where an 80-foot clock tower presides over the five-way intersection. Work is expected to begin in the spring of 2017, with construction lasting most of the year.

Artist Aaron Stephan, 41, who was recommended by the city’s Public Art Committee, twists and bends standard street lights into artistic forms. Stephan said in an interview before the meeting that the street lamp art project would be a way to improve an area he tries to avoid.

“It looks like (the city is) trying to make it look more neighborhood-y and nicer for pedestrians, which is what I like,” he said.

Stephan, who designed the two-story table-and-chairs sculpture on display at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center, was commissioned to build a street lamp sculpture for the W.G. Mallett School in Farmington a few years ago. A series of five of his street lamp sculptures is on display at Texas Tech University.

Stephan said he has no designs yet, but expects to make a tree-like form to complement the vegetation the city plans to plant. He anticipates the lights will be put on a dimmer to minimize light pollution.

“Aaron’s work is uniquely suited for this project which uses off-the-shelf street lights to create sculpture,” Caitlin Cameron, the city’s urban designer, said in a memo to the council.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at: Twitter: @randybillings

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