A Portland photographer whose work explores the intersection of art and commerce wants to open a temporary art gallery inside a shipping container like the ones that travel by boat between Portland and Iceland. Justin Levesque, 29, is seeking city permission for a temporary art installation in Congress Square in late September and early October that will coincide with the international Arctic Council conference in Portland.

The container-gallery would feature Levesque’s photographs of the Portland waterfront and the international workers who labor there. Levesque traveled from Portland to Iceland on the MV Selfoss last September, a guest of the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip, which has headquarters in Portland.

He documented his journey, and became friends with the Icelandic workers for whom the Maine-to-Iceland circuit is a regular work routine. The exhibition, “ICELANDx207: Container,” is part of Levesque’s yearlong project to tell the story behind Iceland’s role in the Maine economy, create portraits of Icelanders who work in Maine and document life on the Portland waterfront.

A city review panel for temporary public art projects will consider the request at 11 a.m. April 26 in the fourth-floor Conference Room at City Hall.

The container – 20 feet long and 8 feet wide – would be placed just to the east of the sunken plaza at Congress Square, away from the sidewalk. Traffic on Congress Street would not be affected.

Levesque chose the location because the Westin Portland Harborview hotel at Congress Square is a conference site of the Arctic Council. About 250 scientists, business leaders and senior government officials from eight Arctic nations will attend the Arctic Council’s meeting Oct. 4-6. Levesque wants to open “Container” on Sept. 27 for two weeks.

“I want to pull back the curtain on the shipping industry in general,” he said. “Most people do not understand the human entanglement involved with shipping, but we have an international relationship right here in our backyard. I hope my exhibition can provide an insight into something that people are aware of but maybe haven’t seen firsthand.”

Levesque received grants from the Maine Arts Commission and the Kindling Fund, administered by SPACE Gallery, for the project.

His project will continue at least until June 2017, when he sails on a Tall Ship through the high arctic for three weeks.

Levesque, who graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 2010, is working under a new program of the Portland Public Art Committee, Tempo, designed to encourage short-term, temporary public art projects. The committee will introduce details of Tempo at a community forum at 5:30 p.m. April 26 at Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland.

Tempo will place temporary public art in squares, parks and neighborhoods through the city, using private money, said Alice Spencer, a former art committee member who helped draft the temporary art guidelines.

The first project will be at Lincoln Park, at Congress Street and Franklin Street, and will be introduced in May. Artist Judith Hoffman has created a series of stacking homes from steel, arranging them in a totemic sculptural form reaching 14 feet tall. Hoffman calls her piece “The American Dream,” and it offers commentary on America’s concept of home. Some homes appear stable, but others are teetering toward collapse. One is upside down.

Spencer said the piece at Lincoln Park will be on view for about a year.


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