The artist who will install a piece of temporary public art along Portland’s Back Cove later this year will meet with people on Wednesday who want a say in what that art looks like and how it functions.

Matthew Mazzotta, a visiting artist who studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2009, will host what he calls an “outdoor living room” from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the parking lot along the Preble Street Extension, across from the Hannaford grocery store. TEMPOart, a privately funded temporary art program, will host the session as well as the installation of the artwork.

Mazzotta wants to hear from people about their daily lives, their dreams and their worries as he considers ideas for his piece. The location of the installation will be determined based in part on the feedback he receives, said Alice Spencer, a member of the TEMPOart board of directors.

Wednesday’s session is drop-in and casual, with furniture where people can sit for a few minutes and share ideas. “I am always an outsider when I go into a community, and I need to get information,” Mazzotta said. “I’ve developed a more public way of gathering information and get people to contribute who have never thought about public art. I ask about location, community, identity, secrets. I take it all in and use that information to design the project.”

Among the questions he will ask: What are the unknown histories of the community? What have you seen in another city or neighborhood that you would like to see here? What’s missing? What do you think about your community’s identity? What are its challenges? What brings people together? Where would you like to see art on the Back Cove?

Mazzotta grew up in Canton, New York, and is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He will be a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University in 2018.


He is known for his kinetic, interactive installations. He has worked all over the country and views public art as a way to get people to interact with one another and their community. He converted an abandoned house in Alabama to fold open into an open-air theater with seating, and he collaborated on a bicycle-powered bus project in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. His best-known project is Park Spark, which converts dog waste into methane used to power a lamppost in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He started that project in Maine while studying at Skowhegan.

TEMPOart brings curated, site-specific art to public spaces with a goal of enlivening neighborhoods and urban sites. The group installed “The American Dream” in Lincoln Park and this summer is organizing “Under Review: The American Dream,” in which three artists will respond to the concept of the American Dream. The first of those three artists, John Sundling, recently installed “Ghost Fence” in the grass median of the Franklin Arterial to show the original footprint of Lincoln Park.

For the Back Cove project, TEMPOart is working with independent curator Christina Lanzl, who has curated more than 100 public art and cultural planning initiatives across the country and internationally. She is co-founder of the Urban Cultural Institute and was among 16 curators who applied for the Back Cove project, Spencer said. She has worked with Mazzotta on other projects, and recruited him for Portland.

TEMPOart has a budget of $20,000 for the Back Cove project. Private fundraising will begin in the fall, after Mazzotta and Lanzl settle on a project and location.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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