PORTLAND — Fusing public art and culinary diplomacy, a new art installation is designed to connect people from disparate cultures while introducing them to ethnically important foods.

An opening reception for the new sculpture, called “Mother’s Garden,” will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at Fox Field & Playground, at the corner of Fox and Anderson streets in East Bayside.

This is the third summer that TEMPOart, a nonprofit public arts organization, has created an installation somewhere in Portland, but Chairwoman Alice Spencer said this is the group’s most ambitious project to date.

In addition to the opening reception, several “Welcome Feast” dinners are also being planned, along with a variety of other activities.

Spencer said the response from the community has been overwhelming and TEMPOart already has about 500 people signed up to take part in one of the dinners.

She said there’s been so much demand that TEMPOart added a fourth dinner that will be held sometime in September.

Anyone wishing to attend one of the dinners must sign up in advance at www.tempoartmaine.org, Spencer said. In case of inclement weather, the dinners will be moved to the new Cove Street Arts gallery at 71 Cove St.

The confirmed dinner dates are 5 p.m. June 26, July 17 and Aug. 14. The idea is for New Mainers to be paired with chefs from area restaurants to create a cross-cultural meal, Spencer said.

She said the participating restaurants include Belleville Bakery, Chaval, and Luke’s Lobster. The immigrant cooks, Spencer said, are from Somalia, Columbia and Afghanistan, respectively.

Artist Daniel Minter was chosen to create this year’s temporary art piece and Spencer said his vision “was just perfect for this commission.”

TEMPOart also partnered with Anna Ackerman of World to Table in Augusta and Portland Trails on the new installation.

The mission at World to Table is to “foster integration between refugees and host communities through the sharing of cultural foods,” according to the organization’s website.

Ackerman has a degree in culinary diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, which defines it as “a field of study that examines how food can be used as a tool to promote relationship-building, cooperation, and peace.”

With its new installation, Spencer said TEMPOart is hoping to both “showcase the vibrancy of our city as a culinary destination” while also “breaking down some barriers and fostering conversation.”

“This sort of dynamic combination of New Mainers, longtime residents, established chefs, and newcomers will be a first for Portland,” Ackerman added. “And, we are truly excited to be partnering on such a special cultural moment.”

Spencer said the location for the new art piece was also carefully chosen.

“This green space in East Bayside was selected in part due to the area’s rapid cultural transition, which is emblematic of the city at large,” she said.

Minter’s sculpture will consist of four, large-scale figurative wooden statues, with images of indigenous African foods that’s meant to explore the African diaspora, TEMPOart said in a press release.

“I am thrilled that the setting for this commission is such a well-loved community field,” Minter said. “These sculptures will invite the community to gather and converse, celebrating our diverse backgrounds and histories.”

Spencer said the idea for “Mother’s Garden” was sparked by a conversation between TEMPOart organizers and members of the community who stopped by during the art organization’s one-day outdoor living room last summer to answer the question about what they most liked about living in Portland.

“What they told us is that they love Portland and how welcoming it is, but they also said it’s hard to get to know the newcomers. So we thought that idea was worth looking into and exploring,” she said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

It’s not up yet, but Portland artist Daniel Minter’s latest creation, “Mother’s Garden,” will pop up at Fox Field in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood later this week. The installation is sponsored by TEMPOart, a public arts nonprofit.

A mock-up of the latest public art installation in Portland by TEMPOart shows a close up of one of the figures created by artist Daniel Minter for his piece, “Mother’s Garden.”


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