The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow statue created by Portland-born sculptor Franklin Simmons was dedicated to the city in 1888. An illustration of the statue is included in a coloring book the Portland Public Art Committee created to raise awareness about the city’s public art collection. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The Portland Public Art Committee is expanding an effort it started last year to put public art on the radar of some of the city’s youngest residents.

To raise more awareness about the 50-plus pieces the city has in its public art collection, the Public Art Committee created a small coloring book that was handed out to children at YMCA of Southern Maine, Portland Parks and Recreation, the Boys and Girls Club, and Portland Public Schools.

“We are really excited about the coloring books,” said committee chairperson Jess Lipton. “This is a joyous and easy way to engage with the community.”

“Puffin” located at the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal is one of more than a half dozen pieces by Maine artist Bernard Langlais that is part of the public art collection. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The coloring book pages, which can also be found on the Public art Committee’s website, feature illustrations by committee member Kavya Seshachar of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow statue at Longfellow Square; “The Little Water Girl” in the Portland Public Library; “Great Black Hawk” at Deering Oaks, “Cod” at Portland International Jetport and pieces by Bernard Langlais at the Ocean Gateway Center, Casco Bay Ferry Terminal and the Peaks Island and Main Library branches of the Portland Public Library.

Seshachar is now working on other illustrations, including Art Underfoot, a collection of 125 bronze tiles located in the bricks at Longfellow Square, as well as two located at the jetport: “Glimpse,” a series of metal animal sculptures by Wendy Klemperer, and “Acrobatic Dogs,” another piece by Langlais.

“What inspired me to do this was when I came to the country, I connected to Portland through art,” said Seshachar, an architectural designer by trade who came to Maine in 2012 from India. “Going everywhere and trying to sketch something made me feel a part of that place.”

Meaghan Woodsome, of YMCA of Southern Maine, said her organization used the coloring books to teach 16 children in the school-age program more about Portland, including its history.

Portland Public Art Committee member Kavya Seshachar hopes to add more illustrations to a coloring book created by the committee last year. She’s working on an illustration of “Glimpse,” a series of animal sculptures by the Portland International Jetport. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“The coloring books helped the kids develop a new awareness of our public spaces,” Woodsome said. “The statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Longfellow Square and the Great Black Hawk statue in Deering Oaks were huge hits. The kids loved learning that there’s a similar statue of Longfellow in Washington D.C.”

Woodsome said the coloring books “help kids see and experience the world through a different lens.”

The coloring books are just one of the committee’s public outreach and education efforts. It is working with Greater Portland METRO to list the public art pieces that can be found on public bus routes, Lipton said, and Creative Portland is in the process of creating a cultural app listing the location of art across the city.

The outreach efforts are funded through private donations because city code mandates the Public Art Committee only uses the money it gets from the city (.05% of the annual capital improvement budget) to maintain current pieces or acquire/purchase new works.

The committee, Lipton said, is finalizing artwork for the redesigned Congress Square Park, accepting art proposals for Bramhall Square and is hoping to add Jesse Salisbury’s “Gathering Stones” to the permanent collection. The piece, located at Fish Point on the Eastern Promenade Trail, is part of the city’s temporary art program. Several other pieces by Salisbury, including “Tidal Moon” and “Beach Pea,” are located at the jetport.

For more information about Portland’s public art collection, some of which dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, visit publicartportland.org.

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