The City of Portland, Maine, identified the Back Cove, a one-mile tidal estuary basin with its 5K running, walking, biking loop as an area in need of activation. Located on the northern side of the downtown district, the waterfront boasts great panoramic views of the city.
Curated by Christina Lanzl for TEMPOArt, the Portland Commons project represents an artistic inquiry into the ecology of communities in a framework of research and innovation. Global migration, environmental degradation and climate change are just a few major developments impacting coastal and riverfront cities. These topics continue to be more and more forcefully explored by leading public artists. What kind of interactions, artistic responses and temporary installations are possible that consider, attempt to showcase or reverse negative impacts, perhaps even with an effect of social and economic benefits?
Based on these considerations, environmental activist artist Matthew Mazzotta was invited to offer opportunity for dialogue with the local community through an Outdoor Living Room process. The concept was to provide a comfortable place where people converse, discuss or simply enjoy each other’s company in a location people traverse every day to attract voices who may not have time to go to scheduled meetings or have never thought about being part of an art project. The local non-profit Furniture Friends lent pieces of furniture, rugs and accessories, which were set up at the water’s edge for an informal dialogue to listen and to share challenges and opportunities.
A key insight following the creative dialogue was the desire among residents from different cultures to better get to know each other. Subsequently, the concept of community meals evolved in partnership with World to Table, which hosts participatory culinary feasts with the distinct ethic flavors of the wide range of Portland’s resident communities. The outcome are new social gathering opportunities focused on place and public participation.
Outdoor Living Room
Matthew Mazzotta offered opportunity for dialogue with the local community through his Outdoor Living Room process. The Outdoor Living Room is a comfortable place where people converse, discuss or simply enjoy each other’s company. Local residents lend pieces of furniture, rugs and accessories, which are then arranged at a central location. Like any good host, refreshments are offered and passers-by are invited to join the conversation. The premise is to engage without any preconceived notion of what the outcome might be. The dialogue happens without regard to impetus, whether the intent is meeting the artist, the organizers, other residents or to participate in the project. The goal is to initiate a profound exchange, offer ideas for implementation, apply best practices, and to inspire proactive thinking.
TEMPO'18: Portland Commons Outdoor Living Room
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 | 2-3:30 p.m.
Back Cove Trail parking lot off Preble Street, behind Hannaford Supermarket at 295 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME 04101
Matthew Mazzotta and the TEMPOart team listened and engaged in conversation with about 50 community members who came to the Back Cove waterfront. Many thanks to Furniture Friends, a nonprofit organization that provides donated furniture to people in need throughout Greater Portland.
TEMPO’19: Welcome Feasts
June 26, 2019 | 6-8 p.m.
July 17, 2019 | 6-8 p.m.
August 14, 2019 | 6-8 p.m.
Public arts and culinary diplomacy event series. Welcome Feast dinner tickets are free. Visit Welcome Feast for more information and to sign up.
Keyes, Bob. “Want a say in Back Cove public art piece? Tell its creator.” Portland Press Herald, June 20, 2017.
“2018 Curator Announced!” TempoArt, April 13, 2017.
For additional information please email Christina Lanzl.