The City of Portland will host a public forum for the Congress Square Redesign on Saturday, November 6, 2021, from 1:00 to 2:30 PM, at the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, Longfellow Room (157 High Street). The forum will include a welcome introduction from City officials followed by presentations from WRT, the Congress Square Redesign consultant, as well as nationally renowned artist Sarah Sze, who was selected to commission a new public art installation for the park as part of the project.
In 2012, the Portland Public Art Committee (PPAC) made the decision to commit $250,000 for the commission of a signature public artwork for Congress Square that would exemplify artistic excellence and bring a strong art identity to the heart of the Arts District. A 7-member artist selection committee, comprised of leaders in Portland’s arts community and members of the public, worked for over a year to identify four artist finalists. Hundreds of local residents participated in a public ‘interview’ of the finalists, and the rigorous process led to the selection of artist Sarah Sze.
"The Congress Square Redesign is an opportunity for the city of Portland to dream big," said Mayor Kate Snyder. "I'm really excited about the redesign; I think it's going to make that whole intersection people-friendly."
“Sarah Sze is one of the preeminent artists of our time, and it has been incredible to partner with her on this transformative project at the heart of Portland’s bustling Arts District,” said Pandora LaCasse, a local artist best known for her whimsical holiday lights. LaCasse was on the PPAC in 2012 and on the artist selection committee. “Accessible public art is so important, and the Sarah Sze installation will certainly help bring more joy and wonder to us all.”
"The COVID pandemic has made clear the importance of access to outdoor public space. Many local organizations used the park for a wide variety of events this year, including meetings, concerts, films, readings, fairs, and more. Without the park’s ability to host these types of functions, every one of these organizations would have been regulated to an online format or simply would not have been able to operate as needed," explained C.J. Opperthauser, Executive Director of Friends of Congress Square Park. "However, despite our programming and amenities, the physical design of our park is in dire need of transformation. The park in its current state is physically inaccessible to too many people. It is challenging, and dangerous, for our friends and neighbors with mobility issues. Fortunately, with the Redesign, accessibility to the Park -- and throughout the Square -- will be dramatically improved."
"Congress Square Park is one of downtown's gems, said Cary Tyson, Executive Director of Portland Downtown. “Adding the shine of the redesign will provide a much needed coat of polish allowing for improved accessibility and programming."
Sarah Sze's immersive works challenge the static nature of art. Her work questions the value society places on images and objects and how they both ascribe meaning to the places and times we inhabit. Widely recognized for expanding the boundaries between painting, sculpture, video and installation, Sze’s work ranges from intimate paintings that collapse time and space to expansive installations that create complex constellations of materials and public works that scale walls and colonize architectures.
Sze was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003 and a Radcliffe Fellowship in 2005. In 2013, she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. Her work is exhibited in museums worldwide and held in the permanent collections of prominent institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Tate Modern. Sze has created many public works including pieces for the Seattle Opera House, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York and LaGuardia Airport in New York. In 2021 Sze unveiled a new permanent commission for the Storm King Art Center, New York.
Learn more about the Congress Square Redesign on the City of Portland website.