Public Art: Resilience in Place

Public Art: Resilience in Place

by Kimberly Curry

New England has long, cold winters. It forces you to be reflective. On this day, I recalled a sunny New England fall day. It was so curiously warm, to stay inside was a crime. But I had hankering for some art, so I grabbed my keys and went outside. 

I made my way across my town of Portland, Maine to an outdoor, large-scale sculpture. Gathering Stones, by sculptor Jesse Salisbury, was a response to a call to art from TempoArt.

In 2019, TempoArt created the aptly named theme Resilience in Place. It was prophetic how timely and important this theme would be for 2020 and beyond. The sculpture, placed on a popular urban trail the hugs the Maine coastline, was so important to the community, this temporary art piece was extended for another year and efforts are being made to make it permanent.

Gathering Stones is a destination. You cannot just drive up to look at it, but it takes effort that is well worth it. Walk or bike the Eastern Promenade Trail down the winding path to Fish Point, close to East End Beach. Overlooking Casco Bay and the surrounding islands, the trail and the bay were busy with activity. It was refreshing to see people out doing regular activities after two years of continuing to navigate a global pandemic.

The stones, while large, cold and smooth, deceptively looked like floppy furniture. One set of stones, balanced every so carefully, commanded the half circle of orb-like forms. While I was there, a small boy was running up and climbing over those forms while their dad stood nearby looking at the lobster boats motoring along the shore.

The day was bright, the fresh air cool. I reached out to run my hand over one of the pieces.

The feel of the stone was both buttery soft, with a sense of lightness, while the weight was obvious. It reminded me of these past few years – the soft spots in a heavy time – and how, yes, there is a resilience in place.