Multi-colored art installation on Portland sidewalks makes some residents see red

The lines on the sidewalks appeared last week without warning or explanation. Yellow, purple and green, with arrows in places.

They roamed the busy streets of Portland’s Parkside and West End neighborhoods, crossing corners and parks.

Each resident of the project is represented by a different color. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer

Within days, they started gaining attention in neighborhood chat rooms and even sparked reports on the city’s SeeClickFix website, where residents can complain about potholes and other nuisances. the city in the hope that they will be resolved.

In the case of the recently painted sidewalk lines, however, this is not graffiti, as some have speculated, but a public art installation.

And they do what public art often does, generating conversation.

“Some like it, others are upset about it,” said Anne Pringle, former Portland mayor and president of the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association. “I think what’s great about public art is that that’s what people make with it.

The installation was designed by Caitlin Cameron while she was a planner for the city, a position she has since left. His project was supported by the Kindling Fund, an Andy Warhol Foundation grant program administered by the Space Gallery, and was licensed through the city’s Temporary Art Program.

The idea was to create a “field map installation” that followed a typical day in the life of four Portland residents whose primary mode of transportation is walking, Cameron said.

On Wednesday, three of the paths enter Congress Square Park. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer

“I see this as a storytelling project, for people who have specific Portland experience,” she said. “Painting these lines on the sidewalk was meant to attract attention, ideally in a positive way.”

Cameron said she received comments while painting the lines last week and has since seen some of the comments online. She also said that interest in the website which explains the project in more detail has been strong in recent days.

The website, she said, is an important part of the project, and she will also soon be publishing physical guides of the routes that will be available at businesses downtown.

She said she understood that people might not like the aesthetic. This is the case with most public art installations.

“But I think it’s fair,” she said. “The way he ended up appearing reflects the reality of walking on a city sidewalk. For people who are not a fan or are unhappy that it has appeared on their sidewalk, temporary art has more leeway for this reason. If it is not successful, it will go away within a few months.

Each resident is represented by a different color. A road, closer to East Bayside, has not been installed.

“I met Caitlin through my work as executive director of Friends of Congress Square Park,” said CJ Opperthauser, whose path is yellow. “I think she felt I might be a good fit for it. I do this walk every day.

CJ Opperthhauser, whose path descends West Street, Pine Street and then Congress, said, “This is an example where public art comes to you. ” Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer

Opperthauser lives on Valley Street, near Maine Medical Center, and his path goes down West Street, to Pine Street, then to Congress. In some places along its newly marked route, there are arrows and labels, “CJ’s Path”, and a link to the project’s website.,, where people can learn more.

“At first glance, it may look like graffiti, so I understand that people might be irritated,” Opperthauser said. “It’s kind of an extreme case, but it’s an example of public art coming to you, literally at your doorstep for some people.”

Complaints to the city and to the online neighborhood forum Nextdoor focused on the idea that the lines are graffiti and could encourage vandals to tag sidewalks.

“Art absolutely has its place in a vibrant and flourishing city, but for something that lasts almost six months on the residential streets, it’s an overtaking, in my opinion,” wrote one resident. “I will go to visit and appreciate the art, but I don’t appreciate it being stuck to my door.”

Some have defended the work.

“I can’t wait to explore the daily routes of the community members who have participated. What a great and exciting opportunity to learn more about the other Portlanders! another resident wrote.

But others have called on the city to investigate.

“Apparently someone did an art installation and spray painted all the brick sidewalks and it looks horrible, they degraded public property and made this beautiful neighborhood a horror,” wrote one complainant.

Rich Bianculli, district attorney for the city’s Proximity Policing program, said he responded to each of the complaints filed, saying the lines were “a licensed art installation using marking paint which, according to specifications , will deteriorate within 60 days “.

Reached by email, Bianculli declined to comment further.

Pringle, of the West End Neighborhood Association, said she didn’t mind the work. His only concern is whether it could lead to real graffiti. And she hopes the paint used is temporary.

“A utility company sprayed my sidewalk and I think it took 10 years for that to go away,” she said.

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