By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,195)
At least one bear is now exempt from the outcome of the November 4th election in the bear-baiting debate in the State of Maine: The Standing Bear.
The imposing figure found a safe haven when it was installed last evening at the Portland Ocean Gateway at the bottom of Munjoy Hill. The Standing Bear, at 10 ft.tall and weighing 3,000 lbs. including its concrete base, is the largest as well as the ninth piece of folk art gifted to the City of Portland from the collection of deceased artist Bernard Langlais.
Since spring, The Standing Bear, has been stored in a warehouse of the Pro Moving Services in Winslow. There he has been drying out following years of outdoor living at the Cushing modest home of its creator, Langlais. When his wife died several years ago, she bequeathed the thousands of sculptures to Colby College. Because it was too large a project for Colby to undertake alone, Colby enlisted the expertise of the Kohler Foundation to take over the management of the collection. Jack Soley, former Public Art Committee chair, learned of the distribution project and informed the Public Art Committee. Extensive restoration work was performed by Ron Harvey,on behalf of the Kohler Foundation because of many years of outdoor living in Cushing. It’s believed the bear was sculpted in 1976-77 and is made of a soft wood – perhaps pine or spruce. Some of the Committee, led by chair Lin Lisberger, toured the Cushing home and selected pieces appropriate for Portland.
It took the Pro Moving Services almost three hours to remove The Standing Bear from a trailer used to haul it to Ocean Gateway, tip it into an upright position, turn it in the right direction and back it up against the wall where it wil be on display for the rest of its natural life.
“We’ll have to add a red scarf around its neck when the Polar Express arrives,” said Lin Lisberger, chair of the Public Arts Committee who oversaw the transfer of the bear to Portland. She was referring to the annual Polar Express event, the major fund-raising event for the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum that runs out of the Ocean Gateway during the holiday season. The Museum’s executive director, Donnie Carroll, is currently seeking federal money to enable it to relocate to Gray within the next several years.