Three Langlais Whimsical Bears Find Indoor Homes in Portland


By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,612)

Lin Lisberger, chair of the Portland Public Art Committee, announced this afternoon that all three Langlais wooden bears have found indoor housing and that the Committee can proceed with the work of siting them in the near future.  Both sites chosen are on a year-long trial basis, Lisberger said at the Committee’s monthly meeting. Ocean Gateway on the Portland waterfront will be the home for the largest of the bears and the two smaller bears will be sited at the Portland Public Library in the childrens’ section.  King Middle School has also indicated interest in the two smaller bears. These placements follow an exhaustive hunt by the Committee to locate homes that fall within the criteria imposed by the Kohler Foundation.

In March of this year, Jack Soley, former member of the Public Art Committee, informed the Committee that Portland was selected to be the recipient of numerous pieces of the late artists vast collection of work which is located in Cushing, ME.  The collection was to have been retained by Colby College, but the size of the collection was so large, it retained the assistance of the Kohler Foundation in its distribution.  Lisberger also said that the three bears have been fully restored and are ready for the Site Committee to begin its work.

The Ocean Gateway had always been the first choice of the Committee for the placement of the large bear. However, city officials were opposed to this option. The reason most often given was that in order to accommodate the Polar Express that runs during the holidays at the waterfront location, the building had to be completed vacated. That meant the bear would have to go as well.  However, in recent weeks city officials relented and the bear will be sited there, but probably not until after the upcoming holidays. The three bears are part of a larger collection that Portland is to receive from the Langlais estate.  However, the other pieces  are smaller and have been easier to place than the three bears.

Preliminary discussions began at the Committee meeting about the theme and the expense of a  “significant” piece of art  to be installed at the Congress Square Plaza.  The planning office has begun interviewing applicants responding to a city Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to redesign a portion of the Plaza not sold recently to RockBridge Capital for its construction of an events center adjacent to the new Westin Hotel. Water has been a popular theme for the site, although City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, was quoted as saying he would not support any art work that is not “kid-friendly.” It’s a complicated situation because there are many variables including the possibility that RockBridge Capital may decide not to move forward with its plans to purchase the property and build an events center.  It is not known when that decision will be made.

It’s expected that some of the funds for this piece of art will be the $42,500 that was to have been used to build benches for the Bayside Trail. At its June 19th meeting, the Committee voted to dedicate that money for a signature art piece at the Congress Street Plaza location and reluctantly dissolve its working relationship with SkyeDesign of Washington, D.C. who was to construct the “swirl” benches.