PORTLAND, Maine — Two groups of artists are making the final revisions to their proposals for a public outdoor installation honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Narrowed down from three finalists selected from nine proposals, the two finalists for the project are a group headed by Evan Haynes, an artist working with TJD&A Landscape Architects in Freeport, and Robert Katz, an Augusta-based artist working with his own design team. Each group has proposed an installation that includes interactive and audio narrative components. Their revised proposals will be presented to the city’s MLK committee on Feb. 6.
“The memorial is intended to inspire visitors to reflect on Dr. King’s life and the values he espoused, prompting each of us to consider how we can contribute to realizing his vision of an equitable and fair society,” according to the city.
The two finalists were notified in late November that they had advanced to the final round of the selection process. Haynes and Katz said their design teams are incorporating those revisions now, and could not comment on them.
The TJD&A group has proposed a design that includes granite benches and audio narrative storytelling from community figures to be accessed via smartphones at the site. The design also incorporates a neon sign that reads “Justice, MLK,” as well as an open concept that encourages local groups to use the space for their own programming.
The Katz group has proposed a granite block amphitheater with a “welcome table” in rectangular tiers at the center, a reference to Portland’s reputation as “a welcoming city.” The proposal also includes a garden of perennials, granite columns that invoke landmarks of King’s leadership and design elements that reference King’s principles of nonviolent direct action.
The two proposals are subject to change as design teams respond to recommendations from the committee. Recommendations to Katz include reconsidering the shape of the welcoming table. Recommendations to TDJ&A include reconsidering the neon sign, which the committee worries would be “too gimmicky” for the memorial. Both groups were advised to consider incorporating more history of social justice efforts in Maine and Portland.
The winning entry will be selected by a city-appointed selection committee, which convened last summer and is chaired by City Councilor Jill Duson and the Rev. Kenneth Lewis of the Green Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church. The committee also has solicited input from creative consultants Marcia and Daniel Minter from Indigo Arts Alliance. The project will be built in and along a walking corridor in a public plaza on the Bayside Trail between Franklin Street, Marginal Way and Somerset Street in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood.
Marcia and Daniel Minter opened the Indigo Arts Alliance, an incubator for art and cultural production for and by people of African descent, on Cove Street in Bayside in 2018.
Plans for a MLK memorial in Portland stretch back at least 10 years. The concept and location were suggested in the Bayside Trail Public Art Master Plan, which was developed in 2010. A Martin Luther King Recognition Task Force, convened in May of last year, settled on the specific location along the Bayside Trail.
The city has allocated $100,000 for the memorial. Additional funds may be raised if necessary.