Of all the 30-odd pieces in Portland’s public art collection, two are arguably the most famous: the Our Lady of Victories statue in Monument Square and the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Statue in the so-named Longfellow Square.
Portland Public Art Committee member Terry DeWan will lead the Friday night talk on the Longfellow statue, which coincides of course with the First Friday Art Walk in the city and begins at 5:30 p.m.
Here’s a little more about the piece as provided by the city in an announcement of the Friday evening event:
Installed in September of 1888, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Statue was designed and constructed by Maine sculptor Franklin Simmons shortly after the poet’s death. The bronze-cast statute was commissioned to memorialize Portland’s and the country’s most famous 19th century poet. The statue features an academically robed and bearded Longfellow seated and facing the downtown with his right arm resting on the back of the chair and a scroll in his left. Three bronze books are placed under his chair. Every year as the holidays approach, Longfellow can be found wearing a long red scarf and holding a wrapped present. The sculpture was funded by pennies, nickels, and dimes donated by New England children. The fundraising effort was organized by members of the Longfellow Statue Association. The names of the children who contributed a little more than $17,000 are in a metal container housed in the memorial’s base.
The granite pedestal was designed by Portland architect Francis Fassett and fabricated by Hawkes Brothers and was a gift to the city from Payson Tucker. At the time of the unveiling of the statute, State Street Square was renamed Longfellow Square. Originally, State Street passed on both sides of the statue, but in the 1970’s a landscaped pedestrian area on the east side was created, restricting vehicular traffic to the west. In 2005, additional designs were added to expand the square and improve access to the area for pedestrians (visit Portland landmarks to view a photo of the original square http://portlandlandmarks.org/
Surrounding the statute and inlaid in the brick walkway is Art Underfoot, a Community Art Works project sponsored by PPAC which features collaborations between artists and community members. Artist Natasha Mayers worked with school children from Reiche School, Somali and Latino groups, city and community leaders to create tiles which would were cast in bronze by students at Maine College of Art under the guidance of teacher Anthony Tafuri. The tiles were designed to reflect what might be found in the ground in Portland including leaves, insects, shells and seeds. The pieces were installed in an area heavily trafficked by pedestrians with the intent of creating an identifiable landmark that would help foster a sense of place in a culturally and economically diverse neighborhood.