Gathering Stones

A public art exhibition explores resilience and encourages visitor interaction

Large granite and basalt stone boulders are arranged at the foot of Portland’s Eastern Promenade in what may seem like a random order. These stones, which were placed there in July, are playfully organized to encourage interaction from visitors and passersby. Commissioned by TEMPOart, a nonprofit public art organization, the exhibition, Gathering Stones, invites the public to sit on, touch, and walk through the split, carved, and poised boulders. Each stone ranges in weight from 4,000 to 12,000 pounds, but they appear delicate and inviting—like a gathering place.

TEMPOart’s theme for 2020, Resilience in Place, considers the challenges we face in our natural and social environments. “Exploring the theme of resilience has taken on an even greater need than we could have imagined,” says executive director Tony Adams. As we collectively try to navigate COVID-19, public art is more important than ever. Gathering Stones speaks to the need for standing strong while staying in place. It encourages coming together while also allowing distance to remain. Artist Jesse Salisbury grew up on the rocky Maine coast and has long been inspired by the state’s natural geological beauty. He founded the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium in 2005 and is currently focused on creating engaging public art projects. Gathering Stones will remain on view through the next year, with the potential to stay longer, depending on permitting.

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