2024 Public Art Commission Blog Series

Announcing TEMPOart’s 2024 Commission Site Location: Back Cove Trail

TEMPOart is thrilled to commission a temporary public art piece for Back Cove Trail and Park to be installed in June 2024. Until then, we are sharing early previews of the site, artists, and proposed work leading up to our fundraising event CATALYST in the spring of 2024 where we will announce the artists. We look forward to inviting you to a Community Opening in June 2024! You can learn more about the trail and amenities on the Portland Trails website.

The site for the 2024-25 TEMPOart project is a grassy area bordering the Back Cove Trail on the southern border of Back Cove. It is adjacent to the sign for the start of the Back Cove Trail. It is bordered on one side by the cove and, on the other, by the trail and a large parking lot accessed from the Preble Street Extension. The site commands a 360 degree view of the Cove and the Portland City skyline. The cove is a tidal estuary flowing into Casco Bay and the Gulf of Maine at its northeast corner.

The Gulf of Maine has been cited as one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world. The Trail is a 3 mile, multi-use path. A tree-lined, stone dust path travels along the edge of the cove basin. It is home to many species of birds, aquatic plants, and other wildlife. There are abundant opportunities for birding, biking, running, and walking. Close to 200,000 people use the path each year. In addition, the adjacent Preble Street Extension roadway is a major automobile thoroughfare in the City of Portland.

History of the Site
A 340-acre circular tidal basin, Back Cove held Portland’s industrial waste and residential sewage in the 1800s. Then in 1893, James Phinney Baxter, after a long and very successful business career, became Portland’s mayor and brought with him a dream of an impressive park system, not unlike Boston’s. Consulting with the firm Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, Baxter proposed a “City Beautiful” that would enhance both Portland’s economic growth and her natural beauty with a connecting series of parks, waterways, and roadways. Over the next quarter century, amidst numerous political battles, Baxter oversaw the successful clean-up of the Back Cove and achieved his vision with the 1920 opening of Back Cove Boulevard (now named after James Phinney Baxter as Baxter Boulevard).

The original fifty Linden trees that line the Boulevard were planted on Arbor Day in 1920, each labeled with a brass plate with the name of one who died in World War I. Since then, the American Legion has contributed funds to add trees to the Linden tree legacy. Many of the originally designed structures, including the granite ellipse with benches and sundial that grace the west side of the Vannah Avenue intersection and the cobble gutters, remain as part of Baxter’s legacy. In 1989, Baxter Boulevard was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This important landscape is protected under Portland’s historic preservation ordinance along with Deering Oaks, Lincoln Park, Eastern and Western Promenade.

We are excited to share more details on the project as we get closer to June 2024. For more information on how to support this new commission contact Interim Executive Director Jessica Muise via email at manager@tempoartmaine.org.

Thank you to the City of Portland and Portland Trails for supporting this project.