TEMPOart partners with Portland Trails for “Birds of Back Cove” Scavenger Hunt

TEMPOart is proud to be partnering with Portland Trails on a brand-new family event, Birds of Back Cove Scavenger Hunt! On Sunday, July 21st, explore the Back Cove Trail like never before. You and your kids will search high and low for scavenger hunt items while counting the birds you see along the way. Your kids will also have the chance to make their own bird feeders, measure their “wingspans,” meet a youth bird expert, and more! The event starts and ends at our beautiful new Dancing for Joy installation on the Back Cove Trail. See you there!

Birds of Back Cove Scavenger Hunt

Sunday, July 21st from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Back Cove Trail

Ticket prices:

  • Adults (18+) – $10
  • Kids (3+) – $15
  • Kids 2 and under – free

Reduced ticket price information: Is cost a barrier for your family? Please reach out to Bailey (bailey@trails.org) for additional options.


“Carousel Cosmos” Q&A with the artist Chris Miller

TEMPOart is thrilled that Chris Miller of NPD Workshop has extended the temporary art permit with the City of Portland so that the animals of the Carousel Cosmos can live on the Western Promenade through November 2024! To celebrate, we sent Chris some of your frequently asked questions to keep learning about the inspiration for this public art installation and the artist that created.

Chris Miller of NPD Workshop with his creation Carousel Cosmos on the Western Promenade, now on view through November 2024.

What inspired you to make these animals in Carousel Cosmos?

The animals were inspired by all sorts of friendly monsters, like the ones in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  Friendly monsters are great sounding boards.  They’re great foils and avatars for complex emotion.  They howl and roar the kinds of things that words can hardly say.  

The carousel was also informed by books about the history of science, especially astrophysics.  Probable Impossibilities, By Alan Lightman, is a great one.  It’s filled with beautiful thoughts about what it means to be alive and curious.  Dr. Lightman suggests that the apparent rarity of life in the universe, throughout all of space and all of time, is enough reason to feel kinship and solidarity with all living things, past, present and future.  There you have it.

How did you choose the animals?

Both of my kids went through minor dinosaur fascinations in recent years, so I had the chance to catch up on the fossil record with them.  The boys have moved on to other interests (Pokemon and MLB), but my dinosaur fascination is permanent now.  Every once in a while I stop by the public library to learn about new developments in prehistory.  From those worlds of fantastic creatures, enormous ice sheets, ancient supercontinents and treacherous, sweltering coal swamps, these animals were chosen to meet three criteria:

1.  They had to have roamed this very same place before us, a few thousand or a few hundred million years ago. 

2.  They had to resemble at least one constellation in the night sky, so as to have been characters in the first bedtime stories ever told.  

3.  They had to be surprising!  Some are long extinct and very different from anything wandering around today.  Some are living species that many people don’t realize used to live here, when this part of the world was covered by ice or water.  Some have been spectacularly misunderstood over the years.  During the sixteenth century, a lot of people seemed to think that whales and walruses had legs.  Some actually did have legs, about fifty million years earlier in their evolutionary development.  Here’s what Mark Twain had to say about things like that:  Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.  I chose the animals to be stranger than fiction.  They howl and roar about unimagined possibilities.

What were your influences for the depiction of the characters?

There are a couple of things to say about that.  

My kids have been great readers since long before they learned to read.  We’ve read so many children’s picture books together.  Our family is infamous at the South Portland Public Library.  We used to check out dozens of brightly illustrated  books a day, day after day and week after week for years.  Those years of bibliomania were my frame of reference for how the animals are depicted.  When I close my eyes I see bright colors, bold patterns and cute animals.  

Their appearance also has a lot to do with their relation to the human body.  They were designed as bench seating so people would have an excuse to interact with them.  They’re not behind velvet ropes in a museum.  They’re out in the wild, face to face with all of us.  Hugging is encouraged.  I tried to capitalize on the practical requirements of functional seating to make the animals even stranger and more whimsical than they might otherwise have been.

Method also had something to do with it.  Instead of first imagining the animals by sketching them out on paper, I started by whittling sketch-models from blocks of wood with a pocket knife.   The kids and I painted them one night after dinner.  The animal’s forms are basically those of handmade, hand-held wooden toys, and things of that description weave a certain kind of spell.  They can absorb a lot of good energy – a lot of  kindness, comfort and generosity.  The finished animal benches  are about ten times larger than those first maquettes, but otherwise the same.  I think it shows through.  Whittling, if you don’t know it, is one of life’s great joys.  That might come through in the finished products as well.  Of course the polar bear is a self portrait.  

How did you come up with the idea for a Carousel?

The carousel format was a many-layered thought.  It came from research and daydreaming in equal parts.  I learned a lot about the history, geography and design of the Western Promenade from a close reading of the masterplan that KZLA prepared in 2020.  They called out  a shortage of seating, so I decided to create more seating.  Crowds still gather on the Western Promenade to watch the sun set, which is such a beautiful and profound way to experience our motion through the universe.  The name Promenade itself comes from a history of spectacles, festivals, pageantry and fun.  The elliptical walkway at the end of West Street is a great place to go around in circles, which I thought was crying out  for some slightly more specific purpose. 

I spent a lot of time daydreaming with all of those things in mind.  I was out walking the dog one evening, daydreaming, and the notion of a carousel just fell from the sky.

What inspired you to become an artist?

It’s worth saying that my artistic practice went quiet for many years.  There were too many other things going on in work and in life.  Until just recently, I didn’t feel like I had accrued enough life experience to say anything especially worthwhile.  It’s only within the last ten years, since becoming a parent, that I’ve started seeking out and getting these kinds of commissions.  Parenthood came with some bizarre side effects.  First I experienced an unexpected feeling of openness, followed by a clarity of purpose.  Then I came down with an alarming hyper-sensitivity to truth and beauty.  Raising kids turns out to have supercharged my imagination and amplified my sense of wonder.  Those things are contagious after all, and worth trying to spread around and share for their own sake.  I feel compelled to do that.  

Art of any kind is still just one facet of my livelihood.  I’d love the opportunity to make more art.  In the meanwhile I’m still trained as an architect and still love to practice architecture in different capacities.  Before architecture I worked as a fabricator, building interesting and challenging things for other artists and different organizations.  It wouldn’t be so terrible to do that again in the future.  I love solving mechanical and construction-related problems.  I love learning how to use new tools.  I love the athleticism of hard physical work, at least sometimes.  I love making messes and making noise, getting dirty and getting sweaty – then cleaning up, washing off and sleeping well.  

On the other hand, sometimes I have the sudden and overwhelming need to know something about a random topic like botany, astrophysics or Mesopotamia.  I’m always looking for new things to read.  I’m always looking for new ways to justify my nonsensical reading habits. I love to think, to write and to engage in conversation.  I love to look at art and to experience art that other people have made.  There’s so much knowledge out there.  You could live for a thousand years and never run out of things to see, to read or to learn.  

What else but art could a person make, to scratch all of those different itches at once?

Does location (or possible locations) impact your strategy/thinking for the size and medium of the installation?

Yes, probably to a fault.  I love a great site, and don’t even know how to make anything that doesn’t respond to cues from some specific place.  If you study architecture they drum that into you.  Someday, maybe soon, I would love to take some time to figure out a more object-centered studio practice.  I tried it briefly about 20 years ago, and might take another crack at it.  

After site and location, materials are my next favorite obsession.  They can be a huge challenge for public installations, which need to be somewhat blast-proof.  Temporary public art can be even trickier.  Every material has its own unique set of mechanical properties and working characteristics.  Every material has its own history, context,  personality and soul.  Every material has traits that you can address with a calculator, and others that you certainly can’t.  

What’s your next project?

My next project is to find permanent indoor homes for seven large, colorful wooden carousel animals, which are only scheduled to stay on the Western Promenade until November.  They’re made painstakingly from painted ash wood, which unfortunately isn’t durable outdoors in the longer term.  Ax handles are sometimes made of ash wood.  It’s extremely dense and tough, but not especially weather-resistant.  The animals will need to move indoors somewhere.  After that  they should last another century or two without any problem.  One of the particularities of my agreement with TEMPOart, is that TEMPOart has never owned the animals.  They belong to me and will continue to belong to me, heaven forbid, unless I can find them new, permanent indoor homes by November.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.  

The Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, here in Portland, is interested in finding donors to help them acquire two of the animals.  If anyone is curious about those sponsorship opportunities, again please send me a note.  Since they were made in a public spirit, it would be great for some of them to stay in public settings.  

Besides arranging wooden animal adoptions, which has proven to be surprisingly time consuming, I’m also working on a tiny, interactive museum of natural wonder.  It’s very small for a museum but fairly large for a sculpture, about fifteen feet tall if you count the tips of the tails of the mice on the weathervane.  It will be covered in scales and branches.  It will have three doors, forty dormers, thirty-one eyes and a planetarium.  It’s a permanent public commission on the University of Maine campus in Farmington, due in early August.  

Last but not least, I’m still waiting for the green light to put an enormous sleeping bear in Bramhall Square, which will be one part of a more extensive renovation of that space.  Recently I’ve heard that the Bramhall Square renovation has been pushed back to 2029 on the city’s schedule, though that might be a placeholder.  There’s some hope that the groundbreaking will happen sooner.  Fingers crossed.

Pineapple on pizza?

Absolutely.  I would eat it with ham or Spam, freshly picked or from a can, with a fox or on a tram.  Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far.  Aloha!


Scenes from the Community Opening of “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)”

Thank you to David Wade for capturing the spirit of our free Community Opening for “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)”. Thank you to The Myth Makers for presenting, to performers Alejandro Graciano, and to our event sponsors and partners Kennebec Savings Bank, Little Lad’s, Loquat, Art Mart, The City of Portland.

We are looking forward to a year of incredible photos sharing your visit to the Great Egrets… what doorway did you move through?



Wright-Ryan partners with TEMPOart to transform spaces and inspire joy

Thank you to John Ryan, Marc Bourgeois and the team at Wright-Ryan for donating washed river stone and labor to anchor the two Great Egrets in “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)”. They spent Monday June 10 installing with The Myth Makers, and we are all so grateful for your partnership!

Congratulations on 40 years of serving Portland and beyond!

For forty years, Wright-Ryan has delivered construction services of the highest professional standard to clients throughout northern New England. Our team of highly skilled and motivated professionals recognizes that our work goes far beyond building the project. We are in the business of helping our clients achieve their organizational goals by providing thoughtful advice, innovative strategies, and consistent support beginning at the earliest stages and continuing through to our unmatched warranty services.

Wright-Ryan Construction is proud to be a partner in the “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)” project by The Myth Makers. Located in Portland, right in our backyard, this initiative brings together community, creativity, and nature in an engaging display. At Wright-Ryan Construction, we believe in the power of art to transform spaces and inspire joy. Our team is dedicated to providing the expertise and support necessary to bring this imaginative project to life, ensuring it stands as a testament to the spirit of collaboration and the beauty of shared public spaces. Wright-Ryan Construction is excited and honored to contribute to this dynamic project, reflecting our commitment to fostering community, celebrating nature, and supporting public art initiatives that enrich our surroundings.

Follow Wright-Ryan
Website www.wright-ryan.com
Instagram @wrightryanconstruction
Facebook facebook.com/WrightRyanConstruction/


The birds are coming!

Dearest TEMPOart supporters!

You are invited to join us for the monumental arrival of TEMPOart’s 2024 commission, “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)” by The Myth Makers! We hope you’ll bring a friend or two to this small donor and press event.

Please join us Monday June 10th from 8-9AM at the Back Cove Trail Parking, Preble St. Ext., to watch two Great Egrets made of bamboo land in Portland, ME from 8AM-9AM. Coffee and pastries provided by Small Business Council Member Coveside Coffee!

Thank you to Wright-Ryan Construction for donating their services to help install this new public art piece for all to enjoy.

Thank you to artist and activist Anna Siegel for this stunning design helping us prepare for the birds.

Thank you to Pete Fitz at Buoy Media for capturing this installation – he is offering a generous donation on his services, and we are grateful to the Maine Office of Tourism for their marketing support.


Making “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)”

Creating a monumental sculpture like “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)” involves a blend of artistic vision, meticulous planning, and hands-on craftsmanship. This blog post takes you behind the scenes of The Myth Makers’ creative process, offering a glimpse into the intricate steps involved in bringing this bamboo masterpiece to life.

The journey of “Dancing for Joy” began with a concept inspired by the natural beauty and vibrant birdlife of Back Cove. Dodson and Moerlein envisioned two great egrets, captured in their enchanting mating dance, as a symbolic representation of the area’s wildlife and the dynamic flow of people through the park.

The initial design phase involved detailed sketches and digital renderings, allowing the artists to refine their vision and address practical considerations such as scale, materials, and site-specific challenges. The goal was to create a sculpture that is both visually striking and interactive, inviting visitors of all ages to engage with the artwork.

A key aspect of The Myth Makers’ work is their commitment to using natural, sustainable materials. For “Dancing for Joy,” they chose bamboo, a material known for its strength, flexibility, and environmental benefits. Bamboo grows quickly and requires minimal resources, making it an eco-friendly choice for large-scale sculptures.

The artists carefully selected bamboo stalks of varying sizes and shapes, ensuring that each piece would contribute to the overall structural integrity and aesthetic appeal of the sculpture.

Building a twenty-foot-tall bamboo sculpture is no small feat. The construction process began with the creation of a sturdy framework, using larger bamboo stalks to form the primary structure. This framework provided the necessary support for the intricate weaving and binding of smaller bamboo pieces that followed.

Dodson and Moerlein employed traditional bamboo construction techniques, including lashing and knotting, to securely bind the bamboo elements together. This hands-on craftsmanship not only ensured the stability of the sculpture but also added a layer of authenticity and connection to natural materials.

Every large-scale art project comes with its own set of challenges, and “Dancing for Joy” was no exception. One of the primary challenges was ensuring the sculpture’s stability and durability, given its temporary nature and exposure to the elements. Bamboo is naturally weather resistant, and the design of the anchors and ballasts ensure stability.

Throughout the construction process, Dodson and Moerlein documented their progress with photos and videos, capturing the evolution of the sculpture from initial sketches to final assembly. These behind-the-scenes glimpses offer a fascinating look at the dedication and craftsmanship involved in bringing “Dancing for Joy” to life.

The creation of “Dancing for Joy” is a testament to The Myth Makers’ artistic vision, technical skill, and commitment to sustainability. As the sculpture takes its place on the shores of Back Cove, it stands as a beacon of creativity and community, inviting all who visit to share in the joy and wonder it embodies.

Follow The Myth Makers:
Website https://www.themythmakers.org/
Instagram @themythmakersblog
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/people/Myth-Makers/


Building Community: TEMPOart’s Mission

TEMPOart’s mission is to commission temporary public art that sparks dialogue, builds community, and inspires our collective imagination. This blog post highlights how our latest commission, “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)” opening June 13 5-6PM, aligns with TEMPOart’s vision and its impact on Portland’s public spaces.

Since its inception, TEMPOart has been dedicated to enriching Portland’s public spaces through temporary art installations. Each project is designed to be accessible, thought-provoking, and inclusive, encouraging people from all walks of life to engage with art in meaningful ways.

“Dancing for Joy” is the latest addition to TEMPOart’s portfolio, reflecting the organization’s commitment to fostering community connection and dialogue. By bringing large-scale public art to Back Cove Trail and Park, TEMPOart aims to create a space where people can come together, share experiences, and appreciate the transformative power of art.

TEMPOart has a history of successful projects that have left a lasting impact on the community. Previous installations, such as “The American Dream” and “Resonance,” have sparked conversations on important social issues, from immigration to environmental sustainability. These projects have demonstrated the potential of public art to inspire reflection, dialogue, and positive change.

The organization’s events and programming further enhance the impact of these installations, offering educational opportunities and engaging activities for people of all ages. By partnering with local schools, cultural institutions, and community groups, TEMPOart ensures that its projects are deeply rooted in the community and accessible to everyone.

“Dancing for Joy” embodies TEMPOart’s mission in multiple ways. The installation’s interactive design invites visitors to engage with the sculpture, encouraging physical movement and playful exploration. The depiction of great egrets in their mating dance symbolizes the vibrant life and dynamic interactions that characterize Back Cove Trail and Park.

The dedication of the installation to the freedom to marry who you love aligns with TEMPOart’s commitment to promoting inclusivity and social justice. By celebrating a significant milestone in Maine’s history, “Dancing for Joy” highlights the power of collective action.

TEMPOart also collaborates with local schools and educational institutions to provide learning opportunities that complement the curriculum and inspire students to explore their creativity. These programs are designed to be accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to engage with and benefit from public art.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, TEMPOart relies on the generosity of donors to fund its projects and make public art free and accessible to all. Contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations are vital to the success of TEMPOart’s mission and help bring transformative art experiences to Portland’s public spaces.

“Dancing for Joy” is a testament to TEMPOart’s vision of art as a catalyst for community connection and dialogue. By commissioning and supporting temporary public art, TEMPOart enriches Portland’s public spaces and inspires people to see their world in new ways. We invite you to join us in celebrating this magnificent installation and the vibrant community it brings together.


The Symbolism of the Great Egrets

The choice of great egrets for TEMPOart’s “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)” is rich with symbolism and meaning. This blog post explores the deeper significance of these majestic birds and how they reflect the themes of nature, community, and love embedded in the installation.

Catalyst 2024 Photo by David Wade

Great egrets are among the most captivating birds found along the shores of Back Cove. Known for their elegant appearance and striking courtship displays, these birds are a symbol of beauty and grace in the natural world. Their presence in Back Cove is a testament to the area’s rich biodiversity and the importance of preserving local habitats.

Each spring, great egrets engage in a flamboyant mating dance, growing extravagant plumes and leaping with abandon to attract and impress a mate. This behavior is not only a fascinating natural spectacle but also a metaphor for the vibrancy and dynamism of life in Back Cove.

The Myth Makers chose great egrets as the central figures in their sculpture to highlight the connection between nature and the community. The duet of egrets performing their mating dance symbolizes the harmonious relationship between the environment and the people who visit and cherish Back Cove Trail and Park.

The sculpture also embodies themes of love and freedom. Great egrets share all nesting and child care duties, representing a partnership based on equality and mutual support. This aspect of their behavior aligns with the installation’s dedication to the freedom to marry who you love, celebrating the will of the people to democratically transform society.

“Dancing for Joy” serves as a reminder of the beauty and complexity of the natural world. By depicting great egrets in their courtship dance, the sculpture invites viewers to appreciate the wonders of local wildlife and the importance of preserving natural spaces for future generations.

The installation also enhances the sense of community within Portland. As a meeting place and interactive art piece, it encourages people to come together, explore, and engage with the artwork and each other. The various entryways of the sculpture, designed for all ages, invite everyone to participate in the joyous display of the dancing egrets.

The dedication of “Dancing for Joy” to the freedom to marry is particularly meaningful in Maine, one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage through a citizen’s petition that won the popular vote in 2012. This milestone reflects the power of collective action.

By honoring this achievement, the sculpture not only celebrates love in all its forms but also serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

The great egrets of “Dancing for Joy” are more than just a visual spectacle; they are a powerful symbol of nature’s beauty, community connection, and the enduring spirit of love and freedom. As visitors encounter this magnificent installation, they are invited to reflect on these themes and join in the celebration of the vibrant life that surrounds them in Back Cove.


Meet The Myth Makers: Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein

At the heart of TEMPOart’s latest installation, “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People),” are the creative minds of Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein, known collectively as The Myth Makers. This blog post offers a glimpse into the lives and work of these internationally renowned artists, shedding light on their unique collaboration and artistic journey.

Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein bring together a profound love of the wild and an appreciation for the natural world. Dodson, a graduate of Wellesley College, is currently a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center and a Visual Art Fellow at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. Her fascination with the mysterious nature of birds fuels her imagination and artistic expression.

Moerlein, a Dartmouth College and Cornell University alumnus, is a lifelong art educator and community activist. His inspiration often stems from natural events that leave indelible visual marks, igniting a narrative chord in his artwork.

A Journey of Creativity and Collaboration

Dodson and Moerlein have completed over 50 projects in the past 13 years, working across 18 states and internationally in Switzerland, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Their monumental, ephemeral sculptures, crafted from natural materials, are designed to be site-specific and temporary, creating a unique dialogue with their environment and audience.

Their work has received national recognition and numerous accolades. Notably, The State of New Jersey Senate and General Assembly praised their Phoenix Festival for bringing honor to Camden. In 2017, their project “The Dance” was highlighted when the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum received the National Medal for Museum Service. Artnet and the Huffington Post named their “Avian Avatars” the most beautiful art show in New York City in 2015.

Creating “Dancing for Joy”

The collaboration between Dodson and Moerlein for TEMPOart’s “Dancing for Joy” is a celebration of nature, community, and love. This twenty-foot bamboo sculpture of two great egrets performing their mating dance symbolizes not only the local birdlife of Back Cove but also the dynamic movement of people within this cherished space.

The artists’ creative process began with a deep understanding of the local environment and its inhabitants. Dodson’s inspiration from birds and Moerlein’s narrative-driven approach combined to create a piece that is both visually stunning and rich in meaning.

In interviews, Dodson and Moerlein share their excitement about the project and its impact. “We wanted to create something that not only reflects the beauty of Back Cove but also engages the community in a meaningful way,” says Dodson. Moerlein adds, “The great egrets, with their flamboyant mating dance, perfectly symbolize the joy and freedom we wish to celebrate through this installation.”

“Dancing for Joy” by The Myth Makers is more than just a public art installation; it is a testament to the power of collaboration, the beauty of nature, and the spirit of community. As we prepare to unveil this magnificent sculpture, we invite you to join us in celebrating the artists behind the masterpiece and the vibrant creativity they bring to Portland.

Follow The Myth Makers:
Website https://www.themythmakers.org/
Instagram @themythmakersblog
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/people/Myth-Makers/