Readers’ Response: Portland Must Protect Works of Art

Over the past four years, Portland’s public works of art, mostly located in its parks, have come under increasing threats, including demolition. The first of these to be demolished is the once-elegant fountain at the southern end of the North Park Blocks in Ankeny Square. Built in the early 1920s, it was the end piece of a central courtyard flanked by two brick toilet buildings. The fountain basin was supplied with water by a large head in the shape of a satyr, embedded in the garden wall with decorative brick and cast stone balustrades. The beautiful sculpture and buildings are attributed to the talented architect Jamieson K. Parker.

Portland Parks and Recreation has not maintained this public facility. The toilets were vandalized and eventually closed. In recent years, Keith Jones, executive director of The Green Loop, called the park “abandoned” by the city, then defended moving Alder Street food carts within its perimeter, scoring 269,000 $ municipal funds in 2021 to make the changes possible. As part of the work, the century-old fountain and most of its garden wall were demolished – without review, respect for local laws or public input.

The fountain in Ankeny Square is not the last piece of public art considered for its removal and eventual demolition. The city’s policy and process for monitoring and maintaining its works of art needs to be strengthened. Any potential referral process should be open, with a strong component of public participation. Otherwise, Portland may see additional memorials for the demolished artwork.

William J. Hawkins, Portland

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