On Wednesday, December 15, the Portland Public Art Committee (PPAC) voted to select local artist Chris Miller for a new public art commission featured as part of the redesigned Bramhall Square Park. The Bramhall Square Redesign Project is an ongoing design process to reimagine Bramhall Square, located at the corner of Congress Street and Deering Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood.
"We're thrilled that Chris Miller has been chosen as the artist for Bramhall Square! Starting with his submission in the 2017 design competition, his visions have been inspiring us all to think bigger and brighter," said Liz Trice, CEO of Peloton Labs.
Miller, who lives in South Portland, was given the recommendation by a five-member selection committee. His proposal, “Keeper of the Picnic,” is composed of a large reclining bear containing five individual concrete pieces –head, two front paws, and two back paws- and is set within the proposed landscaped areas of the redesigned park. The public can also see more of his work currently on display at Bramhall Square, “The Gilded Age and The Ice Age on Bramhall’s Hill.”
“Chris Miller’s polar bear sculpture was our panel's unanimous choice among four excellent submissions. It shows a great understanding of the new layout as well as the history of Bramhall square. We hope that visitors will enjoy climbing and sitting on it and will appreciate its playful sense of humor,” said John Whipple, Maine Architect and selection committee member.
The City’s request for qualifications (RFQ) called for Bramhall Square proposals that could: be integrated into the small parks design both visually and physically, be attractive to children/families and have a playful or whimsical character, and have the ability to serve as an emblematic gateway for the Parkside neighborhood, contributing to the neighborhood's sense of identity.
“Parkside is an even more interesting place with art from Chris Miller in it, “ said Emma Holder, President, Parkside Neighborhood Association.
The RFQ received 19 total submissions and Miller’s submission was selected from a pool of four finalists, including work from: Fitzhugh Karol of Brooklyn, New York; Leah Woods of Dover, New Hampshire; and Thomas Berger of Kittery, Maine. Artists were evaluated by an ad hoc selection committee comprised of Public Art Committee members, neighborhood representatives, and the park landscape architect: Anna Berke (PPAC), Braden Drypolcher (Mitchell & Associates), Hans Breaux (Neighborhood Representative), John Whipple (PPAC), and Liz Trice (PelotonLabs).
“I’m tickled to see this proposal selected for Bramhall Square, '' said Hans Breaux, selection committee member and Maine architect. “As a Parkside resident, I’m proud to see this unique, bold vision come to our neighborhood.”
A robust public process for the redesign of Bramhall Square has been underway for several years. A neighborhood charrette in 2015 was held with area stakeholders, culminating with a design competition in 2017. In 2019, Mitchell & Associates was selected as the landscape architecture firm to complete the redesign of this small urban park. The schematic design was approved by the Historic Preservation Board in June 2021.
The City has budgeted $25,000 from its dedicated public art fund for the Bramhall Square art project.
Learn more about the Bramhall Square Redesign Project.