Activation: Congress Square Park

Coming soon: Bench Lunch + Dinner + A Show
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  May 9, 2014

tji_bench_main 

ON THE BENCH Michael Clyde Johnson's cedar bench for Congress Square Park, commissioned by
SPACE Gallery and built in collaboration with LearningWorks.

If you haven’t already, you may notic e that Congress Square Park has a new vibe this spring. The Small Axe Truck is offering lunch there on weekdays between 11:30-2:30, and dinner on Wednesday-Friday evenings from 5:30-8 pm. A 20-foot-by-20-foot cedar bench by artist and sculptor Michael Clyde Johnson has been built in the middle of the space, providing a focal point as well as a spot to sit, lounge, and eat. Café tables and chairs are coming soon. And the Friends of Congress Square Park and SPACE Gallery have teamed up to present a series of public events in the plaza over the course of the summer, including dance and music performances and community gatherings.

“One thing we’ve been harping on all along,” says Frank Turek, of Friends of Congress Square Park, “is that this is a really important public performance space.” He’s excited to bring more people into the park, the fate of which has sparked controversy in Portland over the past year.

On June 10, Portlanders will vote on a citizen initiative that would amend the city land bank ordinance by adding 35 properties to the land bank (including Congress Square Park) and requiring either eight councilors to approve sales of those parcels or a public referendum if at least six councilors approve. Last year, the city council voted to sell a large chunk of Congress Square Park for $542,000 to a private hotel developer to allow construction of a hotel events room. If the initiative is approved, the Congress Square sale would go to referendum.

Nat May, executive director of SPACE Gallery (which commissioned the 20x20 bench), agrees that programming in Congress Square will “activate” the park in a way that hasn’t been seen in some time.

The calendar of events is still being finalized. Check congresssquarepark.org or space538.org for updates.

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