LINES Portland

Public Works employees are used to being made fun of and stereotyped by the community they serve for not working hard and for not doing a good job. LINES Portland featured an evening at City Hall with a local visual artist and the Department of Public Services’ Construction Crew. Standing amidst an exhibit of the prints made from the street repairs they had done earlier that year, they spoke to a standing room crowd about the pride and care they took in their work and the pain that stereotyping caused them.

An exhibit of prints by artist Katarina Weslien at City Hall in Portland, Maine.

LINES Portland: the visible/invisible lines and labor that connects us” was an exhibit of prints by artist Katarina Weslien based on the road repair lines made by the Public Services crews in Portland, Maine.

All too often we remain unaware of the work that city workers do, even though much of the work happens out in public. Hauling garbage, plowing snow, monitoring water, cleaning sidewalks, treating sewage, repairing roads – all quite visible to the eye, but not to the mind. In a welcome convergence between the invisible labor of running a city and an exceptional artist’s eye, the unintentional beauty of the road repair crew’s labor inspired Weslien to incorporate those designs into fine art prints.

Weslien’s powerful prints make visible the invisible lines and labor that connects us, as neighbors and as a city. In LINES Portland, sponsored by AFSCME Local 481 and the Department of Public Services, these connections continue beyond the exhibit onto the City of Portland’s website. Residents were encouraged to take photos of the cool road repair lines in their neighborhoods and send them to Art At Work staff along with a short story about something the city does that has made a positive difference in their life. Photographs and stories were posted online and at the gallery on a new 4’ x 8’ map of Portland for everyone to enjoy.

LINES Portland was hosted by Art At Work, AFSCME Local 481, and the City of Portland’s Department of Public Services. The exhibit was held at the City Council Chambers Gallery in Portland City Hall from November 9, 2010 to February 11, 2011. An opening reception was held on Tuesday, Nov. 9 from 5 to 8 PM, with a panel discussion at 5:30 PM with artist Katarina Weslien, Art At Work director Marty Pottenger, and members of the Public Services road repair crew: Gordie Greenlaw, Dave Melendez, Dave Shaw, Chris Nassa, and Brian Cogill.

As part of the LINES Portland project, a map was created that outlined Public Works projects across the city. The map was displayed in City Hall.

Images © Katarina Weslien. Street Drawing series. Archival Pigment Prints 19”x13”.