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RACC Press Release: Public art project on Swan Island receives award at national conference



Contact: Mary Bauer, Communications Associate


503.823.5111 | email: [email protected]  


July 12, 2010 -


Public art project on Swan Island receives award at national conference


Americans for the Arts (AFTA), the nation's leading arts advocacy organization, has recognized a Portland public artwork as one of the year's 40 best. "Big Pipe Portal: Making the Invisible Visible," (attached) by the interdisciplinary design group, rhiza A+D (www.rhizaaplusd.com) received the distinction at the annual AFTA Public Art Network conference held in Baltimore, MD, June 24-25. The project, dedicated in May of 2009, was partially funded with percent for art dollars associated with above-ground construction for the Bureau of Environmental Services' Big Pipe Project.


The 40 public art projects that were selected represent 29 cities in 15 states, and all are included in AFTA's 2010 Public Art Network annual Year in Review (http://www.artsusa.org/news/press/2010/2010_06_22.asp). The artworks reflect exemplary, innovative permanent or temporary public art works created or debuted in 2009. This year's review, unveiled at the conference in front of 200 public art administrators from across the country, was curated by two independent artists, Fred Wilson and Helen Lessick, from nearly 390 entries. In choosing Big Pipe Portal, Lessick stated, "I was impressed with this project's remarkable articulation of infrastructure. The fluid and square forms echo the flow and power of the river. The piece works as a portal, place, and metaphor, a sculpture changing our perspective and awareness of urban industrial forces too often ignored."


The sculpture is sited on the banks of the Willamette River near the confluence of the East Side and West Side Combined Sewer Overflow (C.S.O.) tunnels. Although the Big Pipe Project is the largest infrastructure project in Portland history, it is largely invisible. Working closely with the Bureau of Environmental Services, the artists created a sculpture that celebrates this hidden work by revealing and readapting massive precast concrete segments of the Big Pipe. Partially buried in the alluvial bank, the sculpture traces out the circumference of the hidden pipe and transforms it from an industrial artifact into a woven arch of currents and eddies, using a rebar cage and welded stainless steel, rising to a height of 18 feet and spanning a section of the bike path on Swan Island.


Rhiza A+D is an interdisciplinary architecture and design studio in Portland. They have worked collaboratively on a variety of architecture, installation, public art and performance projects since 1996.


About RACC's Public Art Program


This year (2010) marks the 30th anniversary of the City of Portland and Multnomah County's Percent for Art Programs. Beginning with Multnomah County's first percent for art project - the Justice Center on SW 3rd & Main - to the recent acquisition of Dan Corson's multi-media installation ("Mercurial Sky Dance") for the Director Park canopy in downtown Portland, the program has been at the national forefront offering diverse opportunities to artists - residencies, temporary installations, portable works, and permanent site specific artwork. For ten years, Americans for the Arts' Public Art Network has recognized significant contributions to the public art landscape across the country, and Portland public art - both permanent and temporary - has fared well, with nineteen projects given the "Year in Review" distinction. For more information on the public art program visit www.racc.org/publicart.


Mary Bauer


Communications Associate


Regional Arts & Culture Council


108 NW 9th Avenue, #300


Portland, OR 97209




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