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TriMet plans to move some of the pieces around once construction is completed
by: Courtesy of TriMet, Downtown Transit Mall art work is in storage during TriMet’s construction project. The pieces will again be placed on the mall — not necessarily in their original locations — when the project is complete.

Renovation of the downtown Transit Mall prompts a parade of questions from many Portlanders: Which streets will be closed today? Who is paying for all of this? When will the downtown traffic nightmare end?

Others may wonder what's happened to the 12 works of public art that lined the streets before the construction started. They include 'Cat in Repose' by Kathleen McCollough, a favorite with children, and 'Kvinneakt,' the nude sculpture made famous by a pre-Mayor Bud Clark in the widely circulated 'Expose Yourself to Art' poster.

Mary Priester, TriMet's public art manager, said the existing public art sculptures have been temporarily removed during construction, but will return when the work is completed next year.

'The artwork will be coming back to the area after some of the construction is finished,' Priester said.

But not necessarily to their original locations. Instead, some of the sculptures will be relocated at sites TriMet believes will provide the best public viewing.

Before they return, the art will be cleaned and refurbished. But just where the sculptures are currently being stored is a secret.

The removals were necessary because of the extensive work needed to run a new light-rail line along Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues from Union Station to Portland State University. In some places, the sidewalks where certain works sat have been narrowed.

Security concerns kept Priester from revealing where the art was being stored, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council - the Portland-Multnomah County agency, which is responsible for the temporary storage - also was tightlipped about the location.

Kristin Calhoun, RACC's public art manager, said the art would be on display again downtown in the fall.

'We've been through a pretty long process of deciding where the art will be returned,' she said. 'A lot of it won't be in the same location that it was removed from, but we are trying to find the best area where it will live for the next 30 years or so.'

New spots for art

New public art will also be introduced next spring, closer to the mall's proposed completion of September 2009.

About $750,000 of the project's funding has been allocated to the Mall art program, which will feature about 25 new pieces. The sculptures will be distributed among the north, central and south areas of the mall.

'We have a lot going on,' Priester said. 'We have three separate programs relating to the different parts of the mall. The North Mall is more historic, the Central Mall sculptures will focus on the Northwest and the South Mall by Portland State University will have an emphasis on education and sustainability.'

One piece is already back. 'Driver's Seat' by Don Merkt was simply moved from the east side of Northwest Fifth Avenue at Irving Street to the west side.

There are two pieces that will not be returning to the transit mall area, however. 'Tri-Met,' by Robert Maki, will be reinstalled at Standard Plaza on Southwest Fifth Avenue between Madison and Main streets, without its water feature.

And due to space constraints, the privately owned 'Soaring Stones' by John Young that was on the west side of Pioneer Place will be returned to its owner.

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