Portland public art project wins national award

Dekumstruction by artists Buster Simpson and Peg Butler at NE Dekum & Durham at Breakside Brewery.

The Public Art Network of the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) has named a local project, “Dekumstruction,” to its 2012 Year in Review, which highlights the 50 most outstanding public art projects in the United States last year.

The PAN Year in Review is the only national program recognizing projects of excellence in public art. From over 350 applications, three national public art professionals selected 50 outstanding projects that were completed in 2012. The panelists were Justine Topfer, curator, Out of the Box Projects, San Francisco, CA; Norie Sato, artist, Seattle, WA; and John Carson, artist and head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Dekumstruction is a sculptural artwork integrated with a custom bike rack designed by the artists Buster Simpson and Peg Butler located at the intersection of NE Dekum & Durham, adjacent to the Breakside Brewery. Twenty halved oil barrel planters stenciled with the names of depleted oil fields and painted with an iridescent sheen allude to the culture of big oil. The planters are planted with native species and receive water run-off from the adjacent private property. All of the water then flows through a downspout onto an upended oil barrel that quite literally “beats” the drum on rainy days. The installation celebrates the displacement (deconstruction) of two former car parking spaces with a multifunctional sculpture that accommodates ten bicycles while conveying shifting attitudes about consumption, energy, and stormwater management.

This collaboration was initiated by the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services as a part of their Sustainable Stormwater “green street” program to address stormwater management issues in Portland. They in turn brought in the Transportation Options folks from the Bureau of Transportation to help with bike parking to give the project an aesthetic and augmented conceptual twist, and then turned to the Regional Arts & Culture Council, which hired artists Buster Simpson and Peg Butler. Simpson and Butler helped choose the site, worked the adjacent building owner and the stormwater engineers, designed the prototype for the bike rack and then artwork and its relationship to the adjacent building, and oversaw the fabrication and installation of the above ground work. The overall project budget was nearly $60,000. Funding came from a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency with additional funds from all of the other partners.