Office of Public Affairs

New Installation Merges Art, Nature and Commerce in Portland Bus Shelter

Image of Portland Campus art installation

The sun appears to be melting a Portland campus bus shelter.

The shelter — located on the west side of Bedford Street — sits atop a deep blue puddle. But rather than water, the puddle is a painting and the latest endeavor in a new permanent installation by artist Justin Levesque '10.

Decorating the walls of the shelter are arrows and circles in a vinyl collage of Arctic images, photographs Levesque took during several trips to the far north.

“It’s about nature and art,” said Levesque, who was one of three artists to be awarded funding from the National Endowment of the Arts to decorate a bus shelter in Portland.

Being a USM alumnus, he seized the opportunity to work on the University of Southern Maine campus.

It’s something he’s done before.

In 2016, he created an installation based on his work with Eimskip shipping and its connection between Reykjavik, Iceland, and Portland. The installation resided in a shipping container that moved to several Portland locations, including the USM campus. While there, the work was viewed by students, faculty, staff and visitors to the university, including Maine Sen. Angus King and former President of Iceland Ólafur Grímsson.

Unlike that installation, this one will stay at USM for at least a decade, Levesque said. 

He’ll be proud to have it here, he said.

Creative Portland, the City of Portland’s designated nonprofit arts agency, and the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) conceived the project in early 2017 and brought METRO (Greater Portland Transit District) onboard soon thereafter.

The goal of the initiative is to encourage multi-modal transportation, to increase ridership, and to promote awareness and social acceptance through art installations that utilize bus shelters as the canvas for public art on the theme of celebrating diversity and inclusion.

Levesque’s work uses the images and other visual clues to portray the changes in the Arctic and along the Maine Coast due to climate change. 

“The arrows you see represent the moving water in the Gulf of Maine,” he said. “They also speak to the potential paths of human migration in response to climate change.”

He studied charts that examined how fish populations have moved and worked in some of the data in his visual cues.

“Images have a really powerful way of telling those stories,” he said. “To me, it’s about being an interdisciplinary artist, looking at the thing I am working on, and deciding on a solution.”

The work melds information of nature, art and commerce.

“It’s all part of the same coin, really,” he said. “I have always worked this way.”

— Dan Hartill/USM Office of Public Affairs

Watch Levesque create the permanent installation on the Portland Campus in this video by USM Multimedia Specialist Zach Boyce.