“Bud Form,” Hugh Lassen Submitted photo

AUBURN – The City of Auburn is embracing public art in a big way. City leadership has recently approved two public art projects slated for unveiling in 2021.

The first project is the finalist from the Maine Arts Commission grant awarded to LA Metro Chamber of Commerce and L/A Arts. Maine sculptor Hugh Lassen’s work, titled “Bud Form,” was selected by the Public Art Workgroup as Auburn’s award winner for the grant. “Bud Form” is a life-sized abstract sculpture that will stand roughly six feet tall with the ability to rotate. The piece will highlight the views of the Great Falls and Androscoggin River from its location in Longley Park.

“The idea behind locating the massive sculpture as entering Auburn from the Longley Bridge was to highlight Auburn’s gateway into the beautiful and vibrant downtown, not to mention our legendary view of the Falls,” said Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque. “Art invigorates our public spaces and is accessible to everyone. This sculpture will be such a great addition.”

Lassen was born in 1976 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He learned to carve after seeing a small Native American spear weight carving (also called a “Bird Stone”) in a museum. The event lead him to study sculpture at the Art Students League of New York and drawing at the Spring Studio, New York. Often an idea will emerge from a drawing and will provide the beginning for a sculpture. By carving directly in the stone or wood, the idea will be refined until, hopefully, it works in the round.

Lassen lives with his wife and two children in Cherryfield. His public pieces include “Rhino,” at the entrance to University of Maine’s Buchanan Alumni House, and “Seed Form,” also located at UMaine, in the gardens of Buchanan. His pieces “Totem,” and “Crocodile” were two of 10 pieces selected as permanent installations at the newly created Warren Memorial Sculpture Garden in Westbrook. Lassen’s sculptures are also found in many private collections throughout the U.S.

“The Fish,” Thomas Berger Submitted photo

Auburn’s second public art project was awarded to the runner-up of the grant, Maine artist Thomas Berger. Berger’s piece, titled “The Fish,” is a stone sculpture which stretches roughly nine feet, allowing for small children to sit on and interact with the piece. Anniversary Park will be home to the sculpture, as part of the New Auburn Village Center Plan.

Berger grew up in a rural town on the Moselle river in Germany, where he developed a deep passion for the beauty of nature. As a child, he collected shells, sea creatures and Devonian fossils and created his first sculptures — imitations of fish fossils to complement his collection. After obtaining degrees in agriculture and economic development, his professional career as an agronomist brought Berger to France, Australia, the Republic of Niger and back to Germany.

During that time, Berger was also an active artist and participated in art exhibitions in various parts of Germany and designed postal stamps for the government of Niger. In the mid-1990s, Berger moved to the United States, where he founded his landscape design firm, “Green Art,” which he operated for more than 20 years. More recently, he has limited his focus exclusively to stone sculpting.

In January of 2019, the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce and L/A Arts were awarded a $75,000 Creative Communities Economic Development Phase 2 Grant from the Maine Arts Commission, with funds to be expended over a three-year period to improve the image of Lewiston/Auburn and to spur economic development through public art installations in each city. After an RFP and interview process that included the Public Art Working Group, City of Auburn staff and mayor, the committee presented its final recommendation on the selected piece to the city council.

After the original recommendation from the Public Art Workgroup to move forward with the Lassen work, there seemed to be interest from Auburn City Councilors to pursue “The Fish” as well. After deliberation, staff recommended the city purchase the artwork, using monies for the New Auburn Village Center Plan, which were refunded by the $246,000 Northern Borders Regional Commission grant.

Anyone wishing to share an idea for a future public art project or learning more about how to support, design or implement public art in Auburn should reach out to Sabrina Best, Auburn recreation director, at [email protected] or 207-333-6611.

 

 

 


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