Ainsworth Greenspace — A TriMet Project in Portland, OR
The Ainsworth project was an extension of the TriMet Public Arts Project, so I worked with the same artists that I worked with on the North Portland Boulevard project.
We wanted to do something that was in keeping with the diverse neighborhoods that were nearby, and we wanted to do something to honor the maple trees that used to grow on that spot.
We ended up using legendary images from different tribal traditions to represent the diversity in Native American culture, and we placed these giant images on top of pillars in the shape of maple tree trunks.
A Metropolitan Greenspace Project
Portland's transportation system, TriMet installed the three, one-ton totem public art sculptures called "River Spirits" at the Ainsworth Greenspace in January, 2004. The Ainsworth Greenspace is a Metropolitan Greenspace Project of Portland.
The Ainsworth sculptures are an extension of the North Portland Blvd MAX Station, reflecting the Native American culture and experience.
Inspiration for the 12-foot-tall sculptures was drawn from trees along the Interstate MAX alignment. Three bronze totem heads representing a legendary or sacred being top the totems: "She Who Watches" by Lillian Pitt, "Salmon" by Ken MacKintosh, and "Crow" by Rick Bartow. The sculptures face inward, forming a small plaza with a river-like pathway with a bronze spiral inset in the center.
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A Chance to Educate
As with many of Lillian's artistic pursuits, her goal isn't just to create amazing works of art. Equally important, is her goal to educate people about her ancestors and about the need to live in harmony with nature.
The educational aspects of the Ainsworth project were enchanced by the opportunity to include a poetry project for students at the Ainsworth school. Students learned to write poetry, and in keeping with the aims of the greenspace goals, were inspired to write about nature.
The class was taught by collaborting artist and author, Gayle Tremblay, who has worked frequently with Lillian over the years.
Many of the resulting children's poems are engraved onto the maple-tree columns that serve as the stands for the totems.