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I really miss the rose fountain at Pioneer Square mall speaking of art that has vanished.


it would look good in the "sliver park"


Brian - thank you for picking up on my comments about the removal of the piece and the points I was making. Well done.

I do think its important to include that the theatre is prohibited from putting banners on their building (historic preservation rules) to attract business - so maybe its not such a surprise that they 'found difficulties' with this piece and replaced it with: A Banner Sign.

I spoke to an executive level person at the theater about Aiorema well after it was installed and heard nothing but excitement and praise for the piece. I do think that if they wanted to keep the piece they would have adjusted whatever issues they were having with it - as is the case with a lot of modern art works.

But the need to advertise their schedule was no doubt a more pressing issue.


"The message I heard from PCS was that they were big fans of Harrison's work before and after this one, but that they were disappointed by Aiorema. It wasn't tall enough. It had a funny shape. It was hard to clean." Brian Libby/portlandarchitecture

I don't see that it wasn't tall enough. It seemed to be about 8 to 9 feet tall. Why would it need to be taller, or, how tall should it have been? The answers to those kinds of questions should have been arrived upon fairly easily through preliminary drawings and discussion, especially with something of this modest a scale. By itself, the unusual glow of the the sign was extraordinary enough to possibly become iconic and commonly associated with the Gerding Theater if it had been allowed to stand its post for a longer period of time.

What I think it did need, was for the theater's name on it to be more easily read by people walking and driving by. I don't want to fault the artist's final result too much, even though I think the work's basic concept could have been expanded upon more effectively for its purpose. The idea of relating the activities going on within this very conservatively styled building with a very artistically imagined modern sign seems like the right direction to go rather than with a conventional sign banner.


8 or 9 feet? Hey, I just looked at the picture again...it's much taller than that...15 to 18 feet looks more like it.


what a shame. that piece was such a nice contrast to the former armory building in both scale and material. it drew attention to itself without detracting from the overall impact of the historic building's rehabilitation. they worked well together.

i'm a little confused about these historic preservation laws which are said to not allow a major alteration such as a marquee. are you talking about local historic preservation laws? the secretary of the interior's standards which ususally guide local hp laws only dictate that alterations should be sympathetic and reversible. a marquee for a new theater in a renovated historic building would certainly be permitted under the secretary's standards, if done in an appropriate manner.


Even at 15-18 feet the sculpture was too small for the size of the building, the surrounding context, the need for larger text, the scale of the surrounding streetlights, etc. Scale is probably one of the most difficult things for most people to understand especially outside in the open sky and with so many other things happening around it.


I'll be the contrarian here. The piece failed as signage – the lettering is awkward and unreadable, and stylistically doesn't act as an intuitive marker for the building entrance.

To criticize it as artwork is much more subjective of course. It seems to me that so many pieces of failed public art are post-justified by the almighty Concept, when in reality, it's the execution that's lacking.


"Aiorema" had a couple of problems, it seems to me: 1) It appeared quirky and cool when it went up, but by the time they took it down it looked old and filthy; clearly it wasn't aging well at all. 2) Even at its best, it did absolutely nothing to let you know what was happening inside the theater. A theater needs a marquee to capture the excitement of what's happening inside. It's all about what's happening inside.

If historic preservation laws are what prevented Portland Center Stage from putting up a marquee, well, I hate to say it, but then those laws are stupid and ought to be changed. Because the result in this case is that what should be the most exciting space in the Pearl is, in fact, the neighborhood's darkest, least inviting building at night. How weird is it that the theater would turn out to be the ONLY commercial building in the entire neighborhood that doesn't have some sort of signage to let you know what's happening inside?


So why doesn't PCS just put up a proper marquee? It seems to me the City bends the rules all the time when it wants to benefit a particular kind of business...this certainly seems like a good time to do just that! OR maybe they can borrow that large and illegal sign that was put up at Ikea.


And what form should a proper marqee for the historic Armory/Gerding Theater take? That's the question that the people commissioning the "Aiorema" sculpture sign and the artist attempted to address.

Should it have a big attached movie theater style name marqee like the Schnitzer/Portland Theater on SW Broadway?; good looking, and an easy choice in that case, given that the sign was pre-existing, historic, and generally compatible with it's new purpose.

Does anyone really want to see a sign like that on on the Armory Building? I almost think that, if they haven't already, the people responsible for conceiving an effective marquee for the Armory Gerding Theater should give the artist James E. Harrison another shot at creating a new sign proposal for the theater that addresses the concerns raised by this first design.

It seems like he had the right idea, but maybe it just wasn't rendered as effectively as it might have been; The good thing, is that it uniquely draws attention, but it doesn't obscure the building's extraordinary, iconic architectural design. The dirtiness, illegibility, and limited information it offers isn't so good.

If it gets dirty and funky looking in short order, that's a problem. If it's hard for people walking down the sidewalk or driving by slowly in their cars to read what the sign is supposed to say, that's a problem. If the sign is not able to offer any information about what shows the theater has going, that probably needs to be incorporated into a new sign.

If the relationship between the artist and the theater is still sound, he may be able to easily offer them a revised idea that will easily solve the problem of an effective marque/sign, if they just ask him. Or, I suppose the theater could just go on using sign banners forever. That's not actually too bad an idea either. Maybe Harrison the artist can make a weather proof, illuminated adaptation of one that borrows the glowing quality of his first design.


For $45,000, why not just park a Lexus in front of the theater and write the name of the upcoming play on the windshield? When the code police come, you can just go for a joy ride.


it seems like a banner hanging pependicular to the building on the upper level would make the most sense. it would almost have a medieval heraldic quality which might suit the fortress-like character of the building.

Sean Casey

Aneeda, Thanks for your hilarious post! Shotgun!

My question is did they want a sign that was artistic? Or did they want some art that could double as a sign? Perhaps that clarification could have helped.

And lets not blame the artist. Each person can have their opinion as to whether they like the sculpture/signage or not, however I'm sure Mr. Harrison went through all the prerequisite mind-numbing committee hoops (prospectus/slides/statement/bio/blah/blah) to get it done. According to the post, he was a known quantity, with a public art track record.

If there's a problem it should be addressed to the group/committee that approved the project and cut the check, not the artist.

Thanks for allowing me to comment.


"For $45,000, why not just park a Lexus in front of the theater and write the name of the upcoming play on the windshield?" Aneeda

In other words... . I don't really get the joke, but it must be funny to someone.


When I plant a street-tree in the right of way or install a new sidewalk it becomes city property. Why is this not true of public art? It seems to me that once it was affixed to the ground in the public right of way it became city property and the city should have a say in its removal and maintenance.


Whew! Bad morning for me. O.K., I kind of get the joke, but if you're going to use a mobile marque, why use something small as a Lexus? Might as use one of those big Hummer stretch limousines, like that white and black one I see driving around. That thing is taller and has a lot more square footage for theater name and show notices. Sucker is ugly though.


I took a few photos of the current sign post - the thing that replaced the artwork. Link >>

limousines hire

I don't know others may like my comment or not. Sitting in my limousine i looked at the place where James Harrison Light Sculpture was, it looked deserted to me. What replaces his sculpture is not so fine replacement.

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