by Justina Quagliata
Some of the biggest smiles at JELD-WEN Field don’t always come after a goal or a victory over Seattle or Vancouver. Others are permanently stationed outside, greeting match-goers and fans. The Facing the Crowd statues—one each on the corners of 18th and 20th Avenues at Morrison Street—act as not only a frame for JELD-WEN Field, but also as a reflection of the entertainment found inside and Portland’s commitment to the arts.
Facing the Crowd is part of Portland’s Percent for Art program through the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Percent for Art is a public program that requires a percentage of direct construction and renovation costs over $100,000 to fund a piece of public, community-owned artwork. Over 1,800 such pieces are scattered around Multnomah County, including Portlandia – the bronze woman in front of the Michael Graves’ Portland Building on SW 5th Avenue.
The smiling man and boy at JELD-WEN Field were installed in 2001 during the $38.5 million remodel of PGE Park. At the time, the City of Portland required 1.33 percent of construction costs to benefit Percent for Art, though the percentage was raised to 2 percent in 2005.
Created by artist Michael Stutz, the statues are each approximately eight feet tall, and made from welded silicon bronze. At first glance, they may appear to be the same but in fact, one is a smiling boy—on the 18th Avenue KeyBank Plaza—and the other a laughing man on the corner of 20th. Pulling on the long history of the stadium—which was first built in 1926—Stultz writes, “The heartily smiling man and boy faces portray two stages in the life of an individual, relating to the historical evolution and changing character of the site itself”.
Stutz found his artistic inspiration in the mid-nineties in New Orleans, designing and building floats and sculptures for Mardi Gras parades. His work is featured nationwide, appearing in San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Richmond, Va., Des Moines, Iowa and Jacksonville, Fla., just among others.
Facing the Crowd is meant to instill a sense of fun to onlookers. “Facing the Crowd’s dynamic presences becomes a celebration of joy and playfulness,” read the plaques outside. “These giant totems engage the spectator in their simple and universal theme of maintaining humor in the midst of a chaotic urban world.”