In September of 2020, The University of Southern Maine proudly unveiled the art installation on their Portland campus. The installation itself, named “Glacial Retreat” has bold translucent blue walls that spread to the surrounding ground. The color brings the viewer’s thoughts towards the ocean and ocean creatures. The intention behind the piece, was to bring awareness to the environmental issues surrounding the Maine coast. The installation was part of a larger project to help innovate bus shelters all around Portland and received funding from the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA).awarded $4.1 million to similar projects all around the nation.
The art installation was created by a USM alum. Justin Levesque, a graduate of the 2010 class, felt that USM prepared him for the creative career he has now. “It’s professors like Rose Marasco, who created the photography department, and still is a really important mentor to me as an artist at USM and as a student there,” he said.
Levesque has worked with USM in the past, on issues regarding the North Atlantic ocean and environment. He explained that USM has played an important role in creating and supporting conversations about these issues, both with students and the community. Not only has the University helped in engaging students, it also helped Levesque personally, in his art and his passion about these issues.
Levesque feels that artists have a way of working in the intersection of different things, being able to embody issues and make it relatable to the viewers. “I’ve been engaging in making artwork that deals with Maine’s engagement in the north Atlantic and in the arctic for the last five years. The installation itself was designed to create awareness of the effects that climate change has had on Maines coastlines and ocean life”, he said.
Justin spoke about wanting to bring more attention to issues like climate change that sometimes people care, but they may not be completely informed. He hopes this piece inspires people to think more and research more about the environmental changes that are happening to coastlines and oceans.
University president Glenn Cummings applauded Levesque’s efforts to encourage these conversations about climate change. Levesques gave credit to the local companies and organizations, such as Eimskip and Creative Portland. He spoke about how this support has allowed him to further his art and his conversation about these issues. “Getting the inspiration from Eimskip, the funding by Creative Portland and having the bus shelter be on USM’s Portland campus was really special for me, that all these things were coming together”. Other installations by other artists from this project, can be found in and around the Portland streets.
Information about this installation and others can be found on Creative Portlands website: https://www.creativeportland.com/Creative_Bus_Shelters
Information about Justin Levesque, his artwork and his cause can be found on his website: http://onedynamicsystem.com