Promoting ‘civic health’, art project ‘needles’ Powellhurst-Gilbert

They really did it! If you’ve wondered about the giant acupuncture needle stuck into the roadside at SE 122nd Avenue and SE Reedway Street, here’s the story behind this unusual art installation …

Portland Acupuncture Project volunteers put finishing touches on the giant needle they’re about to stick into the right-of-way on the west side of SE 122nd Avenue, just south of SE Reedway Street.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
So far, the sight of a huge – actually, gigantic – acupuncture needle stuck into the ground on SE 122nd Avenue near the crossing of the Springwater Trail hasn’t caused any auto accidents as drivers pass by, in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

In fact, the whole idea of the Portland Acupuncture Project is to help “heal” our community – according to the artist behind the project, Adam Kuby, who has “treated” several other points within the City of Portland.

Artist Adam Kuby takes a moment with Mark White, President of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, just before the giant needle is hoisted into place.

Asked how it he conceived the idea, Kuby paused from reading the needle to be planted, and told us about it. “I just started to think about the city, and how it is so much like a body. There are a lot of parallels; the complex interdependent systems that make up the city are analogous to those found in the human body.”

Using the metaphor of acupuncture, the idea, Kuby related, is to bring attention to points on “City’s body” – and connecting all of those points.

“Maybe, I thought, we’d enable to people to see the City as one interconnected whole,” Kuby explained. “So, this project explores the interface between art, regional planning, traditional Chinese medicine, and the health of a city.”

With many volunteers pulling on its hoisting lines, the gigantic acupuncture needle rises into the air.

Point called ‘Pending Promise’
Each of the acupuncture needle installations has a name, suggested by neighborhood folks, Kuby explained. “We ask people to suggest a name indicative of the area, or its needs.”

Working with a group of volunteers, including Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood’s president, Mark White, this spot was dedicated with the name “Pending Promise”.

“It seems appropriate,” White said as he watched the needle being stood on end.

Kristin Calhoun, Public Art manger for RAAC, shows the sign that will be planted next to explain the project and its purpose.

A sign posted near the needle explains:

“Like much of East Portland, the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood has been promised greater inclusion in the City of Portland – better services and infrastructure (such as sidewalks and crosswalks) that most neighborhoods take for granted. If the goal is equal opportunity for all Portlanders, then fulfilling these basic needs is a good place to start.”

Trying to help the Portland Plan, artist says
Including this one, eight of these needles have been placed around the City, bringing attention to the some of Portland’s most challenging problems, its greatest assets, and its places with enormous potential, Kuby explained. “It will stay here for about two months; through the end of September.”

The project, funded by the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the Northwest Health Foundation, and private donations, is intended to coincide with a series of public workshops to help steer The Portland Plan, Kuby added pointedly.

> For more information, see the Portland Acupuncture Project’s official website: CLICK HERE.

Compare the height of the needle with the tree beside it, and the stop sign on the corner! Volunteers steady the needle, as it this corner of outer East Portland gets its acupuncture treatment.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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