A Socially Distanced Art Installation by Bill Will

Living in the time of COVID, we have all been forced to alter our day-to-day business, social and cultural practices. Many of our cultural institutions have had to shutter indefinitely. Our citizen’s ability to gather safely in rooms and halls has halted.

In this cultural climate, our parks and open spaces have not only become potential areas of respite but also remind us of the pivotal place they occupy in the lives of Oregonians. One such open space is Pioneer Courthouse Square which serves 11 million visitors annually. During the shutdown, The Square’s non-profit management organization began to investigate ways to engage artists by inviting them to respond to this issue with their artistic voices using the Square as their blank canvas. For summer 2020, The Square is working with Bill Will to fabricate and install his vision for a Polka Dot Courthouse Square in July of 2020.

Donate to Polka Dot Courthouse Square Art Installation

Bill Will is an acclaimed Oregon artist who has been creating public projects, museum installations and studio work for the last 46 years. Bill is adept at putting his finger on the irony of the ordinary. Even though his work often focuses on a political or social issue of our time, he is gifted in his ability to stand in the middle rather than expressing his personal position. This approach, often unfound in contemporary art, invites participants of all shapes and beliefs to engage in his work. At the root of Will’s work is always the pursuit of respectful humanity. His viewers are invited in without discretion – a very democratic endeavor.

Polka Dot Courthouse Square is a series of colorful, 12-foot, vinyl “dots” adhered to the red brick surface of the Square. These dots, spaced 10-feet apart within a structured grid, not only “decorate” our beloved Portland Living Room carpet, but also “set the stage” for performances by a diverse range of Portland artists, musicians, writers, singers, dancers and market vendors – while also welcoming the un-choreographed, open space behaviors of Portland’s citizens and visitors. These performances will be captured through still photography and video then promoted collaboratively with installation partners. In a fascinating double entendre, this art installation not only establishes the safe distancing required for public gathering but also encourages activation by others. It creates a wonderful comment on the push me/pull you aspect of the mandated distancing.

Amid the COVID pandemic, we are hopeful that this installation will allow the Square to provide a safe pop-up performance platform for our region’s arts and culture groups such as Piano.Push.Play., Andisheh Center, BodyVox, Pan-African Festival, Chinese Festival, BRAVO Youth Orchestras, ARCO PDX and many more. As public gatherings continue to be limited, this project will allow a platform to capture performances with video and photography and bring these performances to community members virtually through the Square’s social media channels. For more information on upcoming Polka Dot Courthouse Square pop-up performances, or to apply to be a part of this year’s performance schedule, contact sage@thesquarepdx.org.

Polka Dot Courthouse Square would not be possible without the generous support of the Square’s Downtown partners 200 Market Building, Melvin Mark, Downtown Development Group, Ferguson Wellman, Moda Health, Downtown Portland Clean and Safe, and Portland Mall Management Inc.  To expand the artists and cultural groups performing on the Polka Dots at the Square this summer please donate to Pioneer Courthouse Square’s Artist Fund today.  100% of all donations through September 30, 2020 will directly support these artists and their unique performances.

For sponsorship inquiries of this unique art installation and platform contact tvetsch@thesquarepdx.org. Follow the Square on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see this installation come to life throughout the summer.

Polka Dot Courthouse Square made possible with the generous support of these sponsors:

With the help of these generous contributors:

Consult: Ron Stewart
Harriet Cormack 
Sara Krajewski
Tad Savinar
First Interstate Bank
Meier Family Partnership