From the RACC plaque – The Baobab tree, with its powerful symbolism and unique physical characteristics, has been a beacon for communities and cultures around the world. This abstracted tree illustrates our connection to nature and to each other through impressions of the four seasons in mosaic and solar lighting that glows according to the amount of light each season offers.

Ruth Frances Greenberg and David Joseph Laubenthal made Baobab in 2003. It’s had what looks like a series of maintenance problems since.

Currently the tilework, done by Greenberg, is wrapped in plastic. The small solar panels, not recognizable from the ground, are not functioning – or the wiring, or the light fixtures inside. Something’s not working.

I’m not certain how a Baobab came to Alberta or how it “has been a beacon for communities and cultures around the world”. The tree – Adansonia – is the national tree of Madagascar.

It’s one thing to amass an enormous collection of artwork, spread it all around and invite people to partake. It’s a completely different agenda to monitor, maintain, clean, repair, and secure Portland’s public artwork. After the unveiling, what happens to artwork which needs repair work?

The Regional Arts and Culture Council provides the conservation & maintenance, of the artworks in their collection – as Baobab is. Budgets are tight and RACC’s mission is spread thin. And this sculpture, on NE Alberta Street, must wait it’s turn to be repaired or removed.

The “powerful symbolism” is Portland can’t – or won’t – maintain it’s artwork.

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