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Great Black Hawk Sculpture Proposal



During its chosen weeks in Portland (November 29, 2018-January 20, 2019) the errant Great Black Hawk from South America became not only a local celebrity but attracted people to Deering Oaks from all over the State and throughout the Country.  A juvenile, the bird was appreciated for its stature, beautiful coloring and fierce hunting capabilities, while also raising concerns about its ability to tolerate our cold winters.  Though it appeared to initially survive cold snaps and snowstorms, it succumbed to a sleet storm on January 20, was rescued from the ground, and delivered to Avian Haven, where valiant efforts to rehabilitate the bird’s severely frost-bitten feet came too late.  Frostbite is known for its insidious progression and likely the irreparable damage associated with pain and inability to perch occurred well before the bird was found on the ground on January 20.


The outpouring of love, prayers, good wishes and support during for our vagrant visitor’s time in rehab at Avian Haven were significant.  This beloved hawk touched the lives of so many and brought people together from all walks of life, leaving a lasting impression and lingering questions that we believe should be recognized in a historical, educational way.  ​



Because of the attention and broad-based interest the Hawk attracted to our community (even today), a local collaboration hopes to raise private funds to commission an authentic life-size bronze sculpture to honor its presence in our community, to be placed in Deering Oaks on a stable pedestal in a location it frequented, as a gift to the City of Portland.   Appropriate signage is simultaneously being created to complement the statue and will address the questions everyone was asking: How did it stray so far from South America? Why did it settle in Deering Oaks? Did it interact with other wildlife in Deering Oaks  Could it survive our cold winters? Should it be captured and relocated? Etc.


Friends of Deering Oaks will take the lead in this project; implementing the approved action plan, selecting a local, qualified sculptor, scheduling necessary approval meetings, coordinating fundraising, and developing an installation schedule.  This will also include convening other stakeholders as necessary in the process; Maine Audubon, Inland Fish & Wildlife, Avian Haven to review the model of the GBLH to ensure ornithological accuracy.

Artist Selection and Installation

Friends of Deering Oaks requested proposals from Maine based wildlife sculptors experienced in both taxidermy and replication in bronze.

Considerations for artist selection included:  

  • Interest/availability

  • Timeline & Process

  • The cost estimate, payment schedule, delivery, mounting/installation

  • Preferred mounting medium

  • What is necessary to create a life-size replica

  • Examples of similar projects

  • Experience with community process/approval

  • A recommended maintenance plan and cost estimate

  • References


David Smus submitted a detailed proposal for this work and was chosen for his extensive experience and reputation for capturing the spirit of nature within his work. 


“It’s been my specialty as a full-time sculptor for 35 years.  I have a B.S. degree in Wildlife Management from UMO, and years of experience earlier as a taxidermist.  I’ve always enjoyed helping educate the public about wildlife and contributing to that cause in any way I could.”


For more details on his accomplishments and installations, please visit his website:

David Smus


With the artist selected, the proposal will be reviewed by key City staff, a PPAC representative, and other stakeholders.  FoDO will present details of the proposed sculpture, including a cast model, to appropriate reviewing bodies to be considered for acceptance as a gift to the City.


Approval will be secured from:


  • FoDO Board – to authorize FoDO’s lead role in the project;

  • City of Portland Parks Department – to  approve efforts to bring the project forward through the formal approval process;

  • Parks Commission – to assure support of the public body overseeing the City’s park assets;

  • Historic Preservation Commission – to approve an appropriate location and signage under the Deering Oaks Master Plan;

  • Portland Public Art Committee –to review appropriateness, quality design and materials, maintenance requirements, accessibility, compatibility with the public Art Plan and to determine acceptance into the City’s Public Art Collection as an “artwork of remembrance”.

  • Portland City Council – Accept recommendation of the PPAC.


Installation   The selected artist will work with the City and chosen contractor on installation.


Dedication   FoDO, Avian Haven, and stakeholders will coordinate with the City on the structure and content of a dedication event

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