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Press Release

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

March 2, 2023

Portsmouth NH 400 Announces Selection of Sijia Chen as First Artist for Maritime-themed Sculpture Garden Legacy Project

Portsmouth, New Hampshire – For the past year, the Portsmouth NH 400(PNH400) Legacy Project subcommittee spearheading projects that will last beyond the 2023 celebration and enrich the city for future generations, has worked to create a maritime-themed sculpture garden in Bohenko Gateway Park adjacent to the Piscataqua River.

At an unveiling on March 2 at Rio Tequila Cantina (37 Bow Street) in Portsmouth, PNH400 announced the selection of artist Sijia Chen to design the first piece of public art to be installed in the park in the fall of 2023.

The artist, who grew up in the small coastal city of Shantou, China that reminds her of Portsmouth, was inspired by the Piscataqua gundalow when creating her design. When installed, the 20-foot stainless steel sculpture will be prominently visible along the Market Street gateway to the city where Bohenko Park is located. Community engagement plays an essential role in Chen’s design. She plans to meet with community groups to brainstorm themes connected to Portsmouth’s maritime history that will be incorporated into her design.

Chen is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who has created permanent public art projects in China and in locations across the United States, including Claremont CA and North Kansas City MO. She received her MFA from Tyler School of Art and her BFA from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

In collaboration with the City of Portsmouth, the PNH400 Legacy Task Force issued a Request for Proposals for the Bohenko Park Sculpture Garden in September 2022. More than 30 artists submitted more than 40 proposed designs. A review team, including representatives from the City and the community as well as others with expertise in public art, were charged with the task of selecting a design for this PNH400 Legacy Project. The Sculpture Review Ream was unanimous in its choice of Sijia Chen’s design, “Endeavor.”

“The Legacy Project Team and its chair Ernie Greenslade have worked incredibly hard to realize the vision of installing permanent public art as part of the PNH400,” said Valerie Rochon, PNH400 Managing Director. “The process and their commitment to the goals of the proposal request has resulted in the selection of a sculpture that will be iconic, meaningful and created out of the artist’s active engagement with the community.”

Members of the Legacy Task Force include: Ernie (Ernestine) Greenslade, chair; Nancy London, Barbara Massar, Judy Miller. The Sculpture Review Team members include: Elizabeth Farish, Chief Curator/Strawbery Banke, Lennie Mullaney, Artist, Nancy Carmer, City of Portsmouth/Retired, Economic Development/Art-Speak Liason/Public Art, Barbara Massar, Executive Director/Pro Portsmouth (chair), Tom Watson, Attoney/Retired and Leah Woods, Associate Professor/UNH, Woodwork, Furniture.

The Sculpture Garden will enhance Bohenko Gateway Park, a beautification project on the Market Street Extension, the main access route from Route I-95 to the historic heart of Portsmouth that includes a city-funded pavilion and kiosk with NH Division of Historical Resources information about the city’s centuries-old maritime history and riverine environment.

The maritime theme of the sculptures selected for the Legacy project are intended to frame that educational component and accent the opportunity afforded by the existing benches and pathways to contemplate the riverfront setting. Just a short walk from downtown the sculpture garden is designed to attract Seacoast visitors and members of the community, providing the perfect location for quiet reflection, a family picnic or educational programs on the historic port’s maritime history.

PNH400 has raised nearly $100,000 to cover the design, fabrication, transportation, documentation and installation expenses including installation insurance. Additional sponsors are needed to complete this component and future additions to the PNH400 Legacy Project sculpture garden, which can accommodate six to eight pieces of public art.

Donors to the project include Sue and Bob Thoresen, Chris Dwyer, The Kane Company, The Dana and Shaula Levenson Family, Stephen and Karin Barndollar, Jack and Pam Blalock, John Bohenko and Nancy London, GL Rogers & Company, Inc., Greenslade Family, Judy Miller and Arthur Carakatsane, CMA Engineers, Inc., The Clayburgh Family, Bow Street Commercial Real Estate, Ballentyne Medical Aesthetics, Great Island Realty, Donald and Beth Margeson, Seacoast Apart-Hotels, Sundial Cocktails, John and Zoi Diamond. To learn more about this project, including how to donate, or visit the Portsmouth NH 400 website.

About Portsmouth NH 400th, Inc. (

The Portsmouth NH 400th anniversary celebrations are made possible in part thanks to the support of Bank of America, Piscataqua Savings Bank, Local IQ, members of the 400 Shoalers Club and 1623 Revolutionaries Club and additional sponsors and donors. The goal of Portsmouth NH 400th, Inc. is to give the community an inclusive opportunity to tell the stories that are important to them, through programs, events, exhibits and legacy projects. Portsmouth NH 400th celebrates the diverse and animated social, political, intellectual, cultural, economic and spiritual history of Portsmouth, from before English settlement in 1623 to the present. Portsmouth NH 400th, Inc. invites individuals and organizations considering programs and events for the Portsmouth NH 400th Anniversary celebration to join the collaborative effort. A key intention is for the Portsmouth NH 400th, Inc. team to engage the next generation(s) in exploring what the City’s 2023 legacy might be and deciding how they might steward Portsmouth and its history beyond 2023.

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