Blaze Trail is an interpretive, urban trail that tells the story of the Great Fire of 1866 in Portland, Maine. More than just a dry history lesson, Blaze uses the faces and voices of historic and contemporary firefighters to bring to life what was the largest fire in the US up until that time. The trail follows the outline of the fire's destruction, giving participants a walking tour of the historic city as well as an on-the-ground sense of the fire's scale.
The goal of Blaze is to share this compelling story of Portland through the lens of this historic, city-shaping event but from a diversity of perspectives of people who serve the city.
The collaborative installation is a multi-media, interactive, online trail map with 15 stops. Each stop, at a key location in the story of the Great Fire, includes an image - either a historic image of the fire or a commissioned portrait (by street artist Gib Foltz), and a sound installation (by sound artist Tony Adams). The interactive content - the trail path, the stops, images, and sound installations - will all be accessed through a website where participants can follow along as they walk the trail in real time or experience the story virtually from anywhere.
Project partners include Portland Trails, local artists and graphic designers, and interviews with firefighters, historians, and a descendant of the African-American firefighter who discovered the fire and saved the Black meetinghouse.
This project is accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone; participants can follow the trail which is free and in the public realm, also making it a safe, affordable, pandemic-friendly activity. We hope to add to the rich understanding of this beautiful and historic place and the people who shaped it.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (November 2022)