Announcing Our New Executive Director

Our Board of Directors is delighted to announce that C.J. Opperthauser (pronouns: he/him/his) has been hired as the new Executive Director of Friends of Congress Square Park. C.J. started (remotely) at the beginning of the new year.

C.J. will be moving to Portland from Providence, Rhode Island, where he’s spent the past 6 years being heavily involved in the fields of placemaking, active transportation, and land use. After coordinating volunteers with WaterFire Providence, the famed art installation and beloved summertime event, he managed Grow Smart Rhode Island’s training program, was a CityWorks Fellow with DownCity Design, served as Events Chair on the board of directors of the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition, was a Programs Committee member of the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, and founded the pedestrian advocacy group WalkPVD. Through these roles, C.J. has served as a constant voice for safer, more vibrant, and more equitable public spaces and streets across the state.

C.J. grew up in Michigan and studied poetry at Central Michigan University, where he created and hosted an outdoor reading series, and Miami University in Ohio, where he also taught writing. His chapbook Cloud the Shape of Bedroom was published in 2016 by Tree Light Books, and he is a co-editor of the online literary publication Threadcount Magazine. While in Providence, C.J. helped execute many local public events, including the Providence Flea, Winter Lights Market, NecronomiCon, Jane’s Walk Providence, and Tour de Tentacle.

“I’ve visited Portland many times, and I’ve been consistently in awe of the array of dynamic, active public spaces peppered throughout the city,” C.J. says. “Congress Square Park has always been a favorite people-watching perch and spot to sip ridiculously good coffee, and I can’t overstate how thrilled and honored I am to be joining a team which has done so much good for the urban fabric of Portland and helped to cultivate community in this beloved public space. It’s truly a dream come true. I look forward to bringing a fresh perspective to the organization and enhancing our sustainability so that we can continue to provide this community with a vibrant place to enjoy the arts, grab a bite, and simply be together.”

Click here to write a note to C.J.

We miss you! But, we’ll see you soon.

For the past 6 years, April has been a month of great anticipation in Congress Square Park. Each year, our dedicated park volunteers come together after the cold winter months to wipe away the winter grime, clean out the flower beds, and get the Park ready for the upcoming season of art, eating, movie-watching, gardening, dancing, lounging, and above all — gathering with our friends and neighbors. 

This April, we have found ourselves in uncharted territory as all of us deal with stay-at-home orders, homeschooling, isolation, and threats to our health and livelihoods. 

As a result, Friends of Congress Square Park has decided to cancel all scheduled events at least through the end of June. We are also postponing the return of amenities like tables, adirondack chairs, and benches, likely until the end of June as well. We will work closely with the City of Portland and the Parks Department to determine when it is safe to bring back  amenities and resume programming. 

We know that for many of you, the Park is your outdoor living room and urban oasis. While the Park won’t be quite as colorful at least for the beginning of the season, we are committed to keeping the Park clean and working on the gardens so there will be natural beauty and color to brighten your day as you pass by or step outside for fresh air. 

Together, over the past 6 years, we have created a beloved community gathering place – a place where neighbors can feel engaged and have fun. We’ve shown that well managed public spaces are essential for our mental and physical well-being, and that vibrant public places promote equity, improve community resilience, and strengthen local economies. The current physical isolation and business shut-down reinforces all of these lessons.

While we are forced to hit pause on our 2020 programming, please know that we are thinking about you and that you are not alone. We hope that the friendships and memories you have made in the Park will help to sustain you during this difficult time.  We will be working on ways to bring some of those memories, art experiences, and social connections to you through social media over the coming weeks, so please stay tuned.  

We will continue to work behind the scenes to plan for future programming and expand our organization’s capacity.  Above all, we commit to continuing to care for this gem at the heart of our city so that it is ready to welcome us all back together as soon as it is safe to do so.  Until then, thank you for being part of our park community.

Volunteer Spotlight: Christine!

Meet Christine, this week’s Volunteer Spotlight!

Christine is another one of the original park saviors. She served on the original campaign to save the park. Since then she has volunteered in a myriad of capacities. She brings her enthusiastic energy to the park during events as one of our cherished Event Ambassadors! She is a great announcer and always does her best to connect with performers and park goers at events. Her favorite event to work this summer was the Rwandan drumming and dance event! In addition to volunteering at events Christine helps with clean up and set up days, gardening in the park, and with event promotion.

When Christine is in the park she embodies the vibrancy of the space! She is so friendly, ensuring that people feel welcome and celebrated as participants in the park! Christine started volunteering as a way to connect and give back to her community. Through her volunteer experiences she has met many new people and had the opportunity to watch communities weave together within the space.

When she is not in the park Christine works as a school Nurse and enjoys doing yoga, meditation, music, biking, and making delicious food. One fun fact about Christine is that she participates in local theatre productions. She recently played a Murderess in a local Shakespeare production. She says, “It was fun and challenging. It is not my nature to play a villain!”

We are so grateful for all the support Christine gives in the park. She is a light in the space every time she is there. Thank you, Christine! WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Christine and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

Thanks for a great 2019 season!

Thanks for a great Anniversary!

We celebrated an excellent 5 year anniversary as an organization with our 6th full season. What did we love?

  • More volunteers engaged!
  • More events!
  • Artists from lots of different backgrounds bringing art that represented their culture and their passions!
  • Temporary art through collaborations with Maine College of Art and Still Life Studio!
  • More seating, and more lush gardens!
  • Delicious snacks thanks to a collaboration with Fork Food Lab!
  • And more!

Click here to see a PDF version of the 2019 Season Overview!

We’re grateful to our many collaborators, including partners like Portland Summer Films, Portland Swing Project, New Moon Ensemble, Fork Food Lab, Waking Windows, SPACE, Yellow Tulip Project, Monday of the Minds, The Way We Move, Portland Intown Contra Dance, PM Salsa with Primo Cubano, Pickwick Independent Press, Make Music Portland, Maine Academy of Music, Figures of Speech Theater, 2Sheets Theater, Somali Mainers’ Youth Network, Maine Initiatives, Portland Downtown, and the many other organizations, teachers and performers who brought their skills and diverse offerings to the Square

In addition to our programming, our colorful amenities and free Wi-Fi attracted visitors during other times of the day to read, eat, create, meet with friends, or relax in an urban oasis. Since its inception, FoCSP’s creative placemaking has drawn well over 130,000 estimated visitors to the park.

Our park stewards and volunteers generously gave their time and effort to ensure that the park stayed beautiful, safe, and lively throughout the whole season. More than 3,125 hours of volunteer time was invested last season.

Funding for our 2019 season was also provided in part by critical investments by Diversified Communications, the Horizon Foundation, Old Bug Light Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Bangor Savings Bank Foundation, Op Box, Portland Container Company, Portland Downtown, Coffee by Design, and our generous Season Hosts.

We couldn’t have had such a successful season without generous commitment from our performers and partners, stewards,  funders and sponsors, donors, audience members, and YOU – in all the ways you gave. We are so very appreciative to all of you!

See you in our 2020 season, which starts in May!



Volunteer Spotlight: Sean!

Meet Sean, this week’s Volunteer Spotlight!


Sean has been one of our oldest patrons in the park and attends most of the events during our summer season. He can often be found in the afternoon lounging at one of the bright tables enjoying the weather with some friends and other park regulars. When the time comes for event set up, Sean is a huge help with moving furniture, taking down umbrellas, and putting up parking signs. Sean sits in the back during events and quietly observes the park happenings. His presence is sweet, caring, contentious, and helpful.

Sean enjoys the music and dancing events in the park, though he had a hard time choosing his favorite types of events. Sean is content with experiencing new types of performances in the park. He comes to events with an open mind and loves to meet new performers and guests.

When he is not in the park, Sean’s ideal day includes good weather, movies, and some delicious Thai food! Sometimes, on movie nights in the Park, his ideal day happens all in the park! We are so appreciative for all of the help that Sean gives in the park!

Volunteer Spotlight: Ollie!

Meet Ollie, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

Ollie is one of our youngest and longest standing volunteers in the park. His Mom and Dad, last week’s volunteer spotlights Bree Lacasse and Chris Moore have been advocates for the space since its early beginnings. (You can read more on their contributions here!) Ollie has participated as a volunteer with them since then.

Every spring you can find him supporting a large crew of volunteers at our annual Spring Clean Up and Gardening days in the park. He is certainly not afraid to get his hands dirty when it comes to volunteering. He loves to help his Dad, Chris, drill together the colorful benches which patrons enjoy all season long. Over the years Ollie has volunteered as an Event Ambassador and Park Steward. His mom, Bree, and him hosted the Wednesday night events and Ollie proved to be an excellent MC and announcer. One of Ollies favorite park traditions is opening up the park on his walk to school with his Mom. While straightening out the chairs and sweeping the floor is always fun, the task becomes extra fun when afterwards they head to Coffee By Design for a Holy Donut.

Outside of volunteering, Ollies perfect day includes breakfast on the stoop with his parents, and any time he gets to spend outside skiing or jumping off of his dock, swimming and running around in nature. If you find him in the park, he might want to teach you how to play Trash, a card game or draw with chalk too. I always enjoy when Ollie is in the park for Social dance events or live music because his friendly demeanor and willingness to help make me feel welcome!

Ollie is truly a passionate bundle of joy. When I asked him about what he liked about volunteering he said, “I think this park is cool because all sorts of people can come together and dance and play games and they might not know each other if the park weren’t here.” And he is absolutely right! People find common ground in Congress Square Park and it is amazing to witness.

Thank you so much for all that you do, Ollie! WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Ollie and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

Volunteer Spotlight: Chris and Bree!

This week’s volunteer Spotlight’s are Bree Lacasse and Chris Moore. Yes, indeed it is our first dynamic duo!

The couple have been volunteering with the Park since it’s beginning. Bree’s journey began in 2014 when she served as the Volunteer Campaign Manager for the Portland Public Parks Initiative. Through her devotion to the maintenance and celebration of Portland’s public spaces, Bree helped to “Save the park!” Following the creation of the Friends of Congress Square Park, Bree was the fearless leader of all things fundraising. In 2015 she created the Audience Engagement Committee which is responsible for creating the programming that is in the park still today. She helped to run the first ever Congress Square Park Talent Open Call. Every year we hold this same Open Call to decide on which performers we will have fill the space throughout our bustling six-month season! Throughout the years, Chris has volunteered tirelessly alongside her. He worked on the original Campaign to save the Park and played a role in all of the fundraising that happened early on for the park.

Bree served as the organization’s first Executive Director. During that time she applied for the “Heart of Community” grant, which Congress Square Park received. This grant provided 100,000 dollars that funded the additions of the furniture, lights, and sound equipment that are stationed in the park. Now, Bree remains an active part of the Board of Friends of Congress Square Park and Chris and she participate as volunteers with their family in many other ways.

They can both be found in the park on Park Set Up and Clean up Day’s In the beginning and ends of the season with their gloves on ready to prep the park for it’s event season. Each year, Chris puts together the colorful benches which park dwellers enjoy all year. They both support the ongoing sustainability of the park through their volunteerism as Park Stewards. They come in the morning and set up the furniture and contribute to the garden’s vitality on garden days throughout the season. Finally, their whole family has served as Event Ambassadors, who introduce the performers at events.

Some of their favorite events to attend are the Social dancing and live music events. So, before they headed to the dance floor, I asked Bree sitting in the park during the Five Year Supper Event, why would one spend so much time and energy on a piece of concrete in the middle of the city? Her answer was a testament to the true spirit of community that lives in the park.

She explained,

“There are priceless moments here in which the most affluent people in Portland are dancing to the same music alongside someone experiencing homelessness. And they are friends. And they are enjoying each other’s company in a way they wouldn’t anywhere else. And that is what public space is all about!”

To Chris and Bree, being a part of the sustainability and life force of a piece of concrete in the middle of Portland is worth every moment of harmony they get to witness when they spend time in the Park. And, in the meantime it is fun!

I also asked, for traditions sake, what would be essential in their perfect day. For them it begins, with coffee and breakfast on the stoop of their house with their son, Ollie! Bree enjoys her walk to work through the heart of Portland and past the park each day. As a family, they love spending the day doing outdoor activities like skiing, swimming, hiking, or dancing in Congress Square Park and people watching during a dinner perhaps at a restaurant on Congress Street!

Chris and Bree have been some of Congress Square Park’s most devoted and enthusiastic supporters and we would certainly not be where we are without them. Thank you, Chris and Bree. WE APPRECIATE YOU! (Stay tuned for next weeks spotlight. A hint: we might be keeping it in the family!)

To meet Bree, Chris, and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

September/October Printable Calendar Available

The season isn’t over yet!

What’s notable in September and October?

  • First Friday Art Walk in September features our first ever fashion show! Jacob Powers and a cadre of artists will bring style and art to the Square.
  • October’s Art Walk will feature a dance party with El Malo–contemporary Latin-Rock with a robust horn section.
  • September 27 & 28 are a double-feature of international talent, with an arts showcase and a full day of intercultural events.
  • Pumpkins in the Square is back this October, an event the whole family will enjoy immensely – pumpkin carving, live folk music, snacks and more…
  • So much more!

Click here to open a printable version of the September & October calendar!


Volunteer Spotlight: Steve!

Meet Steve, this weeks Volunteer Spotlight!

Steve has been a volunteer and advocate of the park for many years. I think of Steve as the park’s resident guardian. He can often be found relaxing in one of the bright orange Adirondack chairs after a long day of walking. He does so right up until it is time to set up for an event at which point, he jumps up with a willing hand and begins moving the furniture and planters without ever being asked. He is generous with his time as a volunteer and frequenter of the space and above all welcoming to all of those who come in.

Though I have never seen Steve up and dancing at one of our live music or social dance events, he is nearly always in attendance, bobbing his head from the Adirondack chairs and interacting with other park guests. At our last Salsa Event I interviewed Steve for this very spotlight and asked what he drew him to Congress Square Park. He said repeatedly, “This park is fun and safe and the people are the kindest ever. This is something worth saving.”

Steve is a self described cowboy. If you find him in the park, it is well worth your time to sit down with him and ask for a fun fact about his earlier life. Steve is full of stories from his days living out west and all over the country. We are so grateful for Steve’s diligent presence, his incredible work ethic, resilience and good humor! Oh what a joy to know our community.

To meet Steve and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

Volunteer Spotlight: Emma!

This week I am happy to highlight one of our newest volunteers, Emma!

Emma began volunteering her time in the square this summer and so far has been a lively addition to the crew! At first, Emma was hesitant to add another commitment to her already busy schedule as a full time student, but chose to volunteer to be a part of a “beautiful and enriching part of the Portland experience.” She is excited to attend more events throughout the season and experience art she otherwise would not have known about.

Emma has been captivated thus far by the sense of community within Congress Square Park. She writes, “Whether that is other volunteers, performers, or people who have made it a habit to attend, I love to see old friends and make new ones!” One notable example so far was at the Idea’s Not Theories performance, in which another fellow volunteer, Tammy supported Emma throughout the night. Tammy happened to be in the square to attend the event, and chose to help Emma with volunteer duties throughout the night. Emma described feeling welcomed and grateful for the help of an experienced volunteer.

Outside of the square, Emma is a full time student at the University of Southern Maine and describes the only essential thing in a perfect day is coffee. Simple! Emma shared a fun fact in her interview as well. Emma has a super strong immune system! She wrote, “I only get sick about once a year, usually a mild cold, because when my twin sister and I were in the womb my mom did a sky-clad, pagan ritual for our health. True story.” In other words, we can always rely on her to be healthy and energized for her volunteer shifts.

Thank you Emma, for your bright and welcoming presence in the square. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Emma and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

Volunteer Spotlight- Roseanne!

Meet Roseanne, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

Roseanne is one of Congress Square Park’s pioneering volunteers and her devotion has carried her through ten years of service to the park. Yes, that means before the park was established as it is today. She first joined the city’s committee in 2009 called the Congress Square Redesign Study Group which aimed to revamp the space and decide what should be done with it next. When the time came to advocate for Portland’s right to that public space, Roseanne became the co-Chair of Protect Portland Parks with previously spotlighted, David Lacasse. She played an integral role in saving the park and in starting what it is today as the Vice President of the board until 2016.

Since, Roseanne has served the park as a Park Steward, gardener, and event series organizer. She is responsible for our regular meeting group, “Chase the Chill” knitting group which gives away hand knit items on Veterans and Valentines day each year from the park. You can find her at other events such as, Tai Chi and Try Your Hand! Roseanne’s volunteer presence has brought such diversity to the programming offered in the park and adds additional layers of community service to attendees experience in the square.

Her favorite aspects of volunteering mirror those sentiments of many other volunteers. She is in awe of the connections fostered in the space which she gets to witness as a volunteer. Roseanne shared one touching story of an attendee finding a sense of belonging in Congress Square Park. She writes,

“In 2016 there was a young man who arrived around halfway through the evening (it was a Wednesday in September and dark already). He stood around the edges for 15 minutes or so before he started dancing like there was no tomorrow. After around 20 minutes of full-tilt boogie, he came around to the back of the stage and motioned that he wanted to talk to us. He told us he was a student and was feeling pretty down. He had left his apartment to just wander around and stumbled onto Congress Square Park. “I had no idea this was here, you guys saved me. Thank you.” And then he was gone.”

Her perfect day is one where she hears many bird songs. She writes, “seagulls, pigeons, cardinals, robins, makes no difference!” And with that fact, my mind was made up that Roseanne simply brings a lightness to the square in her mere presence! She even let slip that she likes to deliberately mix up the colors of the chairs and tables! In other words, she is the secret perpetrator of more whimsy and fun in the Square!

Thank, you Roseanne. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Roseanne and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

Volunteer Spotlight: Nick!

This week we are happy to showcase the amazing volunteerism of Nick Kaufman as this week’s volunteer spotlight.

As a longtime lover of Congress Square Park, Nick was delighted to join the park’s “Audience Engagement Committee this spring. On the committee, he serves as a voice for the people, helping to brainstorm relevant and engaging event ideas! He has also just recently started to volunteer as an Event Ambassador. Nick expressed how he loved the collaborative process of creating the event schedule and was impressed by the community aspect in park functioning!

His favorite part about volunteering has been his experience as an observer of the park. He watches regular volunteers and park dwellers maintain and keep the space thriving by being there as good neighbors. He wrote, “Some of the best custodians aren’t even official volunteers, just ordinary folks who keep an eye out for the space and each other.”

True to his observant nature, when asked if he had any good stories from his time in Congress Square Park he wrote, “The park is empty a lot during the winter but one day after a snowstorm I walked by and was psyched to see someone in bright spandex with headphones practicing a dance right in the middle of the snow drifts. I hope we can figure out more ways to use the park this winter!” Winter dance classes may not be a bad idea!

Nick takes his observations and quiet attentiveness to the space and brings that into his creative perspective on the Audience Engagement Committee. He is kind and always willing to lend a hand if he is simply passing by. Through his volunteerism, Nick has also met our previously spotlighted, Mark Wakefield. For Nick, the perfect day includes a hot dog and a cold drink with Mark, who reminds Nick all winter that the Hot Dog Guy is nearly back.

Thank you, Nick for all of your time, attention, and creativity in the park. YOU ROCK!

To meet Nick and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

August Printable Calendar Available

Join us to celebrate our 5-year anniversary in August!

What’s notable this month?

  • We’ll be hosting a big block party called the “5 Year Supper” to celebrate our anniversary! Come from 6-8pm on August 31 for food, music, dancing and more!
  • August 24 brings the first ever Portland Social Dance Festival, featuring New Moon Ensemble, Danza Latina, Portland Swing Project and others. And it all kicks off the night of Friday, August 23 from 6-8 with Salsa Night featuring Primo Cubano and PM Salsa.
  • Great music performances including Ikirenga cy’Intore Rwandan percussion, “Ideas, Not Theories” bicycle band, and “The Portland Hum” drone music.
  • This is the last month of the weekly Saturday Snack Shop with sweet and savory treats from Fork Food Lab (visit the painted OpBox in the Square to check it out!)
  • So much more!

Click here to view a printable version of the August calendar!


Volunteer Spotlight- Richard!

Meet Richard, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

Richard began volunteering with Congress Square Park this year and was the first to arrive on our annual Spring Clean Up day! Since that first volunteer day, Richard has helped immensely with gardening, building the new garden bed, putting up signage and helping at events, as well as coming by the park multiple times a day to sweep.

When asked why he chooses to volunteer, he said. “ You can either pick your tombstone or you can do something. So I do something and I happen to like it!” After retiring from being a laborer Richard was looking for a way to spend his time doing something meaningful and was encouraged by other volunteers living in his building to get in touch.

Richard lives right next door to the Park and thus gives it the love and care he would for his own backyard. He wakes up each morning to his cat, Kit, thinking that 3AM is hunting time. Though he was born in St. Albans, Vermont, Richard chooses to live in Portland to nurture his love for the ocean. He often walks down to the harbor to smell the sea and occasionally takes boat tours of the Casco Bay Islands.

Richard has been such a wonderful addition to the volunteer crew this year. Thank you for your steady and willing presence in the Square!

To meet Richard and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>

Volunteer Spotlight- Amy!

Meet Amy, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

Amy’s volunteering began when she started attending FoCSP operations meetings shortly after starting to work for Portland Downtown in 2016. Amy serves as the Program Director at Portland Downtown which supports cleanliness and safety in the community which means her work is directly linked to the goings on in the park.

She describes her evolution into more volunteering by saying, “After getting to know board members, staff, and other volunteers, I wanted to do more. In addition to the operations meetings, I helped early this season with planting and weeding in the park, and I assist other volunteers with park set-up each week – cleaning tables, arranging tables and chairs, picking up trash, etc.” Her handy work in the park each week is part of what keeps it an inviting and vibrant space!

Her favorite part about volunteering is meeting community members in the park! She finds that while relaxing or volunteering in the park, she always sees someone she knows or gets to make a new friend! The phenominal familiarity of the space reminds us that though Portland may feel increasingly urban, it still holds the charms of small town interconnectedness and interactions. Amy tells a tory that is a great example of this.

“While gardening in the park, I met a woman who turned out to be a yoga colleague’s mother (I’m a yoga student and teacher). Portland is such a small town!”

In Amy’s perfect day, she makes time to be in Portland’s pockets of nature to rejuvenate. She enjoys any of the downtown’s ten public parks, the Longfellow House garden, or by enjoying 70 miles of trails and green space supported by Portland Trails.

Amy is such a warm and cheerful presence in the Portand community and we are so lucky to have her as a volunteer! Thank you, Amy. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Amy and other awesome volunteers in the park, stop by one of our upcoming events here:

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: OR contact: <>