May 4, 2010

Up close, painted oil tank satisfies artist's vision

The public art project would be the world's largest if all eight tanks are completed.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND - As luck would have it, Jaime Gili flew into Portland at night. That meant he would have to wait until morning to see his handiwork.

click image to enlarge

Artist Jaime Gili visits the Sprague Oil Tank farm in South Portland. The next tank to be painted is the tank on the left, in the background. It is being scraped and undercoated before the final design is rolled on by a crew with a paint company owned by Georgia Flanagan.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Artist Jaime Gili is visiting the Portland area for his first in-person look at the Sprague Energy oil tank in South Portland that was painted according to his design. Next up is the tank to the left rear.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

But Gili, the London-based artist who was chosen by the Maine Center for Creativity to adorn the oil tanks at the Sprague Energy tank farm near the Portland International Jetport, wouldn't settle for daybreak.

"I could still spot it," Gili said, describing how he peered out the window of the plane into the dark during his nighttime landing, determined to catch his first view of the painted oil tank.

Gili is back in town this week, preparing a second tank for his design in the Maine Center for Creativity's Art All Around public art project.

This one will be abstract like the first -- lots of sharp, intersecting angles -- but with slightly different colors: blue, orange, black and spruce.

If time and money permit, the Maine Center for Creativity hopes to complete as many as three more tanks this summer.

"That's our goal," said Jean Maginnis, founder and executive director of the Portland-based center. "We know we're going to do one. We hope to do as many as three more."

In all, the center aims to paint eight tanks and eight tank tops. To do so, it will need to raise about $1.2 million. To date, it has raised about $600,000, said Greg Boulos, president of the center's board of directors.

Gili wasn't in town last fall when the first tank was completed. He has seen photos of the tank, and he worked closely with the painters while they executed his design and vision. He was in daily, and sometimes hourly, contact by phone and e-mail during the painting process.

But seeing the tank was something else altogether. "When you get up close, it's awesome," Gili said.

The Maine Center for Creativity hosted a press conference at the South Portland Community Center on Monday morning to bring attention to the second phase of the tank project. Members of the center's board, its supporters, business people and municipal leaders turned out to rally for Art All Around.

When completed, the tank project will involve 260,000 square feet of painted surface, making it the largest public art painting in the world.

That makes the project significant, and distinguishes Portland as a center for creativity and vision, Boulos said. "It adds to Maine's image as a vibrant place to work."

Charles Lawton, a business owner in South Portland and a member of the Maine Center for Creativity's board, said Art All Around is good for the Maine economy because it emphasizes the link between creativity and industry.

That link is essential to economic growth, because creativity leads to job growth, said Lawton, who writes a column for the Maine Sunday Telegram.


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)