A walk down India Street reveals many things.

Men and women hustling to make their appointments in the neighborhood medical clinic. Drivers jockeying for position for the prime spot at the local coffee shop. Shoppers with purpose in their step bounding in and out of the swinging door at the Italian market, a door that never rests more than a moment or two.

All around this blur of activity are fired-clay red bricks, the bedrock of the neighborhood and the backbone of Maine. We make our sidewalks and build our buildings with them, and two artists are using the humble but noble brick to tell the stories of India Street, one of Portland’s oldest streets, which connects the waterfront to Munjoy Hill.

Portland Brick will personalize the neighborhood with Twitter-length histories, stamped on the surface of a brick and embedded in the sidewalk where the story occurred.

Artists Elise Pepple and Ayumi Horie will host a storytelling circle at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crema/Arabica, 9 Commercial St. They’ll talk about the neighborhood, and encourage stories from people who call it home.

About 30 of those stories will be preserved in clay and planted for posterity in neighborhood sidewalks.


The stories are simple and powerful, telling of one boy’s journey to manhood: “On this spot in 1942, Tony played his first game of craps. He was twelve years old.”

Or the moment when a woman finally realized how and why she had to stand up for something she believed in: “On this spot in 2010 Heather stood up for #marriage equality.”

Or the moment a man fell in love: “On this spot in 1978 Jeff laid eyes on his wife for the first time.”

These are simple monuments to everyday Portlanders, who live quiet, anonymous lives. In a city filled with monuments “to mainly dead white men,” Pepple said, “these are stories that make up the fabric of the city.”

Their goal is to make about 30 bricks, which they hope will be installed this summer. Portland Brick received grants from the Maine Arts Commission, the Kindling Fund and the Portland Public Art Committee. The budget is about $14,000.

Pepple is a storyteller who moved to Portland from Alaska in 2012 to attend the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies. She is a National Arts Strategies fellow, and a radio host. Horie is a studio potter and a member of the board of the American Craft Council.


“Our aim is maybe really naive and idealistic, but we feel complete pride in our town and the people we live among, and we believe celebrating those stories and celebrating those people can increase a sense of belonging and a sense of connection to this place,” Pepple said.

Thursday’s gathering is a chance to collect more stories, and give people a sense of the project. Pepple called the event “a show-and-tell, to share the stories we’ve encountered so far and to give people the opportunity to tell their own stories.”

A representative of Greater Portland Landmarks, who works in the neighborhood, will talk about India Street’s standing as one of Portland’s oldest streets. A few neighborhood regulars will tell stories.

The idea of telling stories through bricks is not new. In 2005, Natasha Meyers worked with local students for “Art Underfoot” making art bricks for Longfellow Square.

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