WATERVILLE — For its first project, a public art task group decided to bring art to the streets for the people of Waterville.

In the bright sun of Sunday morning, 11 artists got to work brushing a mixture of wheat flour and water on exterior, empty walls around the city. Their artwork — created in varying mediums and then scanned and blown up on thin paper — was adhered to the paste in sections and smoothed. They brushed another layer of wheat paste on top of the art to protect it from the elements and adhere it further.

After about an hour, four artists had pasted the first piece of art on a wall across from Silver Street Tavern, though it looked like it had always been there. The piece shows the “man with an eye patch” smirking for the C.F. Hathaway Co. against a pastel background that matches the faded yellow walls.

“It’s phenomenal. I love it,” said Kate Barnes, an artist from Vienna, about seeing her art on such a large scale. Barnes said she chose the shirt company’s ad because it’s “an icon” that helped turn around the direction of the business. “The company took off, and it changed Waterville.”

The task force, which was started by Waterville Creates! to promote community involvement, provided artists from around central Maine with historic images of Waterville and asked them to respond to the images or reflect on their perceptions of the city. The artists drew on a number of ideas, including bridges, climate change and nature.

The task force chose wheat paste installations because they’re relatively easy and can have a “high impact,” said Kerstin Gilg, an artist from Gardiner who helped facilitate the Waterville project.


Gilg, who worked on a similar project in downtown Gardiner, said he suggested the idea when Shannon Haines, president and CEO of Waterville Creates!, was looking for ways to bring art into the public space in Waterville.

“There seems to be this rejuvenated interest in public spaces in downtowns,” Gilg said. “This is a really nice way to show that the downtown is a place for creative people and a place that people care about.”

Wheat paste, which is typically made from four parts water and one part wheat flour, is inexpensive and temporary. The installations will stay up through Sept. 30, but even if left on display, they wouldn’t last longer than six months, said Peter Precourt, an artist from Winthrop who has worked on two other wheat paste projects. “It’s sort of this old way of doing unsanctioned public art,” he said, as wheat paste was used to put up posters and other papers before staplers were invented.

Precourt drew inspiration from the Two Cent Bridge, saying he sees it as a metaphor.

“The bridge was, to me, such a Maine thing,” he said, because it represented a “quintessential, creative but practical solution” to a Maine problem, which was transportation in bad weather.

Precourt also chose the bridge because it represents public art, he said.


“I think of public art as a kind of bridge of a place and people in that place,” he said. “This project is a bridge of Waterville’s past and the sense of what Waterville’s future can become.”

The task force that organized the project was started in response to a survey that showed more than 80 percent of residents wanted to see more public art in Waterville, Haines said. While there are some large, permanent pieces of public art, like the “Ticonic” sculpture and the Lebanese mural, the city hasn’t done a series of temporary installations on this scale before.

The purpose of the project, she said, is to “make art accessible to everyone.”

“We think both the theme and the way it’s installed on downtown buildings is very accessible,” Haines said.

Serena Sanborn, one of the artists who contributed to the project, said one of her first thoughts when she heard about the project was about how many buildings in the area could use some art on them.

“I just think public art is awesome,” she said. “(…) People don’t visit museums anymore, so you need to bring the art to people.”


Sanborn used nature as a theme when creating her art with Bria Sanborn and Jessica Shoudy, incorporating elm trees, fossils, moose and wolf tracks. She wanted to emphasize “how important our natural world is to us,” she said.

Karen Adrienne, an artist in Gardiner who owns Artdogs Studios and Circling the Square Press, also used nature as a theme in her work.

“For me, it was about climate change,” Adrienne said. She created seven chickadees that could be pasted anywhere, and, anticipating that the birds would have to adapt, she made them in bright, tropical colors.

Adrienne took part in a wheat paste project in Gardiner in May and said the project refreshed the area.

“It enlivens a downtown,” she said. “(…) Art is a great meeting place for people.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239


Twitter: @madelinestamour

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