Rachel and Ryan Adams pose in front of a mural of Nyamuon “Moon” Nguany Machar, an East Bayside resident and mentor. The couple created the mural as part of their Piece Together Project, an effort to highlight people who made an impact on the neighborhood. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — As artist Ryan Adams watched East Bayside grow, change and thrive, he wanted to make sure the people who made the original, diverse neighborhood special were not lost in the fray.

“Being born and raised in Portland, I have seen how much it is changing and the rate it is changing. I won’t say it is alarming, because change can be good, but I wanted to make sure throughout all this change in Portland, the people, the residents, who make the city great are not forgotten,” Adams said.

The Piece Together mural at Coffee by Design on Diamond Street memorializes Alain Nahimana, an advocate for social justice and equality who helped to start the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Last month, he and his wife, Rachel Adams, launched the Piece Together Project. The project entails a set of large murals in East Bayside to pay tribute to community members who advocated for marginalized members of the neighborhood long before many of its old industrial spaces were repurposed into food and drink businesses and its vacant land became the site of new housing.

Two advocates have so far been recognized. A mural of Nyamuon “Moon” Nguany Machar, a teacher, cultural strategist and peer support counselor, is featured on the side wall of Rising Tide Brewery on Fox Street. A mural of Alain Nahimana, the late founder of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, is in place on the back wall of Coffee by Design on Diamond Street.

The murals, Adams said, honor the long-lasting relationships Machar and Nahimana built with the people of East Bayside.

“They have both accomplished remarkable things as advocates and workers within the neighborhood,” said Adams, who does not live in the neighborhood but works from an art studio on Washington Avenue on the outskirts.

He has plans to paint three more murals, including one soon at Austin Street Brewery on Fox Street. He hopes to continue the project well into the future, he said.

“A big part of painting murals and doing big pieces of art like this is accessibility. People who may not stop into a fine arts gallery can access this art as they walk through their neighborhood,” he said.

Nyamuon Nguany Machar and Alain Nahimana are two of the subjects of a new art project in East Bayside. Courtesy photos

Rachel Adams, who designs the backdrops for the murals, said that although the first two subjects have been African natives who called Maine home, the intention “is to represent the entire community.”

The hope for the murals, she said, is the bring people together for community dialogue.

“Things like this can often spark that conversation,” her husband said.

Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide Brewery, loves having the Machar mural on her brewery. She sees it as a way to support art and artists in Portland.

“We are really thrilled to play host to this portrait and this project,” she said. “It’s at the core of our mission, which is to make sure we are building community and give back to the community we belong to.”

Machar grew up in Kennedy Park, the public housing complex near the two murals, and often played around the wall where she is now depicted. Originally from South Sudan, Machar is an active mental health advocate and mentor for the South Sudanese community in Maine.

Several people suggested Machar as the worthy subject of a Piece Together Project mural, Adams said. To recommend someone for a mural, visit piece-together.com/recommendations.

Mary Allen Lindemann, co-founder of Coffee by Design, said she was delighted to host a mural, especially one that memorializes Nahimana, a friend of hers who was a strong advocate for immigrants, social justice and equality. Nahimana died in May at the age of 49 from complications of diabetes.

“It couldn’t have been a more perfect match for us,” said Lindemann, co-chairman of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, where Nahimana was executive director.

Nahimana, she said, was a big dreamer who never let the word no stand in the way of him accomplishing what he set out to do.

“Alain was a visionary leader and was someone who dreamed big,” she said.

The mural, she said, is more than just a piece of art, it is a reminder of Nahimana’s legacy.

“People are going there to honor him, remember him and let him know we have not forgotten him and his work will continue,” Lindemann said.

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