Marlena Fulton of North Yarmouth, left, and Asher Bouchard-Simpson of Cumberland worked with their teacher to track down the history of the “Main Streets Around the World” artwork in the lobby of the Mabel I. Wilson School in Cumberland. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

A simple question from a pair of Mabel I. Wilson third graders led them and on a successful quest to discover the forgotten history and story behind a sculpture in the school lobby.

“Nobody knew how it got here. We wanted to know more about it since it’s something to look at,” said  Marlena Fulton, a student at the Cumberland school. “It has windows and doors you can peer into, different textures of buildings and different looks. It has a lot of details.”

Teacher John Marlowe leapt at the chance to put Marlena and Asher’s curiosity to good use.

“He told us that he wanted to do a special project with us on it, and we were really interested,” said Asher Bouchard-Simpson, who, like Marlena, is 8 years old.

Six weeks later, the students and Marlowe had learned that the sculpture, “Main Streets Around the World,” was created by Portland artist Abby Huntoon. The piece features six different streetscapes, including Cumberland’s Main Street and what main streets in China, Spain, Russia, Sudan and Italy look like.

“It’s just good to get educated about different countries and different styles of buildings in different countries,” Asher said.


After tracking Huntoon down online, the students asked her a few questions about her art over a video call. Both students said they learned how to better “communicate with other people and ask them different questions” after the call.

“Main Streets Around the World” by Portland artist Abby Huntoon portrays Main Street in Cumberland and main streets in five foreign countries. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

Efforts to reach Huntoon for comment were unsuccessful.

However, Huntoon talked to the students about how she created the sculpture and gave them information about the different countries and their styles of architecture, Marlena and Asher said.

Marlowe said the pair drafted their own questions and took control of the interview.

“It was an independent project they took on. That’s the ultimate goal for a teacher, to get out of their way,” Marlowe said. “It’s all about them learning. We can create a situation like that where we give them support and they run with it; that’s the kind of learning that stays with them hopefully a lot longer than maybe a test or worksheet.

“I’m proud of them.”


Marlowe said when Asher and Marlena first asked about the artwork, he queried some longtime staff members and school administrators about it, but no one had the answer.

After discovering the architect who designed the school’s addition about 30 years ago is no longer in business, Marlowe called multiple architects in Portland until he found one who told him the answer was on a state website.

“Apparently, any time you put on an addition in a school, 1% of whatever you spend on the addition has to go towards artwork as part of a state mandate,” Marlowe said. “With that 1%, there’s a spreadsheet online that has all the grants that have been given out. I had to go through the spreadsheet, find our school, and there it was.”

The students, with their teacher’s help, created a brief summary of “Main Streets Around the World” that will soon be made into a plaque and mounted on the wall.

“It’s good to be curious,” Marlena said. “I’m hopeful we’ll get to do another project like this soon.”

Comments are not available on this story.