“Many Stitches Hold Up the Sky” is a 1,400-square-foot mural commissioned by Brunswick Public Art and slated to be installed at Fort Andross Mill in the summer. Photo courtesy of Jen Greta Cart and Chris Cart

A large mural planned for the side of a Brunswick mill building has sparked a debate over whether the painting of people stitching together the town is inclusive and appropriate for a prominent downtown location.

The nonprofit group and artists behind the mural say it is meant to represent the community working together and includes people from Brunswick who modeled for the project. But artists and activists pushing for it to be revised say the goal of celebrating diversity is corrupted by its use of objectionable stereotypes and under-representation of Indigenous communities.

An online petition calling for a revision of the mural has been signed by more than 330 people in the past two weeks and intensified criticism that began months ago.

“This cannot be Brunswick’s calling card,” said Mark Wethli, an artist and Bowdoin College art professor who helped start the petition.

The 1,400-square-foot mural was commissioned by Brunswick Public Art, which wanted a colorful mural showing a contemporary group of diverse people working together to create something beautiful for the future, said project manager Steve Weems. It was designed to show the increasing diversity of the community and not be a historical representation, he said.

The mural, “Many Stitches Hold Up the Sky,” was designed by Jen Greta Cart of Hallowell, who has been painting it with her husband, Chris Cart. It is scheduled be installed in the summer on the Fort Andross Mill, also known as Cabot Mill, and would be visible from Route 1.


The mill sits next to the Androscoggin River, which had been used for thousands of years by Wabanaki people as a food source and travel route. The waterway became bitterly contested during European colonization in the 1600s and 1700s. Fort Andross was built by colonists as a trading post and garrison to fortify against Wabanaki people during King William’s War.

In the 19th century, the location of the fort was used for cotton mills, including Cabot Manufacturing Company. The complex has undergone extensive renovation since it was purchased by Coleman Burke in 1986 and is now a mix of office and retail space.

Jen Greta Cart said she wanted to show in the mural that “we make our world by how we treat each other and by the work of our hands.” It is meant to show people working together to fill the world with love, hope, decency and caring for each other, she said.

Chris Cart and Jen Greta Cart in front of six panels that they are working on for their mural, “Many Stitches Hold Up the Sky,” on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The scene is painted to look like colorful pieces of fabric quilted together to show the mill, river, sky and trees. In the background, two Wabanaki men are portaging a canoe across the river. The larger figures include a man in a bosun’s chair sewing the sky. The chair’s rope is held by Burke, the late mill owner. The man on the chair is the late artist Bev Bevallaqua, who was a friend of the Carts.

Also pictured is a Wabanaki woman climbing a ladder, a bolt of fabric resting on her shoulder. A Bowdoin student playing a guzheng, a Chinese string instrument, modeled for the mural to represent programs that bring foreign students to Brunswick. A woman wearing a beret and scarf with a maple leaf represents the French-Canadian women who came to work in the mills.

The last figure is of a teenager on one knee on a platform reaching up to pull a needle through fabric. The model was a 13-year-old girl who moved to Brunswick from Africa with her family a couple years ago.


“We want to give Brunswick something beautiful and filled with hope and love,” Jen Greta Cart said of the mural.

Jim Marshall, who started the petition with Wethli and has a studio at Fort Andross, called the mural “outrageous on so many levels.” He and Wethli say the problems in the design are systematic and culturally insensitive. They say it under-represents the Indigenous community and uses imagery that people have worked for decades to stop, including a person of color on their knees and overworked, underpaid factory workers who are faceless.

A 13-year-old girl who moved to Brunswick from Africa with her family a couple years ago modeled for this figure, which was changed so that she was kneeling on one knee instead of two. Photo courtesy of Jen Greta Cart and Chris Cart

There have been changes to the mural in response to earlier criticism, including painting the teen kneeling on one knee instead of both. Jen Greta Cart said she had painted her in that position to fit in the space. The Wabanaki men with the canoe were added in response to feedback as a connection to the historical use of that area as a portage.


When Mihku Paul, a Maliseet writer and artist, first heard about the mural through the Pejepscot Portage Mapping Project, a group in Brunswick focused on Indigenous representation, and was dismayed by the original design. She and others in the group felt the representation in the mural “was almost akin to what we would say is whitewashing,” she said.

“This isn’t just about Indigenous people,” she said. “It’s about the larger ideas of inclusion in the public space and the way that BIPOC and other people have been systematically marginalized and excluded from representation in the public space.”


Paul and others also saw a missed opportunity to create something that could educate people about the history of that area, the river and sea run fish, conservation, and why the fort was built and the conflicts that occurred.

“I think having widespread knowledge of the history of a place can bring people together in a way that a pretty picture of various races sewing a quilt cannot,” Paul said.

When members of the group approached Brunswick Public Art to talk about the mural, they focused on what they saw as the most problematic aspects, including the lack of input from the people and communities the mural is supposed to represent, Paul said.

Wabanaki men portaging a canoe were added to the mural after complaints that Indigenous people were under-represented. Photo courtesy of Jen Greta Cart and Chris Cart


Joseph Hall, who teaches Wabanaki history at Bates College, said that while it’s admirable to want to represent the importance of community, this mural doesn’t show that the people who created Brunswick did so in a way that sought to exclude Wabanaki people.

“The biggest problem is that it’s a mural that claims to be a portrait of the community but has not actually consulted with the community,” he said.


Paul and Hall both think one of the biggest issues with the mural is the lack of public input. Most people seemed unaware of the project until after it was designed, Paul said, and it felt like efforts to engage with Brunswick Public Art about the process and revisions were met with resistance.

Weems said Brunswick Public Art has been listening carefully to the criticism and is still discussing possible changes. There are contractual obligations to the artists, donors and others that limit what can be done on a project that is essentially complete except for installation, he said.

Jen Greta Cart and Chris Cart work on their mural, “Many Stitches Hold Up the Sky,” on Wednesday in Hallowell. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Despite criticism that has intensified in recent weeks, Weems said there also is a huge amount of support for the project, including from donors who helped fund the $70,000 project.

“There’s no way you can put up a piece of public art as big as this in a place that’s iconic as this and expect everyone to like it,” Weems said. “There is going to be criticism.”

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