ORONO, Maine — Hidden from the view of passers-by on Main Street Tuesday morning, Ryan Guerrero shook up an aerosol can with paint-covered hands and went to work next to Verve, a burrito bar.
The 26-year-old Utica, N.Y., native is spray painting the town — on four sheets of plywood.
Guerrero isn’t a vandal. He’s a University of Maine graduate student creating a four-panel graffiti mural for his thesis project — and for the beautification of the town, he said.
Graffiti art “is a medium that doesn’t really get that much positive recognition,” Guerrero said. “I wanted people in the area to be more aware of the good uses of graffiti.”
With an arsenal of more than 20 spray cans, Guerrero is creating a four-panel work. Tuesday he painted the two outside panels. One featured the dock on the Stillwater River near the steam plant. The other was a warped replication of the view down Mill Street.
Guerrero said he has been interested in graffiti art, which he also calls street art or aerosol art, since he was a child.
He plans to finish Wednesday on the UMaine mall near Lord Hall from 8 a.m. until it’s finished — probably around noon, he said.
He will paint the middle panels, which feature “Maine” written in colorful graffiti-style writing and a lighthouse. He said lighthouses are a “real representation of the state” for him.
“I’ll stand it up, and hopefully I’ll have some onlookers who can ask questions while I work,” Guerrero said.
When all the panels are put together, they will form a mural 16 feet wide and 8 feet tall. Guerrero said he will donate the finished product to the university or an Orono business that would like to display it prominently.
“It’s pretty much first come, first serve,” he said. “It’s open to whoever would like it after it’s done.”
He calls the mural a homage to his time in Maine.
“It’s sort of the culmination of the years I’ve been here and all the work in school that’s led up to this,” he said.
Guerrero is set to graduate from the master’s of fine arts program in mid-August, soon after defending his thesis project on Aug. 12.
He said he hopes to build his airbrushing business, “Goo’s Kustom Airbrushin’,” in the Bangor area after graduation.
“It’s tough to find a place that allows graffiti on the job,” Guerrero said before putting in his MP3 player earbuds, turning up a track by Eminem and shaking up his next aerosol can.