BANGOR, Maine — Babe the Blue Ox, trusty companion to American folklore hero Paul Bunyan, will not get its second shot with the Commission on Cultural Development on Thursday as expected.
J. Martin Jr., son of the designer of Bangor’s 31-foot-tall Bunyan statue that has towered over Main Street since 1959, said Wednesday he has requested the item be pulled from the commission’s agenda because his father is still working on the scale model.
“It was pretty clear that the culture commission is interested in seeing that scale model to consider the project, so it should be ready by the Aug. 13 meeting,” he said.
Martin said he does not expect the delay to affect plans for a July 4, 2016, unveiling of the roughly 30-foot-long, 17-foot-tall statue that would stand adjacent to Bunyan near the Cross Insurance Center.
“We’re still in the preparation stage, but we’re feeling pretty confident the cultural commission will support this project,” he said, adding that he’s been working to provide the commission a digital rendering that includes the Cross Insurance Center in addition to the model.
The cultural commission already has rejected funding for the model.
J. Normand Martin, the original designer of Bunyan, first presented the idea to the commission in February, accompanied by former City Councilor Gerry Palmer. The two sought a $1,000 individual artist grant to create the clay model.
They later amended their grant application to $550. The commission would only consider recommending the City Council appropriate $160 for materials, but that motion failed in a 4-4 vote.
After that decision, supporters formed an ad hoc group called Build Babe in Bangor and approached the City Council’s Government Operations Committee, seeking the council’s blessing on the project so they could begin fundraising for the full-size statue.
While some councilors pushed for an endorsement, the committee eventually referred the issue back to the cultural commission for further review.
City code requires that the commission review proposals for public art or monuments, though it gives the council sole authority to adopt, reject or revise the recommendation from the commission.
Downtown Coordinator Caitlin Brook said the commission is in the process of updating its Public Art and Monuments Policy. That item also is tentatively slated to appear on the commission’s Aug. 13 agenda.
Martin, 89, is creating the clay model that would be used for the full-size statue. While he has not completed the piece, he said previously he plans to make Babe look friendly, with “a smile on his face.”
It remains unclear whether the group will ask the city to contribute to the project. J. Martin Jr. said the statue would be paid for entirely with private contributions.
However, a concept outline presented to council members proposed that Bangor Public Works build the base. The Government Operations Committee did not discuss that issue with the build Babe group.
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.