CALAIS, Maine — On a wall of the Calais Community Thrift Store, a colorful seascape has been emerging. The artist could be seen Monday as a lift boom propelled her along the wall while she worked.
The woman, nationally award-winning artist Amy Bartlett Wright, was in the process of creating a mural for the Charles G. Wright Endowment for the Humanities.
“I designed it but it’s based on some historical photographs,” Wright said, clad in a paint spattered blue T-shirt, denim shorts and gray baseball cap. “The intent of the client is to inspire visitors to think about the history of the place.”
The mural is being done as a gift to the Calais community, said Len Hanson, director of operations for the Irene Chadbourne Ecumenical Food Bank.
Hanson said the thrift shop was a natural place — and only place — for the mural. None of the other property owners in town wanted it.
The building, which now houses the thrift shop, was donated to the food pantry in January. Since April, the thrift shop has been up and running, raising funds to support the food bank, Hanson said.
Wright was selected by a committee comprised of representatives of the Endowment for the Humanities, the food pantry and a historian, Hanson said.
Five artists submitted designs based on historic photographs.
“All artists drew their concept of what they wanted,” Hansen said. “[Wright] had captured exactly what we wanted without us having to direct her.”
The process of creating the mural began with repairing cracks on the wall. Then Wright added a coat of primer.
“Now I’m moving to brush so the whole painting will look like it’s brushed,” said Wright, who has done murals all over the country in zoos, museums, nature centers and private homes.
Around Wright on the lift as she worked were buckets of paint, all specially for exterior murals, and the original design.
“The design goes up in the lift with me and is my reference,” Wright said.
An inch on the design represents a foot on the 14-foot by 65-foot mural. Small white marks at the bottom of the mural indicate measurements in five-foot increments to helped her keep the painting to scale.
At one point she used a tape measure to determine one of the boats in the painting was positioned up too high and would have to be moved down.
Wright, who lives in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, began her work in Calais Aug. 11 and, as of Monday, expected to be on site about another week. She works 12 to 14 hours a day.
A tarp hung over the Rose Standish, a ship painted on the left side of the mural. Wright said the tarps were there in case of rain — when it rains, she uses them to create a tent in which she can work.
“The only thing that stops me is darkness,” she said.
The tents also can provide a welcome reprieve by creating shade in the afternoon.
“Usually the sun hits the wall at 12:35 [p.m.] and I bake,” she said.
Wright and her work have become a bit of a curiosity in town, she said.
“People are stopping and talking to me,” Wright said. “Cars were stopping and watching me and giving me the thumbs up and shouting.”