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Last weekend, a team of volunteers spent Saturday afternoon using wheatpaste — a water and flour-based semi-permanent glue — to install 20 paper murals on empty exterior walls all over downtown Bangor.
For the rest of the summer, hand-drawn paper owls, hawks, moose, bats, bunnies, frogs, fish and lots of bugs and flowers will watch over downtown Bangor. The murals are part of the Downtown Bangor Wheatpaste Project, now in its second year, which brings together Maine artists to make extra-large drawings, which are then wheatpasted on the sides of buildings all over downtown.
Annette Dodd, who co-owns The Rock & Art Shop on Central Street, has for the second year organized the project with fellow artists and downtown business owners Kat Johnson, Susan Bryan and Greg Edwards. Dodd said that besides adding colorful, unusual art to city streets, the murals encourage people to visit downtown, and help to set the stage for permanent murals that she hopes can eventually be painted.
“It makes people want to get out and see them all, and really explore downtown,” said Dodd. “It’s another step toward getting some more permanent murals in downtown. We hope to eventually pair up artists with building owners that are willing to host a mural.”
Dodd sent out a call over the winter looking for artists willing to create a large-scale drawing around the theme of Maine’s animals, plants and landscape to be included in the wheatpaste project. Out of the 40 submissions, Dodd and her fellow organizers chose 20 artists.
The materials needed were purchased with funds from the Downtown Bangor Partnership’s Beautification Committee and from a donation from Waterfront Concerts. The partnership’s Beautification Committee also organizes the Adopt-a-Garden project in the spring, and Winter Lights, the hanging lights that go up in late fall and stay on trees and light posts until early spring.
Additionally, Susan Bryan, a committee member and a visual arts teacher at Bangor High School, had 10 of her students create their own small murals. All of the murals are displayed on the side of 23 Hammond St., where Bahaar Pakistani Restaurant is located.
One of the murals in particular has special significance to Dodd and her family. The mural on the side of 30 Central St., where Central Street Farmhouse is located, is of Dodd’s brother, Tony Sohns, a naturalist and educator who died unexpectedly in February of this year.
The mural of Sohns was created by artist Orson Horchler, better known by the moniker Pigeon, who first brought wheatpastes to Bangor back in 2011, when for several years he pasted his small drawings on surfaces all over downtown. Horchler is now based in Portland.
Horchler’s mural contains a message about Sohns’ love for nature and commitment to education; it’s accompanied by 12 small wheatpasted drawings of bugs and birds created by Sohns’ homeschooled students.
“Some of them are students he taught for more than a decade,” said Dodd. “It’s really special.”
Dodd said a map of all the murals will be available this weekend, and that over the summer Bangor International Airport will display a hanging image of some of the murals over the staircases near the baggage claim.
“Hopefully we can encourage some people that are flying into Bangor this summer to come find all the murals,” said Dodd. “It’s a great way to get people downtown.”
A garden party celebrating both the Adopt-a-Garden and Wheatpaste Mural projects is set for 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, June 21 in Norumbega Parkway. The event is free and will feature live music from the Tough End String Band and a croquet match.