Mural project comes alive in Portland, Maine’s East Bayside neighborhood

By Ramona du Houx - August 30th, 2012 

Artists Jan Piribeck (photo) and Christopher Wright have begun installing their Blue Wrap Wave mural on a Portland fence to beautify the neighborhood.

Local artists are working with volunteers to create four large scale murals constructed with recycled materials that will be woven into the links of chain link fences in the neighborhood. The project Good Fences for Good Neighbors is part of a creative place-making initiative to help knit the community together.

Funded largely by the National Endowment for the Arts newest national initiative “Our Town”, the goals of Meeting Place are to increase neighborhood pride, attract participants to neighborhood events that more accurately reflect neighborhood diversity, and help local leadership develop a collaborative culture. The project provides an opportunity for the artists to add to the community’s vibrancy with art that calls attention to East Bayside’s history and its future – and hopefully creates a compelling sight for pedestrians, motorists, joggers, cyclers and visitors in all four locations.

Five East Bayside professional artists have been commissioned to design and help create the four fence murals (each approximately 40’ to 60’ long). The fences will be completed in time for Meeting Place Open House/Celebration on Saturday, September 29th.

Artists Jan Piribeck and Christopher Wright have begun installing their Blue Wrap Wave mural on a wire fence surrounding a vacant lot, adjacent to the Bayside Trail between Cove and Diamond St. The artists are working with donations from Partners in World Health, an organization that distributes recycled medical supplies to developing countries. Three shades of blue medical fabric have been cut into strips and will be latch hooked onto the matrix of the chain link fence – in a design corresponding to global sea level rise data. Ms. Piribeck, the chair of the Art Department at USM adds, “The goal is to re-purpose the fabric and use it to create a wave motif in response to the wave patterns of the nearby Back Cove and the sine waves of Portland Tidal Gauge charts. The area surrounding the fence was once covered by water, and is vulnerable to rising sea levels in years to come.”

Tim Clorius will be creating “Clouds”, a fence mural using recycled, donated paint and existing fence slats. “Clouds” will be in two locations – the Maine Muslim Community Center’s fence at the corner of Fox and Anderson, and across from “Blue Wrap Wave” on the Bayside Trail. Work on Clouds will begin in early September.

Johnathon Cook, recent graduate from USM’s Art Department, has begun work on “Woven Wall”, on the corner of Congress and Washington (image attached). Designed to reflect East Bayside being Portland’s most ethnically-diverse neighborhood, “Woven Wall” was inspired by an Egyptian Islamic pattern, using recycled blue tarp from his grandmother’s house, cut to fit the wire mesh squares. Cook will be done in time to begin an MFA in Scotland in early September.

Artist Kelly Rioux will be starting on a large-scale mural using recycled Tyvek material donated by Rufus Deering Lumber on the wire mesh fence along Fox Field/Fox St. near Franklin Street. Rioux’s mural, East Bayside Portraits, features the faces of children from the neighborhood. Kelly is also Meeting Place’s coordinator for Good Fences for Good Neighbors.

Meeting Place East Bayside is a project of Art At Work/City of Portland and the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization. Meeting Place partners include Portland Buy Local, Creative Portland, Portland Trails, Maine Historical Society, Portland Public Library, Portland Housing Association and the League of Young Voters.

Meeting Place has been made possible with the support of the City of Portland, National Endowment for the Arts Our Town initiative, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Community Foundation, Elmira B. Sewall Foundation, and the West End Neighborhood Association, Bayside Neighborhood Association, East Bayside Neighborhood Organization and a welcome collection of Libbytown residents and businesses.

The Good Fences for Good Neighbors murals are part of the larger Meeting Place East Bayside Neighborhood Celebration set for Saturday, September 29th in East Bayside. Art at Work and EBNO are organizing the event with support from local businesses like Coffee By Design, Maine Mead, Katie Made, AIR Graphics and local non-profits like The Root Cellar, The Maine Muslim Community Center, Running with Scissors, Mayo St. Arts, community residents and artists.

Meeting Place East Bayside, from 1 to 5pm, on September 29th promises to be a neighborhood open house, a community event, and a homegrown dose of the power of art and community connections that can happen when neighbors work together on a common goal. In addition to a showcasing the four fence murals, there will be a soccer game on Fox Field, basketball games on the courts, music, food and many East Bayside neighborhood businesses and nonprofits will be opening their doors that day.