An anonymous, spray-painted mural thanking essential workers adorns a retaining wall below Portland's sewage processing plant on the East End on Tuesday. The wall along a walking path is a legal venue for graffiti.

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PORTLAND, Maine — An anonymous, spray-painted mural appeared on a retaining wall beneath the sewage treatment plant on the East End this week. The yards-long image is a thank you card to essential workers still on the job amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Dedicated to the “helpers and the heroes,” it simply reads “thank you” in 6-foot-high letters on a purple background. On the sides of the written words are cartoon depictions of some of those heroes and helpers.

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A bus driver, a nurse, a doctor and sanitation worker can be seen along with an ambulance, grocery store clerk and mother — or possibly a teacher — with two children.

The artwork is not signed.

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The 100-foot wall is a city-sanctioned surface for spray-can graffiti artists. In 2016 it bore a controversial depiction of then Gov. Paul LePage in Ku Klux Klan regalia. The city refused to remove it citing the First Amendment, but it sparked a controversy over the wall that spilled into 2017. Ultimately the city and the Portland Water District, which operates the sewage treatment plant, decided to keep the wall open to artists.

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.