The side of a downtown Bangor building will be illuminated by a new piece of public art by renowned Maine artist Charlie Hewitt by the end of November if all goes as planned.
“Hopeful,” a colorful metal sign studded with lightbulbs, will be installed on the north-facing side of 152 Main St. in downtown Bangor in late November, pending final approval by the Bangor City Council at its meeting next week. The project was organized by United Way of Eastern Maine.
That building houses the Main Tavern and the Robinson Ballet. Also known as the McClure Building, it already boasts another well known piece of Bangor public art: the “Welcome to Bangor” mural, painted by local artist Annette Dodd in 2014. “Hopeful” will be installed on an otherwise empty brick wall on the other side of the building.
Hewitt, a Yarmouth-based painter and sculptor, has already installed a number of his “Hopeful” sculptures in Maine, including on top of the Speedwell Building on Forest Avenue in Portland, at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, and on the side of the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston. Hewitt says the sculpture is meant to both remind people to be hopeful, and to challenge them to make their community a better place.
“Hopeful is not a gift – it’s a challenge,” Hewitt said in the application for city approval of the installation. “To be hopeful requires action, it requires commitment. It is my wish that this sign will serve as a symbol to the citizens of Bangor as a message of hope and inspiration, and that it will provoke a dialogue and illuminate our better natures.”
Jesse Moriarty, chief operating officer and experience officer for United Way of Eastern Maine, knew after seeing the “Hopeful” sculptures in Portland and Lewiston that Bangor needed one, too. She came to United Way with the idea, and with the help of community partners including Bangor Savings Bank, Cross Insurance and Bangor’s Commission on Cultural Development, managed to raise $33,000 over the spring and summer. That money will pay for the fabrication of the sculpture at Neokraft Signs in Lewiston, the installation in Bangor, and the continued maintenance.
“Our job at United Way is to help people when they need a little help. And right now, I think every one of us needs a little help,” Moriarty said. “We need a little hope that eventually, the pandemic will be behind us, and we won’t have to worry as much. We need a little hope that things are going to get better.”
Hewitt, 75, was born in Lewiston in a large, working-class French-Canadian family. Over the course of his decades-long career, he has worked in painting, printmaking and sculpture, including in metal and neon lights. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, all in New York. In Maine, his work can be found at the Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland and in the art museums at Bates, Bowdoin and Colby colleges.
In 2012, his monumental sculpture “Urban Rattle” was installed in the High Line Park in New York City. In 2015, two more sculptures of “Urban Rattle” were installed at 511 Congress St. in Portland, as well as in Lewiston, where it is now housed at the Bates Mill Complex.