If Annette Dodd has her way, every year, a new piece of public art will be installed somewhere in or near downtown Bangor.
This year, Dodd, co-owner of The Rock & Art Shop with locations in Bangor, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, partnered with Stockton Springs-based artist Peter Walls to create a new mural on Franklin Street.
The vibrantly colored mural has transformed the once-gray supporting walls along the back exit of the Bangor Post Office and Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office. Painted an array of blues, oranges, greens and yellows and studded with Walls’ intricately detailed images of fish, birds, turtles, insects and other creatures, it connects the art with the ecosystem of the Kenduskeag Stream, which flows directly behind it.
“We didn’t plan it this way, but it’s now this brilliant beacon to the entrance to the Kenduskeag Stream Trail,” Dodd said. “It just brightens up the whole street.”
The idea for the mural came more than a year ago, when Walls had an exhibit at the gallery at The Rock & Art Shop. They got permission from Penobscot County, which maintains the retaining wall, earlier this year, and also received a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to cover the costs of materials.
Dodd and a team of volunteers painted the wall in abstract blocks of color in early June. Last week, Walls came in and installed his images, painted on waterproof marine plywood, in each block of color. The end result is hard to miss, and can be seen from Central Street as well as directly on Franklin.
Besides being visually attractive, the mural will serve as an education tool for those taking a walk or ride down the Kenduskeag Stream Trails.
“We’re going to put up identification signs for each of the creatures in the mural,” Dodd said. “Hopefully people can learn a little bit about the nature that’s right in the heart of downtown.”
The Franklin Street mural is the third one Dodd has helped create; she first painted the “Welcome to Bangor” mural at the corner of Union and Main streets in 2014, and the Paul Bunyan “Bangor Wants You” mural on Central Street in 2021. Both the Paul Bunyan mural and the new Franklin Street mural are dedicated to Tony Sohns, Dodd’s brother and a beloved local naturalist and educator, who died in 2019.
The new mural comes as part of a boom in public art in downtown Bangor. In addition to Dodd’s previous murals, two other installations have been made. The Together Place, located at the corner of Second and Union streets, installed a large, colorful mural featuring portraits of famous Mainers, painted by Liam Reading. And in 2021, United Way of Eastern Maine installed the “Hopeful” sign, created by artist Charlie Hewitt, on the side of the McGuire Building on Main Street.
The Together Place also intends to create another new mural on the side of the Shaw’s Supermarket on Main Street, to be painted this fall.
There’s also the Downtown Bangor Wheatpaste Project, now in its fourth year and which later this summer will install temporary images on walls throughout downtown.
Dodd is already deep into planning for the next mural, to be painted by another Maine artist on a prominent wall downtown next summer.
“I think art is not only something that can bring people to town, but can also just create a sense of pride in your surroundings,” Dodd said. “I look at cities like Rockland, where art is just totally enmeshed in the community. That’s what I hope we can do here.”