MADAWASKA, Maine — The U.S. General Services Administration recently unveiled a sculpture to accompany the new Madawaska Land Port of Entry. The artwork, created by Pennsylvania-based sculptor and artist Ralph Helmick, is a five pointed star that represents the town and region’s Acadian heritage.
The sculpture, entitled “Stella,” is 35 feet tall and 17 feet wide. It is clearly visible to anyone driving into town, either from Route 1 or through the new bridge connecting the United States and Canada. The sculpture lights up at night while adhering to the International Dark Sky Association guidelines, which aim to reduce nighttime light pollution.
The star’s connection to Acadian culture dates back to 1884 during the second Acadian National Convention in Prince Edward Island. At this time, a flag was presented that depicted a star on the French flag. The star represented Stella Maris, which was Lady Mary’s star. This flag, and its star, represented the Acadian people’s assertion that though they were from France, they had a unique culture with its own traditions.
The five-pointed star design is found on barns and homes throughout Aroostook County, according to the General Services Administration. It is also displayed on both the state’s current flag and the original flag from 1901.
The sculpture is part of the General Services Administration’s Art in Architecture program, which commissions American artists to create pieces for federal buildings across the country.
“The GSA Art in Architecture program brings local, state and federal entities together with artists to create unique pieces that highlight the vibrancy of the community and federal architecture,” said Francis Thomas, the regional administrator for the agency’s New England, Northeast and Caribbean regions.
The new land port of entry will accompany a new bridge that diagonally connects the U.S. and Canada. The current bridge is nearly 100 years old, and has been posted at five tons since 2017, meaning large trucks have to travel an extra half hour to cross the border in either Fort Kent or Van Buren.
The new bridge is nearly complete and, according to the General Services Administration, traffic should be able to cross via the new port and bridge by early 2024. The new bridge will initially have a five-ton weight restriction, however, this is expected to be lifted by May of next year.